National community legal conference includes elder abuse

Seniors Rights Victoria principal lawyer Rebecca Edwards joined a panel discussion about elder abuse at the National Association of Community Legal Centres conference hosted last month.

Ms Edwards highlighted the story of elder abuse on the frontline, including the benefits of an integrated legal and advocacy social support model, as is used by Seniors Rights Victoria, to assist people experiencing elder abuse.

Other panellists included:

  • Susan Ryan AO, the former Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner who provided a broad national context for elder abuse, including discussing the prevalence of elder abuse, its roots in stereotyping, discrimination and ageism, and an expansive view of Commonwealth actions and opportunities.
  • Russell Westacott, Seniors Rights Service NSW CEO who provided a timeline summary of elder abuse in the national context over the past 10 years, including a discussion of the development of the proposed National Plan, creation of Elder Abuse Action Australia and current funding opportunities.
  • Megan King, a lawyer at Seniors Law, Justice Connect, is based at St Vincent’s hospital in Melbourne. Megan described the three different elder abuse health justice partnerships run by Justice Connect and the differences between them; one in a community health setting, one in an acute hospital setting and one in a sub-acute hospital setting.

Ms Edwards said her talk focused on recognising that elder abuse often occurs in the context of a complex matrix of psychosocial and legal issues. For example, when the abuser is the victim’s child, the parent is often torn between their own abusive situation and their legal rights, and the desire to care for and support their adult child.

“Some key features of the model we use is to have the capacity for home visits, to have a client-centred focus, to do a risk assessment at an early stage and provide genuine integration between the disciplines supporting the older person,” Ms Edwards said.

“The benefits of the model is that it enables a holistic approach – from the beginning the older person has their social, legal, emotional and practical issues considered, empowering but not pushing to person to take legal action, but facilitating access to justice with the support of the advocates and the lawyer.”