Category Archives: Older People

Picture of the front of COTA Victoria's annual report

COTA Victoria launches annual report

More than 70 per cent of clients who received legal and advocacy services from Seniors Rights Victoria in the 2019-19 were women. While any older person can experience elder abuse, a person’s gender or sexual identity and related sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia may exacerbate their experience of violence.

The most prevalent issue was financial abuse, which was raised by 41 per cent of the 3572 callers to the Seniors Rights Victoria helpline – 1300 368 821.

Find out more information about the activities of Seniors Rights Victoria during the 2018-19 financial year in the COTA Victoria Review |2018 – 2019.  Seniors Rights Victoria is a program of the Council on the Ageing Victoria. read more

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Legal centre starts new response services

The Eastern Community Centre (ECLC) recently commenced two new elder abuse response services, ROSE (Rights of Seniors in the East) and ELSA (Engaging & Living Safely & Autonomously). The services are part of the Commonwealth Attorney-General Department’s National Elder Abuse Service Trials (2019-22) and add to ECLC existing elder abuse work, particularly in primary prevention.

ROSE (Rights of Seniors) provides an integrated, multi-disciplinary service for seniors at risk of or experiencing abuse (physical, psychological/emotional, financial, sexual or neglect) from a person in a position of trust. The ROSE Community Lawyer, Advocate and Financial Counsellor work together to provide advice, ongoing case management support and referrals based on the client’s wishes and needs. read more

Supporting people with dementia to make their own informed choices

Dementia Australia and Seniors Rights Victoria are partnering to support those who have been recently diagnosed with dementia, as well as their carers, to plan ahead and to make informed choices about their future financial, health and care arrangements.

New Concerned Family and Friend Project in 2019

In 2016/17, nearly half of the telephone calls received on the Helpline of Seniors Rights Victoria were from a concerned family member or friend of the older person being abused.

The advocates working at Seniors Rights Victoria offer information and assistance to these callers, who can often be distressed. Seniors Rights Victoria currently has a Help Sheet which contains suggestions about what to do in these situations. This includes tips for the concerned family member or friend on listening to the older person with an open mind, letting them know help is available and encouraging and supporting the older person to contact Seniors Rights Victoria.

Seniors Rights Victoria frequently works with the older person and a supportive family member together to tackle their problems. From this work with concerned family and friends, Seniors Rights Victoria is aware that more support is needed.

To meet this need, Seniors Rights Victoria will next year extend their assistance for concerned family members and friends of older people experiencing abuse through a project that will produce a more comprehensive booklet. This booklet will be developed in consultation with people who can provide input into the topics and content. It will contain information on supporting the older person being abused and referral to appropriate services. The booklet is another way of achieving the commitment of Seniors Rights Victoria preventing elder abuse in the community and supporting those being abused and mistreated.

Helpline case study: concerned daughter calls SRV

Seniors Rights Victoria receives about 3500 calls annually on our Helpline.  Callers include older people who are being abused, service providers and concerned others.  Although Seniors Rights Victoria’s legal service can only represent older people directly, our Helpline Advocate will try to assist all callers to get the assistance they need.

The following case study shows how we try to help people who are worried about an older person who they are close to.

Candice* called the Helpline regarding her mother, Betty, who is 85 years old and lives in her own home.  Candice’s brother Bruce has been living with Betty on and off all his life.  He has a history of mental illness and drug addiction. Candice told the helpline advocate that Bruce is not paying his way and treats her mother poorly, but that Betty is too scared to do anything about it.  Candice doesn’t think her mother will call Seniors Rights Victoria to discuss the situation.

The Helpline advocate listens to Candice’s concerns.  The advocate explains Seniors Rights Victoria’s role and discusses strategies for Candice to encourage Betty to make contact through the Helpline.

“We also tell her to tell her mother that we are a free and confidential service and that we will not make her mother do anything she doesn’t want to do,” said Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey. 

If Betty is willing to participate in an advice call, one of SRV’s lawyers can provide her with legal advice about her legal options, and an Advocate will be able to talk to Betty about supports available to her – and even to Bruce, if he will accept them.

The Helpline Advocate will also talk directly to Candice about what some of those supports may be in case Betty doesn’t want to talk with one of Senior Rights Victoria’s lawyers or advocates.

A few weeks later Candice calls with Betty on the line and introduces her to the Advocate who explains SRV service.  After some discussion and reassurance, Betty agrees to an appointment with a lawyer and advocate.  We take some details from Betty and make a time to call her back when it suits her and when she is in a place where she feels safe. 

“We explain that we will need to talk to Betty on her own (without Candice present) to ensure that she isn’t being unduly influenced by Candice, but, with Betty’s consent, we can talk with Candice after we speak with Betty,” Ms Blakey said. “This process supports our service’s primary ethos which is to empower and advocate on behalf of the older person.”

*Names have been changed to maintain privacy and protect the confidentiality of our clients.

Celebrate Ageing director a 2018 Human Rights Medal finalist

Director of Celebrate Ageing, Dr Catherine Barrett, was named among five finalists for the 2018 Human Rights Medal for her work in supporting older Australians through her enterprise organisation over the past three years, following a nomination from a ‘highly regarded’ colleague.

Acknowledging the recognition with humility and modesty, Dr Barrett (pictured at right with friends) says as an activist in search of social change, she sees being named a finalist not only an honour but also an opportunity to raise awareness around the human rights of older people.

“I left my job at La Trobe three years ago to set up Celebrate Ageing as a social enterprise and I can tell you that was scary stuff,” Dr Barrett recalls. “But, now the work that I do makes my heart sing every day and I absolutely love the work that I do.”

Dr Barrett says she was aware that fellow advocate for older Australians and Seniors Rights Victoria Advocacy Coordinator Philippa Campbell had discussed nominating her for the medal – something she admits ‘moved’ her.

“I think one of the things for me is feeling moved that she actually nominated me,” Dr Barrett says. “Philippa has herself worked with older people for a long time and has a strong sense of social justice and passion for challenging ageism, so to have a colleague I value so highly nominate me is something very special in itself.”

Following the recent announcement of the medal finalists, Ms Campbell took to Twitter to congratulate her friend and colleague: “So I nominated Dr Catherine Barrett for an Australian Human Rights medal after watching her work from a distance, realising that she was making such a difference for many people. And here she is – a finalist. Of course she is!” she wrote.

The winner of the Human Rights Medal will be announced on 14 December 2018.

More information on the awards and finalists can be found online

LGBTI advocate wins COTA Senior Achiever Award

Transgender Victoria volunteer Brenda Appleton, 67, was one of the COTA Senior Achiever Award recipients at the 2018 Victorian Seniors of the Year awards hosted by the Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau AC at Government House (pictured together).

Brenda was nominated by the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) for her advocacy, education and research participation on care services for older members of the LGBTI community, particularly transgender people.

COTA Victoria has been one of the fortunate partners of Brenda’s insight through the Safeguarding the End of the Rainbow, a guide done in conjunction with Transgender Victoria to help LGBTI people plan an end of life of their choice taking into account their life experiences. Seniors Rights Victoria has also benefited from insights into Brenda’s work and lived experiences, through her participation in regular meetings of the Elder Abuse Roundtable, a collegiate group of collaborating professionals working in that field.

“I volunteer because my life has been difficult. It’s difficult when you don’t meet society’s expectations of gender, when you’re different and, I’m trying to make it easier for those coming behind. We need society to be much more accepting of difference,” Brenda said in an interview about the award.

“I know many have struggled with mental health issues, not because they are mentally ill, but because of the stigma and discrimination they face in our very judgemental world….I have a vision that society accepts difference, whatever that might mean”.

Brenda said she enjoyed being an advocate and contributing to her community by volunteering.

For more information about the 2018 Victorian Senior of the Year awards and a list of winners visit seniorsonline.vic.gov.au/awards 

Media reporting to gain family violence insight

The Victorian Government has announced a $425,000 grant to Our Watch to deliver their new media reporting program, which seeks to improve media reporting on family violence and violence against women as part of its work to change harmful and sexist attitudes.

The Our Watch project will also create guidelines for reporting related to Aboriginal women, culturally diverse women, women with disabilities, older women and the LGBTI community. Seniors Rights Victoria is participating in the consultations of this project.

“The media is a powerful shaper of culture and attitudes. Language focused on equality and respect for all can change the culture that leads to violence against women,” said Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Natalie Hutchins. “Ending family violence in Victoria requires change on all fronts.”

To read more about the State Government’s objectives, go to Promoting Respect.

Share your views on elder abuse

Seniors Rights Victoria is supporting the Elder Abuse Prevention Networks project across the state by assisting the implementation of a community survey about elder abuse.

A Victorian Government funded project, the Elder Abuse Prevention Network (EAPN) will operate at 10 sites in regional, outer urban and metropolitan areas at an individual and community level, to raise awareness and educate communities about the rights of older people.

Senior Rights Victoria EAPN Project Officer Alexia Huxley said seven sites have been chosen for the networks. They are being run by different organisations including several community health services, a community legal centre and local councils.

The confidential community survey is being conducted by independent consultants Think Impact with the results to be provided to the organisations participating in the prevention work, and included in a guide to prevent elder abuse. No individuals will be identified in these documents.

The short survey is voluntary, with participants not asked to provide any personal information.

“We understand that some people may find this topic difficult. If they do not wish to answer any questions, they are welcome to leave questions blank,” Ms Huxley said.

She said the community was gradually becoming more aware about the mixture of factors causing elder abuse, including lack of respect and valuing of older people, negative media messages that portray older people as a drain on society and behaviour that overlooks or justifies elder abuse.

“These attitudes can be internalised by older people themselves who may also consider that family matters are private and should not be shared, or may feel ashamed of the behaviour of their adult children and not want to ask for assistance,” Ms Huxley said.

In an effort to address some of these issues, the networks are targeting older people’s organisations as well as service agencies, including influential community members – such as pharmacists, librarians and religious leaders – who come into contact with older people and encourage them to see eliminating elder abuse as a matter of social justice.

If this survey raises questions or causes any distress, or you would like to discuss an incident of elder abuse, please contact the free, confidential Helpline of Seniors Rights Victoria: 1300 368 821. If you need help immediately call Lifeline on 131114.