Seniors Rights Victoria have issued an alert highlighting the potential increase of elder abuse in the community as a hidden impact of the COVID-19 emergency.
The new Guardianship and Administration Act 2019, which came into effect on 1 March 2020, changes the way Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) appoints guardians and administrators for persons with diminished decision-making capacity.
The key changes include:
Alpine Health Services, formed in 1996, spans three sites at Myrtleford, Mount Beauty and Bright and is nestled in one of the most picturesque regions in Victoria. Home to some of Australia’s best wine-growing districts and snow country, including Dinner Plain, Falls Creek and Mount Buffalo National Park, the area covers 4,788 square kilometres. In autumn, the area is renowned for its striking autumn colours with many of the trees lining the roads taking centre stage.
The Alpine Shire is also home to an increasing ageing population with a third of the total population of about 12,000 people (2016 Census) is over 60. Growing older in the area doesn’t mean being idle. Many of the locals are involved in different activities and events, including hiking, volunteering and actively advocating for the rights of older people.
Donna is 83. Her husband, Kevin, died three years ago. She owns her own home and a holiday house. She receives $90,000 a year from a superannuation fund. Donna worked as a secondary school teacher. In her retirement she has enjoyed activities including golf, bridge, lunch with friends, travel, and gardening.
Donna has two children, Travis and Christine. When Donna met her solicitor to settle Kevin’s estate she appointed Travis as her attorney for personal and financial matters and as her medical treatment decision maker.
In 2020, using the second round of funding from the Department of Justice’s Integrated Services Fund, Seniors Rights Victoria will deliver talks to around 30 groups of older people around the importance of planning for the future.
Most of these presentations will be for people living with dementia and their carers and families, while others will be to people from particular culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups. The focus this year will be on working with people from Chinese, Greek and Vietnamese backgrounds.
How long have you been with Seniors Rights Victoria?
Since 10 February 2020, so seven and a half weeks.
Have your impressions of SRV changed since you began?
I didn’t have any preconceptions. I anticipated it would have been a compassionate and proactive workplace in regards to the protection of seniors’ rights and that has been confirmed. I still have a lot to learn and feel very fortunate to be in a very supportive team. Despite still being a fairly junior lawyer I have found the transition to the new practice areas and workplace pretty seamless.
How long have you been a community lawyer ?
I have been a community lawyer for 14 months. Before that I had volunteered in community legal centres during and post studying law. My attraction to community law is the people that tend to work in this sphere and the difference we can make for vulnerable individuals. The people that tend to work in community law are compassionate and socially minded, which is the type of people I prefer to surround myself with.
In early March, Seniors Rights Victoria’s Principal Lawyer, Rebecca Edwards, took part in in a consultation in Canberra about the establishment of a national register of powers of attorney (POA) .
The Council of Attorneys-General is moving to establish a register as recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission’s 2017 Report on Elder Abuse.
All states and territories were represented at the consultation including state justice departments, public advocates, tribunals, banks, law societies, elder abuse legal centres like Seniors Rights Victoria, Councils on the Ageing, and older persons advocacy networks.
Greater awareness and better access to services are the aims of a new website launched last month to tackle elder abuse.
Compass was funded by the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department and developed by Elder Abuse Action Australia (EAAA).
‘The conversation about the abuse of older people needs to be treated as a priority,’ said Diedre Timms and Russell Westacott, the Co-Chairs of EAAA.
The site was a priority of the National Plan to respond to the Abuse of Older Australians 2019-2023, which was launched by Attorney-General Christian Porter in March 2019.
The EAAA Co-Chairs said that more content and resources would progressively be added to the site.
Jenny Blakey, Manager, Seniors Rights Victoria, is a board director of EAAA.
Antonia is in her mid-eighties. She migrated to Australia from Italy in the 1960s. Antonia’s first language is Italian, and she speaks only limited English. She received the equivalent of a grade three education. Antonia’s communication is hampered by a hearing impairment. After Antonia contracts the flu, her doctor places her in hospital.
The treating team speak with Antonia without an interpreter present and when Antonia does not have her hearing aids in. Consequently, she feels unsure about what is happening. The treating team interpret Antonia’s uncertainty as a lack of understanding and arrange for Antonia to be assessed by the geriatrician.
Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria is seeking a suitably skilled individual to work in a leading not-for-profit organisation representing the interests and rights of older people as their Treasurer.