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Q&As from the webinar

Answers to audience questions during Seniors Rights Victoria’s online webinar on 26 August 2020 discussing the report Seven Years of Elder Abuse Data in Victoria.

How many of those that you support have sought or want police assistance?

I don’t know if I could give you a percentage. A fair few people with ‘typical’ family violence issues have had police come around to the house in response to calls they make or neighbours or others make. Police also often take out intervention orders.

On top of that, we encourage people to contact police in some circumstances or we contact police for them (with their consent). We have a good relationship with police that is only improving with time. read more

MEDIA RELEASE: Extra funding provided for Seniors Rights Victoria

Media Release | 25 June 2020

A total of $321,500 in funding over the next two years will help Seniors Right Victoria maintain services to older Victorians — especially those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic — who are experiencing elder abuse.

Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey welcomed the extra funding announced recently by the Victorian Attorney-General, Jill Hennessy.

‘On 9 May 2020, I was pleased to announce $17.5 million in additional funding to assist frontline legal assistance services in responding to COVID-19,’ Ms Hennessy said.

‘Our funding matched—and exceeded—the Commonwealth Government’s commitment of $12.092 million.

‘The additional funds for Seniors Rights Victoria recognise that it provides specialist legal assistance in an area of heightened demand for a vulnerable client cohort, due to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 restrictions.

‘I appreciate the way you and your team have maintained consistent and effective service delivery during these difficult times.’

Ms Blakey thanked the Victorian Government for the extra funding which she said would help Seniors Rights Victoria maintain advocacy and legal services for people who were experiencing elder abuse.

‘Callers to our helpline — 1300 368 821 — are more anxious and under greater stress because of the pandemic,’ Ms Blakey said. ‘We know that when families experience significant financial pressures that some older family members may be unduly pressured to surrender money and assets.

‘Elder abuse stems from the way the community views older Victorians. Unless we acknowledge and value the key part that older people play in our society, we will not reduce the rates of elder abuse. The current restrictions should not mean that older Victorians are any less engaged and included than before the pandemic.’

Seniors Rights Victoria provides information, support, advice and education to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people.
Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust such as family or friends. If you, your client or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, call the confidential helpline on 1300 368 821.

For more information, call Phillip Money, Senior Media and Communications Advisor, COTA Victoria, on 0407 329 055.

Members of the Elder Abuse Roundtable pictured last year with the Aged Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson AO, seated front right

Roundtable considers the impacts of COVID-19

Members of the Elder Abuse Roundtable pictured last year with the Aged Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Kay Patterson AO, seated front right

Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV) is working hard to understand how older people, particularly those who are at risk of elder abuse, might be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated period of isolation.

SRV recently convened a meeting with organisations that are part of the Elder Abuse Roundtable to discuss how the pandemic is affecting older people within their client base and what can be done to mitigate the impacts.

The roundtables are held quarterly and are attended by organisations including National Ageing Research Institute (NARI), Victoria Police, Eastern Community Legal Service, Pronia, Transgender Victoria, Office of the Public Advocate, No To Violence, Better Place Australia, and Elder Rights Advocacy.

The discussion highlighted how many older people are feeling extremely isolated and lonely, having given up many of their usual activities, and not feeling comfortable accessing health and community services as they did before. With libraries, community and activity groups, cultural clubs and faith-based activities closed down, many people have been unable to stay in contact with their communities. This highlights a need for organisations to continue to reach out to the community, particularly people who do not have access to the internet and online services.

As some organisations have moved to providing services online or via telephone there is some concern that it is more difficult for professionals to pick up on signs that a person may be experiencing abuse. While telehealth and online services are better than nothing, they are not always suitable or user-friendly for older people, and it is important that the value of face-to-face contact is not lost as we move into a post-pandemic environment.

For some people their living arrangements have changed because of COVID-19, with respite options not readily available, or having to support family members who are out of work or facing other pressures. Older people who are private renters have also been having difficulty, particularly if their part-time work has been lost.

Importantly, the meeting recognised that as the official lockdown period begins to ease, older people as a more vulnerable cohort, continue to face uncertainty about what they should and shouldn’t do, highlighting the importance of continued advocacy for the needs of all older people at this time.

Andelka Obradovic

Introducing Community Lawyer Andelka Obradovic

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. read more

Person signing a legal document

Power of Attorney register progresses

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. read more

Picture of an man sitting down

Call for culturally appropriate material for older migrants

A Seniors Rights Victoria scoping project is calling for more culturally appropriate information about support services for older migrants who might be experiencing elder abuse.

Carmela Quimbo, a social work student on an extended placement at Seniors Rights Victoria, recently undertook a study into elder abuse and its relation to Contributory Parent visas. This topic was chosen because Seniors Rights Victoria’s casework team had been receiving more inquiries from older people living in Australia on Contributory Parent visas. Older people who migrate to Australia, often to assist with care for their grandchildren, may find themselves without access to Centrelink payments and health and social services if they are subject to elder abuse. read more

Picture of service providers at the launch of Concerned About an Older Person in Colac

Commissioner launches resource booklet

A booklet that provides practical steps to reduce elder abuse was launched recently by the Commissioner for Senior Victorians, Gerard Mansour.

More than 50 people attended the launch of Concerned About an Older Person in late November at the Colac Bowling Club.

The bookletwill be distributed to people who call the Seniors Rights Victoria helpline. ‘Half the people who call the helpline are concerned about someone they know,’ said Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey.

‘A quarter of callers are service providers, and the rest are experiencing elder abuse from a family member or some other person who is close to them. read more

Picture of a gavel on top of a Family Law book

Seniors Rights Victoria voices opposition to court merger

Seniors Rights Victoria has joined a coalition of more than 60 legal organisations opposing a proposal to merge the specialist Family Court of Australia with the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

A letter to the federal Attorney-General, Christian Porter, co-signed by Seniors Rights Victoria’s Principal Lawyer, Rebecca Edwards, said that greater not less specialisation in family law and family violence was needed.

A report by the Australian Law Reform Commission Report, released in April 2019, said that increasingly family law cases involve allegations of violence, child abuse and other risk factors.  read more

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

Human Rights Week reminds us that we all must play a part

Logo showing Human Rights Week 2019

This week is Human Rights Week. It is an important reminder that each us has a part to play in ensuring the principles of freedom, respect, equality and dignity are alive in our communities, workplaces and among friends and families.

Tuesday, 10 December, was International Human Rights Day. This marks the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

At Seniors Rights Victoria, we work from an empowerment or human rights model, whereby we seek to support and empower the older person to maintain their right to self-determination. Our service is older person focused and our aim is to support the older person by providing them with information, advice and support. We try and avoid overly paternalistic approaches which seek to promote a ‘best interest’ view without regard to the wishes and preferences of the older person.

A ‘best interests’ approach can sometimes permeate family discussions as parents age and family member, often out of concern, take a more protective approach to decision making. Sometimes this can lead to an eroding of the older person’s right to self-determination and ultimately their exclusion from the decision-making process.

To avoid eroding a person’s right to make their own decisions or at least be involved in the decision making process it is important for the older person to have frank and open discussions with their family about their preferences and to also think carefully about who they appoint as a substitute decision maker.

The older person should ask themselves: is this person aware of my values, wills and preferences? Can I trust this person to make the decision I would otherwise make for myself? Will this person involve me in the decision-making process? Does this person understand the role and the authority I have donated to them? read more