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Country Women’s Association partnership strengthens state-wide elder abuse knowledge

During 2018, Seniors Rights Victoria was invited to partner with the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of Victoria, to raise awareness about elder abuse.

Celebrating its 90th anniversary, the CWA has a long history of supporting women in rural and regional areas. There are also several CWA branches in metropolitan Melbourne. The collaboration with CWA recognises the expertise that exists in Seniors Rights Victoria and the commitment to being an effective state-wide service leading elder abuse prevention work.

Viviane Chemali (pictured), the Convenor of the CWA of Victoria’s Social Issues Committee, promoted the talks through Seniors Rights Victoria and the CWA’s networks. Recognising that with an increasing ageing population in Victoria, elder abuse would continue to be a concern in the community, the CWA of Victoria committed to ensuring that its members were informed of their rights and how to prevent elder abuse occurring by planning ahead. The talks covered a range of topics including elder abuse awareness, risks, prevention, support and assistance as well as providing information about Enduring Powers of Attorney and Advanced Care Directives.

The Seniors Rights Victoria speakers delivered 15 talks to 425 participants, including the CWA of Victoria State Branch. Speakers travelled as far away as Tallangatta and Warracknabeal and were welcomed by the local CWA members with conviviality. Some of the branches opened up the talks to their local communities.

“This was a valuable partnership for Seniors Rights Victoria during 2018 and we’d like to thank Viviane for all her work. We look forward to talking to other CWA of Victoria branches in the years to come,” said Seniors Rights Victoria’s Education Coordinator Gary Ferguson.

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Elder Abuse Prevention Networks Wraps Up

The Elder Abuse Prevention Networks are continuing to host community level events to provide information about elder abuse and mobilise the community in response.

Cobar Community Health – a member of the Macedon Ranges Elder Rights Network (one of the elder abuse prevention networks) organised a Know Your Rights Forum in Woodend in November. About 50 people attended and heard from a panel of speakers which included Gerard Mansour, Commissioner for Older Victorians/Ambassador for Elder Abuse Prevention, Seniors Rights Victoria, Elder Rights Advocacy and Victoria Police. Gerard talked about the phases of ageing from retirement through starting to live with more complex issues and the importance of not becoming isolated from broader social support networks.

Another of the networks, South West Carer & Respite Services Network, is holding a Knitting Ninja’s Morning Tea this month.

The event, to be hosted by the Warrnambool Mayor Tony Herbert, will highlight the need for all in the community to challenge ageism and say NO to elder abuse. The celebration is the culmination of a yarn bombing project. It represents a true community level approach with participating groups including: Warrnambool Primary School; South West TAFE students; residents of Ingenia Gardens, Lyndoch Living and Heatherlie; and members of Warrnambool Bowls and Lawn Tennis Bowls Clubs, Rotary, Salvation Army and Mpower Warrnambool Carer Support Group. To view a video of the project go to Yarn Bombing.

The Think Impact action research being conducted as part of the Elder Abuse Prevention Networks and funded by the State Trustees Foundation Australia is almost complete. The research provides insights from more than 70 interviews conducted with community members and professionals about their perceptions of the drivers of elder abuse, activities of the current networks and possible directions for future research. Some of the key societal causes of elder abuse that were cited include: age discrimination, perceived or real diminished capacity of older people, and isolation/lack of connection. The report and a practice guide on primary prevention of elder abuse will be launched by Seniors Rights Victoria in February 2019.

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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.

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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.

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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

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At the age of 96, Margarita finally gets to share her story: “He probably thought I’d keep my mouth shut”

In more wonderful work supported by Celebrate Ageing, 96-year-old Margarita Solis (pictured) last week launched a film sharing her story of sexual abuse perpetrated by the acting manager of the Seniors Rental Service where she was living.

Margarita is co-leading a campaign to prevent sexual abuse of older women. She shared her story on film to create a resource educating service providers and community members about the transformative power of listening to older women.

Margarita also wants to tell older women that sexual abuse is not their fault, and that there are support services available. The 18-minute film was previewed at Embolden (an annual Festival challenging ageism and building respect for older people) and at the recent Australian Association of Gerontology Conference before its public launch last week. Margarita is now surrounded by friends and feels safe in a residential aged care service that cares about her wellbeing.

“I hope that Margarita’s story will end the silence – I know of no other older woman who has felt safe enough to share her story publicly,” Dr Catherine Barrett said.

“In February 2019 we will launch a National story project…because we need to make sure that there is action, that the Royal Commission into Aged Care includes sexual abuse and that the National Strategy for Preventing Elder Abuse does as well.

To read more about the project and view the film go to Margarita’s page on the Opal Institute site.

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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 

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Ageing in fear – the rising challenge of identifying elder abuse

Suspected elder abuse cases can be challenging for medical practitioners and allied health professionals to address, which is why Seniors Rights Victoria is a good first point of call because their empowerment model supports an older person to take action.

According to Seniors Rights Victoria Advocacy Coordinator Philippa Campbell the empowerment ethos allows an older person to make informed decisions about the events affecting them, even if that decision is to take no action.

Loss of independence is a big challenge for people as we age. So we seek to speak with the older person to give them the support to choose what they want to do. We won’t do anything the older person doesn’t want us to do,” Philippa said.

“We’ve researched the barriers for older people to disclosing abuse and taking action. We know in most cases they don’t want an adult child to be removed from their life, sometimes because they depend on them, and that they fear being shipped to an aged care facility.”

Elder abuse can be experienced by any older person, irrespective of their gender, education, socio-economic background, culture, or whether they live alone or in aged care.

“Doctors and allied health professionals are a key link in addressing elder abuse in the community. We know older people may confide their worries to them, possibly when they’re visiting for a completely different reason. There’s a confidentiality issue, so we often suggest the medical professional seeks another appointment with their patient when they can gain permission from them to call us at that time so we can speak directly with the older person or to consider a My Aged Care assessment of the older person so we can be part of the referral process.”

Dr Margot Lodge, a Consultant Physician in Geriatric Medicine at Alfred Health, agrees with the empowerment ethos and the collaborative approach of practitioners and specialist services like Seniors Rights Victoria when supporting an older person suspected of experiencing elder abuse.

As a geriatrician, Dr Lodge sees older people after acute hospital admissions such as a fall or illness, or in the outpatient clinic when the person has been experiencing deteriorating health. She works with the older person to assess what they need medically and socially to attempt to restore their health and functioning, and to determine their capacity to drive the process. It’s in these situations where she is exposed to cases of elder abuse.

If Dr Lodge suspects a case of abuse she’ll speak with the older person about the situation and the help available, so if they want to take control they know the resources available.

“It can be horribly frustrating as a front-line clinician to hear about these family experiences and know the older person is willing to minimise their safety for the sake of family relationships. There’s often been lots of conflict and lots of time and the deferred position tends to be not to through your relation under the bus,” Dr Lodge said.

“Empowering the older person and utilising the multidisciplinary approach and specialist services definitely helps the older person, and sometimes the abuse can stop or lessen.”

Philippa said older people often find it a huge relief to speak to a person who is willing to help them find a pathway to drive the process.

The biggest response we get is thank you for listening. The older person often comments that they have had our brochure for so long but have been nervous about making a call. But we don’t judge, we just work with them so they can understand their rights even if they don’t do anything. There is a huge relief that they have somewhere to go, that someone has their back.”

For more information on the signs and resources for elder abuse go to Senior Rights Victoria’s Service Providers Website

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Elder abuse service celebrates 10 year milestone

Seniors Rights Victoria, an elder abuse service based on the advocacy-social worker/lawyer model is this year celebrating its 10 year anniversary with a celebration on Thursday 4 October.

Guest speakers will include Victorian Commissioner for Seniors and Ambassador for Elder Abuse Gerard Mansour and Seniors Rights’ peer educator Jennifer Evans.

A visionary Victorian State Government initiative, Seniors Rights Victoria was established by the Victorian Government in 2008 following the review conducted by ex-Senator Barney Cooney. In that year the State Government adopted a state-wide elder abuse strategy – the first state in Australia to do so!

Elder abuse is any act causing harm to an older person by someone they know and trust, such as family and friends.

Now a program of COTA Victoria, Seniors Rights Victoria continues to have a key role in the delivery of the Victorian Government’s Elder Abuse Prevention and Response strategies and initiatives to contribute to the response, prevention and education of elder abuse in Victoria.

In 10 years Seniors Rights Victoria has achieved:

  • 22,063 calls to our Helpline
  • 29,182 participants in community education sessions
  • 12,247 participants in professional development sessions
  • And produced nine different information sheets, and the booklet, Care for Your Assets: Money, Ageing & Family.

The Royal Commission into Family Violence was another significant initiative of the current Government, with the 2016 report and arising family violence reforms clearly identified elder abuse as a form of family violence. The impact has been a growth in awareness of elder abuse and additional older people seeking help.

“We support older people to make positive changes and we learn from them. We also make major contributions to State and Federal government policy and action in this sector,” said Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey.

“We appreciate the respect and positive responses we receive about our service, and from the leadership opportunities to collaborate and share our knowledge.”

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Intergenerational video shines light on elder abuse

Children from The Patch Primary School and a Positive Ageing Reference Group from Yarra Ranges Council will be acknowledged for a wonderful intergenerational video collaboration at Senior Rights Victoria’s 10th anniversary celebration.

The Yarra Ranges Council project was released for this year’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in June. The video features poems written and spoken by the reference group members, about the isolation and negativity people feel while experiencing elder abuse.

Earlier this year, students read these poems and discussed the issue in a workshop, before drawing specific parts of the poems. These drawings were then animated by local animator, Al MacInnes.

Yarra Ranges Mayor, Councillor Len Cox, said he hoped the video would help to raise awareness of abuse in the community.

“Elder abuse is a serious issue, and it comes in many forms, from physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual abuse, and it can include mistreatment and neglect,” Cr Cox said.

“This abuse is often carried out by people the victims know and trust, such as family members and friends, and victims rarely speak out.

“Abuse is never okay, and we cannot let this continue to happen to our vulnerable older adults in the community.

Here The Patch Primary School clip.

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Stacey’s story – Seniors Rights thanks founding Helpline

Seniors Rights Victoria gratefully acknowledged the wonderful spirit of long-time Helpline advocate Stacey van Dueren, when she recently retired from 10 years in the role. Stacey led the way with her skill and expertise and was happy to reflect on how elder abuse response has changed over those years.

Stacey, pictured in the centre with her colleagues, said she took the first call when the Helpline was first started 10 years ago through Seniors’ Information Victoria, working as part of a team of only five people.

“The phone had a different ring tone. There was a lot to learn in those early days because there was a lot less knowledge about elder abuse,” Stacey said.

Stacey said the frequency of calls has definitely grown over time, as is reflected by the statistics gathered by the service and the expansion of the program.

“The calls were different in the past and now callers are far more specific, whether they are calling for themselves, or calling for friends or neighbours for whom they are concerned and then there’s more calls from service providers seeking advice,” she said.

She said there were a lot more calls now about adult children, sibling rivalry and societal challenges such as mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, and costs associated with housing and living.

Stacey said the main attribute needed to answer the Helpline was to listen, then to work out how to navigate the conversation to respond appropriately and determine whether the caller simply needs advice, or more support from the lawyers and advocates on staff.

“My role was to provide information, to determine whether it goes to the next stage and to make good referrals as often callers have been around and around seeking information from service providers. I’d often ring the referral service myself on their behalf,” she said.

“I like the conversations. You build rapport and trust by listening from the first point. Not all calls are hard, and even when they are you can create some levity, some hope…and continuity if they call back, even if anonymously, when they are ready for the next step.”

Stacey said it was paramount the Helpline reassured callers, including older people, of their privacy, and provided them with enough information so they felt supported to make their own decisions.

She said it was great to see the progress made in community awareness about elder abuse, how to respond to it and how to educate people with the aim of preventing it occurring.

“A good day is when you have an older person speaking to our service in a safe place, ready to take the next step and you can help them get it all in place. I will miss this role but that’s good, I’m ready to take on the next challenge,” Stacey said.

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Elder abuse service pilots dementia project

Seniors Rights Victoria is pleased to announce it has received funding from the Department of Justice and Regulation to partner with Dementia Australia (DA) for a pilot series of legal information sessions and clinics in Victoria. Advocacy is an integral component of the project to ensure a holistic response to the non-legal needs of participants.

The sessions and clinics combined will enable people who have been recently diagnosed with dementia to plan ahead and to make informed choices about their future financial, health or care arrangements, as well as to put those choices into an appropriate legal format. The pilot project will run for a year.

Seniors Rights Victoria will support delivery of the session on Advanced Care Planning and Powers of Attorney (POAs) within the “Living with Dementia” program and as stand along one-off community education sessions. In addition, Seniors Rights Victoria will provide a number of legal clinics for people who have attended a session to provide one-on-one legal and advocacy consultations.

“This will ensure that legal education and advice is based on therapeutic principles and an empowerment approach for the older person, including the provision of support for non-legal issues facing the individual. It will also allow us to screen for elder abuse,” said Seniors Rights Victoria principal Lawyer Rebecca Edwards.

“We’re really excited to be pioneering this approach in collaboration with Dementia Australia – the link between cognitive impairment and elder abuse is well established,” she said.

Ms Edwards said Australian research estimates that up to 10 per cent of older people experience some form of elder abuse and that the incidence is significantly under-reported (Kaspiew et al 2016). In addition, almost one in 10 people over 65 have dementia (NATSEM 2016). For example, recent research has found elder abuse prevalence rates among guardianship clients of 13 per cent in 2013-14 and 21 per cent in 2016-17 (Bedson et al 2018).

The sessions will start in 2019.

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Government names final elder abuse prevention sites

The last three elder abuse prevention networks have now been contracted by the Victorian State Government.

Merri Health will expand their coverage to work in partnership with the Western Health Integrated Model of Care for responding to suspected elder abuse. Frankston Mornington Primary Care Partnership will be part of the Peninsula Integrated Model of Care and Barwon Community Legal Centre will be leading network activities in Geelong and surrounding areas.

Elder Abuse Prevention Network (EAPN) Project Officer Alexia Huxley said some of the networks have been operating for over nine months now.

“We met recently to discuss the findings of the accompanying action research. This was the second report back and looked at evidence being collected from consultation with community members – including older people – about the drivers of elder abuse and how to work effectively in the community to raise awareness and prevent elder abuse,” Ms Huxley said.

For example, Merri Health Elder Abuse Prevention network, which was only launched in June, is now working in conjunction with local councils, neighbourhood houses and other agencies to plan activities for  Victorians against Violence (25 November-10 December) and capacity building for staff engaged with older people in the community so they are able to recognise and respond to elder abuse.

“The action research will be completed by Christmas and a framework to guide future work on primary prevention of elder abuse will be launched early in the New Year,” Ms Huxley.

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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.”

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NARI director joins Seniors Rights Victoria advisory committee

Seniors Rights Victoria is pleased to announce that Briony Dow, Director of the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) and Associate Professor of Ageing at the University of Melbourne, has joined its Elder Abuse Advisory Committee.

The Elder Abuse Advisory Committee contribute to the strategic direction of Senior Rights Victoria, to support its operations and make recommendations to the board of the Council on the Ageing Victoria, of which Seniors Rights Victoria is a program.

Briony has worked on a number of joint research projects with Seniors Rights Victoria and/or its staff, including Elder Abuse Community Action Plan for Victoria in 2018; Understanding Elder Abuse Scoping Study in 2017; and The Older Person’s Experience: Outcomes of Interventions into Elder Abuse in 2016.

At NARI, Briony oversees a range of both social and clinical gerontology research programs, including her own research into elder abuse and carer mental health. At the University of Melbourne, Briony teaches a subject in the on-line Masters of Ageing.

Briony has been at NARI for 15 years during which time she has published over 60 peer reviewed publications and over 30 major reports to government. Prior to her work at NARI, Briony practised as a social worker in community aged care. She is a past President of the Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG) and she represents NARI and the AAG on the Australian Government’s Aged Care data Advisory Group and the Australian Aged Care Quality Indicators Technical Advisory Panel.

The team at Seniors Rights Victoria is delighted to have Briony’s expertise join the advisory committee, which also consists of George Koulis, John Chestman, Ian Dunn, Ron Burke and Aaron Wiley.

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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.

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Safeguarding the rights of older people forum

Sunbury community partners are hosting a community information session about  safeguarding the rights, dignity and independence of older people on Tuesday, October 30, from 2-3:30pm.

The free session will be held at the Sunbury Senior Citizens Club. It will focus on elder abuse and be presented by Gary Ferguson from Seniors Rights Victoria.

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.

This event has been organised by the valuable community partnership between: Sunbury Police Community Register, Sunbury U3A, HeartBeat Victoria Sunbury Branch, Sunbury Community Health, Merri Health and Seniors Rights Victoria.

A healthy afternoon tea provided. For more information please leave a phone message at Sunbury Police Community Register on 9744 8165, or to register your attendance go to Eventbrite.

For more information download the pdf Final Elder Abuse Flyer

 

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Legal Matters & Ageing Forum

Take the chance to ask the experts about some of the most common legal issues affecting older people at this free community event being hosted on Tuesday, 16 October, at Safety Beach Community Centre, from 10:30am-1pm.

Topics to be covered include: medical decision-making law and recent changes, retirement villages, aged care, wills and elder abuse.

Guest speakers are:
John Corcoran AM, Russell Kennedy Lawyers;
Gary Ferguson, Seniors Rights Victoria;
William Betts, Peninsula Community Legal Centre.

There will be a Q&A session, with morning tea to be provided. For more information and bookings phone 97833600 or book (no charge) via Eventbrite.

For more information download the pdf Legal Matters & Ageing Forum

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Elder Abuse: Everyone’s business

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is commemorated each year on 15 June to highlight one of the worst manifestations of ageism and inequality in our society, elder abuse.

Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust such as a family member or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect.

WEAAD was officially recognised by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011, following a request by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), who first established the commemoration in June 2006.

In many parts of the world elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response. It is a global social issue which affects the health, well-being, independence and human rights of millions of older people around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of all in the community.

According to WHO, prevalence rates or estimates exist only in selected developed countries – ranging from 1 to 15.7 per cent. Although the extent of elder mistreatment is unknown, its social and moral significance is obvious.

Individuals, communities, municipalities and organisations will come together across the globe to hold events on 15 June that raise awareness of elder abuse, including many events throughout Victoria. To look up whether an event has been registered in your community go to WEAAD events

Senior Rights Victoria encourages organisations to celebrate the positive contributions of older people in our communities.

“Older people are essential in the fabric of our society. It’s time for us to acknowledge their importance and recognise they are entitled to the respect of their communities and especially their families,” Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey said.

If you haven’t registered your event, it’s not too late, just go to WEAAD register events

For assistance in seeking publicity for your event, feel free to customise your request for media coverage using our generic media release link on this WEAAD page.

Seniors Rights Victoria is supporting WEAAD by providing re-designed collateral updates your organisation can order via our WEAAD Toolkit This includes bookmarks, posters and magnets with three tag line themes for 2018. There is even a generic poster where you can add your event details. Much of this collateral has been pre-ordered by the supplier to make it quicker for you to access resources, although ribbons have now sold out for 2018.

From this site you can also access a free zip folder with Image Pack Update via the WEAAD resources page where you can download the three generic WEAAD-designed tag themes with various images for your organisation’s use on webpage slides, email banners and social media.

Seniors Rights Victoria is a state-wide service providing information, support, advice and education to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people.  For further information about elder abuse please visit our website www.seniorsrights.org.au or contact our free, confidential Helpline: 1300 368 821.

Wishing you all the best with your WEAAD celebrations!

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Starting the conversations with older people

Seniors Rights Victoria’s often uses conversation seeds by way of image props and discussions in their community education sessions, with many of the current talks listed on the WEAAD website.

Community education coordinator Gary Ferguson and a team of volunteer peer educators enjoy the sessions, helping older people and the professionals working with them to understand how they can prevent elder abuse. For a community educator’s perspective read Gina’s story.

The conversation seeds, such as the image pictured, are used as a starting point for their discussions about elder abuse, the link to ageism and the rights of older people. This image illustrates Lloyd Kahn’s skateboarding story which began at the age of 64. The image is him at 79 years still pursuing his passion. When he was 66 years old he fell off and broke his left arm. The treating doctor at the hospital didn’t tell Lloyd he was too old, but attended to his broken arm and advised how he could skateboard safely by wearing protective gear.

“The topics of ageism and elder abuse present different opportunities and challenges for the initiator of the conversation. Elder abuse is mostly preventable and therefore having conversations can equip the community with knowledge and information to address elder abuse and stop it from happening,” Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey said.

“Conversations about difficult topics, such as elder abuse, can be helpful in exploring the issue and lead to people becoming more empowered to assert their rights. Conversations might lead to people disclosing that they’re being abused or mistreated and will therefore provide an opportunity to inform about the availability of support and assistance”.

Ms Blakey said conversations aren’t intended to provide all the answers about elder abuse, but rather to trigger thinking and discussion about the issue and increase people’s knowledge.

She said conversations and narratives also have a natural place in cross cultural groups of seniors where stories have been used historically.

Talks as part of WEAAD this year include events at Warrnambool, Heidelberg West, Murrumbeena, Collingwood, Burwood, Broadford, Altona and Morwell, often in partnership with other organisations.

Feedback from events hosted earlier this year have been very positive:

“The presentation was brilliant with a great deal of material covered but with humour and anticipation to keep the audience involved. The audience learnt a great deal which has already been put to use. The handouts were handy too”.

“(Appreciated Seniors Rights Victoria) Giving such appropriate and timely awareness of this important service, in a manner that was professional and appropriate to our group. We will certainly recommend that other PROBUS clubs also use the service and speaking personally, I now know where to go if I ever have an issue – which may well be the case as we are considering sometime in the next few years, moving to a village of some sort. I know some of our other members are having similar plans…”

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Gina pursues elder abuse prevention message

When Seniors Rights Victoria’s peer educator Gina Fiske has an older person start to talk to her about the disrespect they are being shown in the family, she stops talking and listens.

Gina brings the breadth of a career in family, youth and child programs and heath prevention. She understands the most important aspect for someone brave enough to share their elder abuse story is to be believed.

“People are often fearful of talking to other people about their situation, they’ve often lived with it for a long time,” Gina said.

A trained, volunteer presenter at community education sessions throughout Victoria for about a year, Gina has taken to the sessions with great enthusiasm, encouraging older people to build their knowledge, confidence and know they have a place when they can go to get help.

“I know in families, even in my family, that some people feel entitled to more than they should, it challenges us all. That’s why prevention is at the heart of what we do,” Gina said.

The community education sessions often present a case study, perhaps a son living back with his mother after a relationship has ended with debts he cannot manage. The son asks his mum for money, he uses the car and lives in the house without contributing to groceries or paying rent. The mother is trying to help the son get back on his feet but he soon starts using her bank account and when she becomes aware of it and says something he becomes verbally abusive and the relationship continues to deteriorate.

“It’s when trust is broken that it is elder abuse. I talk to people after our sessions and they often feel they are under pressure. They can see their adult child is using them, not respecting them, using their resources and they’re not thinking through the consequences,” Gina said.

“They often have a limited income and feel lucky to have an asset, their house, but there is no notion of fairness from their adult child of seeing their parent as an independent older person who has choices about a situation they haven’t initiated. People are usually quiet silent when the case study is being shared, they just nod their heads as the information clicks.

“They often don’t acknowledge it as elder abuse. Elder abuse is such a blunt term. I’m not surprised it occurs but I’m surprised it’s named publicly, and this sends a clear message that this is present in our communities, in our families and it’s not okay”.

Gina is looking forward to speaking at more community education sessions as it gets closer to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June. For information on events go to WEAAD events.

“I will go as often as I can. I enjoy doing this and helping older people understand what they can do to protect themselves and maintain family relationships. I think that is important.”

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We can prevent elder abuse in communities

While there is no comprehensive data available for the prevalence of elder abuse in Australia, it is estimated that up to 14 per cent of older people may be experiencing abuse.

In most cases elder abuse is an intergenerational form of family violence. In 2016-17, people aged 60 years or over made up just over 5,400 of the family members affected in family violence incidents recorded by Victoria Police (Crime Statistics Agency).

“Just as respectful relationships within families help prevent family violence, respect for older family members is a primary protection against elder abuse, particularly when it comes to a family’s financial arrangements,” Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey said.

“Older people are essential in the fabric of our society. It’s time for us to acknowledge their importance and recognise they are entitled to the respect of their communities and especially their families. There is no excuse for elder abuse.”

Ms Blakey said the warning signs of elder abuse may include an older person seeming fearful, anxious or isolated. There may be injuries, or an absence of personal care. Disappearance of possessions, unexplained financial transactions, and changes to a will, property title or other legal documents are also of concern. While the mistreatment of an older person may be carried out by one family member, it is often other family members who are best placed to support their parent or grandparent against the abuse, provided they recognise what is happening. Like other forms of family violence, most elder abuse occurs behind closed doors, so it is important for loved ones to watch out for signs, listen and offer help.

Older people can reduce the risk of elder abuse by making sure their financial, medical, legal and other affairs are clearly stated and recorded. Older people must also be empowered to recognise the signs of elder abuse and encouraged to state when they are not comfortable with an arrangement. They can get help to negotiate this through Seniors Rights Victoria.

Older Victorians experiencing elder abuse, or family members concerned about an older person, can get help by calling Seniors Rights Victoria on 1300 368 821 Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 5 pm. The website for more information is www.seniorsrights.org.au.

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Maria’s shares her experience of elder abuse

For this year’s WEAAD, Seniors Rights Victoria asked two former clients, Maria* (pictured) and Meg* to share their stories about elder abuse within their families. It was hard for both Victorian women to speak about their experiences, but then neither want any family to endure what they have. Elder abuse is not a happy story, but changes can be made.

Maria’s issues began after she took in her adult son to help him through difficult personal and financial times. Despite positive beginnings, things quickly soured.  Arguments ensued around Maria’s son using her credit card without paying her back, refusing to contribute to household expenses, stealing $8000 worth of stamps from a collection and finally, making physical threats on her life.

The police were unable to help so Maria reached out to Seniors Rights Victoria.  Seniors Rights Victoria’s Principal Lawyer Rebecca Edwards and Social Advocate Jane Eeles accepted Maria’s case and worked with her through the court system to have her son removed from the house with an intervention order. In addition to supporting her through the stressful court process, Jane re-connected Maria with community social activities to combat isolation.

Seniors Rights Victoria is the key state-wide service dedicated to stopping elder abuse. It is a program of Council on The Ageing (COTA), supported by the Victorian Government. Operating under the principal of empowering older people, Seniors Rights Victoria provides information, support, advice, casework and education to help prevent and respond to elder abuse through its Helpline which received 3300 calls last year, a 25 per cent increase on the previous year.

Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey said there was a growing acknowledgement of elder abuse as a form of family violence but still a disconnect when it came to the highest incidence of abuse – financial – which accounts for 75 per cent of their abuse cases, including the circumstances for both Maria and Meg.

Please note the personal details for Maria* and Meg* were changed to protect their privacy.

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Event ideas for WEAAD

Anyone can host an event or help raise awareness for WEAAD. In particular, we encourage councils and seniors groups to jump on board and get together on the day, even if only for a cuppa and a conversation. It can be as simple as an afternoon tea or walking through your community wearing purple (although you’ll need to rug up because it is June!)

Seniors Rights Victoria is supporting a public awareness campaign throughout the community by way of its public talks and by inviting all Victorian public libraries to include complimentary purple bookmarks in books borrowed by their customers. Look out for these at a library near year throughout the month of June.

Other event or action ideas are listed on our WEAAD event ideas page. Last minute ideas include:

  • Hosting a morning or afternoon tea
  • Hosting an information table at your organisation
  • Create a public display board
  • Plan a tree
  • Yarn bomb a pole, bike racks or community seats in your local area – you can even pin information to the poles!
  • Submit a letter to the editor of your local media outlet or community newsletter
  • Utilising the hashtags #elderabuse #empowerolderpeople to promote key WEAAD messages:
  1. Elder Abuse: Everyone’s Business
  2. No excuse for elder abuse
  3. We can stop elder abuse
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Should elder abuse be criminalised?

To link with this year’s Law Week activities hosted in May and in advance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on 15 June, Seniors Rights Victoria has released some additional discussion papers covering some legal complexities linked with elder abuse.

The initial series of discussion papers released aim to build understanding between the family violence sector and older people experiencing elder abuse, acknowledging that despite the progress of reforms into family violence, gaps remain on how best to integrate older people in this space.

Topics covered are: elder abuse as family violence, elder abuse and gender and preventing elder abuse.

Seniors Rights Victoria has now produced some discussion papers to cover some of the legal aspects our service is often asked by family violence service providers, concerned family members, the community and sometimes older people.

The topics are:

  1. Mandatory reporting – which discusses Seniors Rights Victoria’s position that mandatory reporting diminishes the right of older people to make decisions about their own lives, and would fail to prevent elder abuse or promote the safety of older people experiencing abuse.
  2. Criminal law and elder abuse – which delves into whether a specific law criminalising elder abuse is necessary.

Seniors Rights Victoria encourages you to read these discussion papers and continue to contribute to the reforms in this space. Feedback is welcome by emailing info@seniorsrights.org.au marking the email subject headline Elder Abuse discussion papers.

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Share your views on elder abuse in the community

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.

Ms Huxley said the networks project supports the Royal Commission into Family Violence which identified elder abuse as a form of family violence.

“This project focuses on responding to elder abuse that is occurring, training professionals so they can recognise family violence and preventing elder abuse before it happens,” she said.

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.

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Seniors Rights Victoria celebrates 10 year milestone

Seniors Rights Victoria celebrates 10 year milestone

We’ve been reflecting on some of the milestone achievements of Seniors Rights Victoria in our first 10 years, with the anniversary date commemorated recently with a small staff party.

More community festivities are being planned for later in the year, but in the meantime we hope you’ll join us in celebrating the difference we can all make fighting elder abuse.

  • Victorian Crime Statistics Agency: Their Family Violence Data Framework adopted significant portions of our feedback, including providing more specific age ranges for people experiencing family violence, their relationship to the perpetrator and cultural background.
  • ASIC requested our submissions on reverse mortgages, we made submissions on meeting with clients alone, mandated interpretation and translation and independent legal and financial advice.
  • Meeting with Ken Wyatt to talk about our take on Elder Abuse
  • NARI Elder Abuse Community Action Plan for Victoria states that they worked in partnership with us and that our input was key.
  • Invited to participate in the Older Women Living Alone (OWLa) advisory group with Bolton Clarke
  • Our Policy Officer Melanie Joosten spoke at for HAAG AGM
  • Melanie also spoke on the Caxton Legal Centre panel on elder abuse, recorded for ABC Big Ideas podcast

Most importantly, we still help older people in our community. Since June 2009, we have had 17,101 calls to our helpline.  Our calls per year now compared to that first year have doubled.  Then, as now, financial elder abuse was the issue that most people called about.

We hope we are making a difference to older people who are at risk or experiencing elder abuse and the service providers who support them. We feel privileged to be #empoweringolderpeople to Stop #elderabuse.

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Seniors Rights Victoria supports Law Week 2018

Seniors Rights Victoria is supporting events that help raise awareness of elder abuse being hosted throughout the state as part of this year’s Law Week, from 14-20 May.

Law Week is an annual festival of events that makes learning about the law easy. Held in May each year, Law Week has taken place across Victoria since 1980. Presented by the Victoria Law Foundation (VLF) with the support of its Event Partners and sponsors, including Seniors Rights Victoria, Law Week offers Victorians the opportunity to find answers to their legal questions, discover the history of the courts or simply enjoy the spectacle of the law.

Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey said the state-wide specialist elder abuse service was pleased to be able to partner to present events. These events raise awareness of elder abuse and the importance of supporting older people appropriately with the decisions being made which affect them.

Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust such as a family member or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect.

“Older people are essential in the fabric of our society. It’s time for us to acknowledge their importance and recognise they are entitled to the respect of their communities and especially their families,” Ms Blakey said.

The relevant free events are:

14-17 May:  Law Week Hub pop-up: Elder abuse prevention and support, 12:30-2pm daily, at Fed Square, Swanston Street forecourt

Our Helpline advocates will be on hand at the Law Week Festival Hub to provide information about how this service supports older people experiencing elder abuse. No bookings required.

15 May: Legal Matters & Ageing Seminar, 2-4pm, at Orbost Service Centre, 1 Ruskin St

Free seniors seminar covering topics on Enduring Powers of Attorney, Ageism and Planning Ahead. Learn more about your legal rights and options, have your questions answered and receive the free kit Take Control – A Guide to Making Enduring Powers of Attorney. Bookings essential by calling 51523063 or calling into Bairnsdale U3A. Bookings essential by calling 5152 4225 or in person at the library.

Presented by East Gippsland Shire Council and Seniors Rights Victoria.

16 May: Legal Matters & Ageing Seminar, 1-3pm, at Bairnsdale U3A, corner of Service & Rupert St

Free seniors seminar covering topics on Enduring Powers of Attorney, Ageism and Planning Ahead. Learn more about your legal rights and options, have your questions answered and receive the free kit Take Control – A Guide to Making Enduring Powers of Attorney. Bookings essential by calling 51523063 or calling into Bairnsdale U3A.

Presented by East Gippsland Shire Council, Seniors Rights Victoria and Bairnsdale U3A.

19 May: Getting to grips with the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act, 8:45-10am, at Law Institute of Victoria, Tony Smith Lecture Theatre, Ground Floor, 470 Bourke Street, Melbourne

 The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 came into effect on 12 March 2018, bringing with it significant changes to medical treatment laws. This seminar is designed to provide vital information regarding the Act, to assist people to understand how the new laws enable people of all ages to plan for their future medical treatment, including advance care directives, substitute and support decision making, and the validity of existing documents made under the old laws. Bookings essential by calling 9607 9473 or email register@liv.asn.au

Presented by the Law Institute of Victoria

18 May Elder Abuse Information Session, 2-3pm, Castlemaine Library, 212 Barker St, Castlemaine 

Join Senior Rights Victoria Principal Lawyer Rebecca Edwards for an information session on elder abuse and protecting your rights as you grow older. Topics covered include enduring powers of attorney and advanced health care directives with a focus on prevention and support. Free kits are available on the day

Presented by Castlemaine Community Health, Goldfield Libraries and Seniors Rights Victoria

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Seniors Rights Victoria celebrates 10 year milestone

Seniors Rights Victoria is turning 10 this year, with plans to celebrate our achievements in the pipeline.  For such a young organisation, we punch above our weight!

  • Since June 2009, we have had 17,101 calls to our helpline. Our calls per year now compared to that first year have doubled.  Then, as now, financial elder abuse was the issue that most people called about.
  • In the past 10 years, we have grown by leaps and bounds from just five staff to 14 people, working in prevention of elder abuse, community education, a helpline advice service, legal and social casework, communications, and policy and law reform. The professional expertise covers all these areas.
  • We recently relocated with our fellow colleagues at the Council on the Ageing Victoria to accommodate our growing team, leaving the Block Arcade to be co-located on Level 4/533 Little Lonsdale, Melbourne – conveniently right near Flagstaff Train Station.

We have seen a huge spike in the acknowledgement and interest of elder abuse, resulting in part from the recommendations of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence in 2016 and the subsequent, ongoing Victorian government reforms, which recognise elder abuse as a form of family violence.

The Federal Government has also been integral in this space, with former Attorney General George Brandis launching the report of the Australian Law Reform Commission at our 2017 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day event and funding Elder Abuse Action Australia, an organisation supporting the national coordination and advocacy of issues related to elder abuse.  Last month, the new Attorney General Christian Porter committed to putting forward a National Plan to combat elder abuse.

Although we have come far, Seniors Rights Victoria as an organisation has a lot more to do in order to continue to prevent and respond to elder abuse.  A statement by Jenny Blakey, our manager made in 2012 holds true today as it did then:

“As I think about all that we have achieved, I am touched by a pleasant irony: we are a young organisation developing wisdom quickly, working with older people with a lifelong accumulation of wisdom,” Ms Blakey said.

“We aim to make a difference to older people who are at risk or experiencing elder abuse and the service providers who support them. We feel privileged to be empowering older people to stop elder abuse”.

To listen to a past client’s first person account of elder abuse click Meg’s Story.

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Seniors Rights Victoria is in planning mode for this year’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), remembered globally on June 15 each year, including the development of key themes for the 2018 celebrations.

The United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 66/127, designated that day for WEAAD as the main day in the year when the world voices its opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted on older people.

An increasing number of activities and events are held across the globe on this day to raise awareness of elder abuse, and highlight ways to challenge such abuse. Information on activities in Victoria will be updated on our WEAAD website as details become available, and you can also register your own event. Look for our updated WEAAD Toolkit which should be available by the end of April, customise this media release for your own event and order your WEAAD merchandise.

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National EA Conference – The Gift That Keeps on

Seniors Rights Victoria held a workshop on financial elder abuse as part of this year’s national Elder Abuse Conference hosted by the NSW-based Seniors Rights Service in Sydney last month.

Seniors Rights Victoria Principal Lawyer Rebecca Edwards and Community Lawyer Tabitha O’Shea presented the case study of Linda, a single, retired academic aged in her 70s, who had agreed to sell her house and contribute 50 per cent, a total of $500,000, to the purchase of a home by her daughter Gina and Gina’s family, husband Mike and two sons. The plan was that Linda would live in a self-contained section of the house. Sadly, once the move was made Linda was subjected to increasing verbal abuse and threats to kick her out of the home.

Unfortunately, as Seniors Rights Victoria workers often discover, Linda was not included on the title of the home.  This led to an application to VCAT to determine the ownership of the property and to force a sale. It was a slow, difficult and emotional process to get a better outcome for Linda, whose health deteriorated as a result of the situation.

Ms Edwards said that despite financial recovery in cases like Linda’s, because of the psychological and emotional issues, there were no real ‘winners’ in financial elder abuse, which represent up to a third of all elder abuse cases presenting to Seniors Rights Victoria.

“We were pleased to be able to workshop the potential legal actions in these cases and the supports required by an older person in circumstances such as these to prepare, participate and debrief – after all, they are in dispute with their loved ones and they often feel shame and sadness that the elder abuse has occurred.” Ms Edwards said.

Ms Edwards said the team were happy the workshop met the objectives of speaking at the conference to show how to assess financial elder abuse, how to obtain and present evidence to prove intention, and how to assist an older person to be an effective witness, particularly if they’re experiencing fluctuating health issues.

“We hope all the attendees at the workshop can use this information and approach to create better outcomes for older people experiencing elder abuse,” she said.

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The Power Project – older women and sexual abuse

Seniors Rights Victoria participated in the launch of the Power Project at last month’s National Elder Abuse Awareness Conference, contributing to an awareness campaign by the OPAL Institute about the sexual abuse of older women.

The Power Project was launched with an interdisciplinary panel hosted by media celebrity Virginia Trioli which included representatives from the police, family violence services, legal and elder abuse services, sexual assault and advocacy services – all discussing the sexual abuse of older women by their partners, family members and service providers.

With more than 30 years’ experience of working with older people, Opal Institute Director Dr Catherine Barrett said the engaging interdisciplinary panel discussion was the ideal way to launch The Power Project, an innovative national resources to assist service provides and community members to work together to prevent sexual abuse.

Dr Barrett said the first stage of the project includes a website development and poster campaign to raise awareness about the power of listening.

“I’ve heard hundreds of accounts of sexual abuse of older women – and across all these accounts a common theme is the power of listening. Service providers, friends and family who listen can transform the lives of older women,” Dr Barrett said.

She said the aim of the Power Project is to show Australians the power we have to prevent the sexual abuse of older women.

Dr Barrett is calling for organisations, services, associations and individuals to become Power Project Champions.

For more information read The Power Project.

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Ageing without fear – a discussion on elder abuse as family violence

One of the key results of the 2016 Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence was the recognition of elder abuse as family violence.  Nevertheless, the Royal Commission acknowledged that older people would have very specific needs that would need to be addressed by the family violence sector. A year into the reforms, gaps remain in how best to integrate older people in the service.  The family violence sector, focused on intimate partner violence, may not be presently equipped to cater to the needs of older people experiencing other types of elder abuse.  Further, older people experiencing elder abuse may not see their situation as one of family violence.

In order to build understanding between the two sectors, Seniors Rights Victoria has produced a suite of discussion papers on elder abuse as family violence, elder abuse and gender and preventing elder abuse.

  1. Elder Abuse as Family Violence explains how elder abuse is a form of family violence, and draws attention to its unique causes and characteristics.
  2. Elder Abuse and Gender explores the ways gender and sexual identity can affect an individual’s experience of elder abuse, mistreatment and disrespect. It also includes a discussion of the often under-recognised crime of sexual assault of older women.
  3. Preventing Elder Abuse describes activities that help prevent elder abuse from occurring, as well as actions that enable people to detect and respond to elder abuse in order to inhibit reoccurrences and prevent long-term harm.

The goal of the papers is to ultimately improve understanding and generate thoughts on best practice in preventing and responding to elder abuse.

These discussion papers will be launched on Friday, 4 May 2018, followed by a dynamic panel discussion of the key themes in the papers, such as elder abuse, gender, violence prevention, and cultural diversity. Our expert panelists are:

  • CEO, Family Safety Victoria, Sue Clifford
  • Assistant Commissioner, Family Violence Command, Victoria Police, Dean McWhirter
  • CEO, Pronia, Tina Douvos
  • Elder Abuse Prevention Networks Officer, Senior Rights Victoria, Alexia Huxley

Seniors Rights Victoria anticipates that there will be an exciting and productive discussion and that the papers produced will lead to a greater understanding of elder abuse as a form of family violence and result in better outcomes and service for older people experiencing abuse.

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Legal changes for medical treatment and guardianship

Victorians can now plan ahead for medical treatment to ensure their wishes are followed and their values considered when decisions are made on medical treatment after they lose medical decision-making capacity.

To understand more click Law Institute Victoria Law Institute’s Planning Ahead article.

In other legal updates the Victorian Government introduced new laws this week to better protect the rights of adults with disability to make and participate in decisions that affect their lives. The newly Guardianship and Administration Bill 2018 will replace 1986 laws to define decision-making capacity, including a presumption that a person has the capacity to make decisions unless evidence is provided otherwise.

New offences will be created to penalise guardians or administrators who dishonestly use their appointment for financial gain or cause loss to the represented person, attracting a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

The reforms also allow a person to be compensated for a loss caused by a guardian or administrator who breaches their duties.

Victoria Attorney General Martin Pakula said people living with impaired decision-making ability deserve the dignity and independence of being supported to make their own decisions wherever possible.

“We’re modernising the definition of decision-making to ensure Victorians with disability aren’t subjected to arbitrary and unnecessary intrusions on their right to make decisions affecting their lives,” he said. For more information click Guardianship Laws Overhauled.

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Launch of Elder Abuse Prevention Network in Ballarat

Parliamentary Secretary for Human Services Sharon Knight MP neatly summed up the purpose of elder abuse prevention networks at the launch last month of the Victorian Government’s newest location, the Central Highlands Elder Abuse Prevention Project in Ballarat.

“The aim is to take prevention to where older Victorians meet and to the people who interact with them the most,” Ms Knight said. “We want them to know they will be supported and understood, and that help is at hand.”

The new network is hosted by Ballarat Community Health and is one of 10 across the state being funded by the Victorian Government. Its launch reiterated the touch-points for older people in the community with attendee representatives of many community groups including the Men’s Shed and the U3A, councils, aged care, health services and Victoria Police.

The aim of the network is to stop elder abuse before it happens by increasing understanding of elder abuse and encouraging community members to not tolerate the exploitation of older people.

It is an ethos already supported by Jeanette Lane from the Mornington Peninsula, who inspired the audience at the launch with her observation of elder abuse in her neighbourhood and how this had motivated her to help establish the Peninsula Advisor Committee of Elders (PACE).

Mrs Lane, proudly supported by her husband Graham (both pictured), talked about the ripple effect of local awareness raising: “When we run one program, someone who is a member of another group wants to get in touch for us to make a presentation somewhere else. We have now run programs all over the Peninsula.”

In discussions about the causes and reinforcing factors for elder abuse, participants stressed the importance of older people understanding their rights and service providers – such as accountants and financial advisers – being trained to recognise the warning signs of elder abuse.

At the close of the meeting organisations were asked to show interest in becoming members and participating in the activities of the prevention network. These will include making contact with people in the LGBTI, Aboriginal and CALD communities in the vicinity, and using art and drama to educate the community about elder abuse. At the end of the meeting 25 groups immediately indicated their interest in joining the network.

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NARI launches elder abuse action plan

Victoria’s Public Advocate Colleen Pearce last month launched the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI)’s Elder Abuse Community Action Plan for Victoria at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Seniors Rights Victoria, the Office of the Public Advocate and community service providers all supported NARI to achieve this project.

“The key strength of this piece of work is that it sought to combine the insights of frontline practitioners with information about new policy contexts, existing services and cutting-edge trial projects, to come up with this plan,” Ms Pearce said at the launch.

NARI Director and co-author of the plan Associate Professor Briony Dow said elder abuse was a serious problem in Victoria, but like many issues affecting older people was often treated as a second-class problem.

“NARI research has shown that tackling elder abuse is difficult not least because older people do not want to talk about their experiences…..Many older people we have spoken to feel deep shame and fear further abuse,” Ms Dow said.

The research identified 10 priorities in the state-wide action plan to address elder abuse:

  1. Clarify the relationship between family violence and elder abuse.
  2. Raise community awareness of elder abuse and promote a positive image of older people to reduce ageism.
  3. Increase availability of “older person centred” alternatives to disclosing elder abuse.
  4. Standardise tools for recognising abuse, and develop and implement a common framework for responding to elder abuse.
  5. Increase availability of family (elder) mediation services including for people living in rural areas and CALD communities.
  6. Provide education and training on elder abuse for all health professionals in health and aged care services.
  7. Improve data and increase evaluation.
  8. Clarify whether carer stress is a risk factor for elder abuse.
  9. Improve understanding and response to elder abuse in CALD and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  10. Improve housing options for both perpetrators and victims of elder abuse.

To read more about the Action Plan including the recommendations go to NARI’s Action Plan.

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Country Women’s Association Raising Awareness of Elder Abuse

The Country Women’s Association (CWA) in Victoria has adopted elder abuse as their main social issue to pursue in 2018 following the recommendation of their Social Issues Committee.

CWA Social Issues Committee Chairperson Viviane Chemali (pictured) has been promoting the availability of Seniors Rights Victoria speakers to CWA branches throughout Victoria.

About 30 women attended a presentation given by Seniors Rights Victoria Community Education Co-ordinator Gary Ferguson and volunteer speaker Jennifer Evans at the first of these talks held at Umina, the CWA State Headquarters last month.

During the presentation, speakers cover elder abuse, risks, prevention, moving in with family and Enduring Powers of Attorney and Medical Decision Making.

There were several questions during the presentation and some women cited examples of elder abuse of which they were aware.

Bookings have been received for the coming months from a number of branches. For more information click on Senior Rights Victoria’s Education or CWA Victoria.

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Introducing our new community lawyer By Jessica Tighe

Last January Seniors Rights Victoria provided a fine demonstration of their anti-ageist ethos by hiring a 25-year-old lawyer.  So with the shackles of private practice left safely behind me in Canberra, I returned to my hometown of Parkes, NSW, to load up a car and get the eight hour road-trip south underway – eager to meet this new challenge head on.

Injustice of any kind rankles, but for me there is something particularly galling about attitudes that reduce diverse demographics to their vulnerabilities; something abhorrent in the sense of entitlement that leads to early inheritance syndrome, and the greed that overrides trust and family ties.

The casework team at SRV sees the human face of this social problem up close and personal, every day. One thing I’ll say is that it’s rarely dull. On any given day at the Seniors Rights Victoria frontline you can find yourself at a nursing home or at the Magistrates Court; you could be breaking a client back into their home (with the help of a locksmith), or going to any lengths to keep a perpetrator out. We spend a lot of time on the phone with older people from diverse backgrounds, with a rich repository of stories and experiences to share. There has been POW survivors, eminent Order of Australia medallists, refugees from the Vietnam War and people who have simply worked steadily all their lives and were perhaps too-trusting a mother or father. They tell us their stories with a mix of resilience, humour, heartbreak, perspective and fiery determination.

To my mind, there is nothing more motivating than working to redress a fundamental wrong against someone who wouldn’t have the means to pursue it otherwise. I don’t think I can ever go back to billing clients after this year, and I would really prefer not to have to give legal advice without the accompanying support of a social worker, like we do here at Seniors Rights Victoria. Lawyers and social workers together make a much more formidable team. Going forward, I just hope that the value of the service that Seniors Rights Victoria provides is met with the funding it needs. Because until that happy day when all our prevention measures and messaging take complete community hold, I can only see that we will need to keep expanding our specialist services.

Elder abuse service celebrates the role of peer educators

When Seniors Rights Victoria hosted its 10 year anniversary celebration this year, peer advocate Jennifer Evans (pictured) provided great insight into the strength of this community education approach – when older people share knowledge with older people.

The humble Seniors Rights Victoria volunteer was one of a handful of guest speakers, the others including: Victorian Commissioner for Seniors and Ambassador for Elder Abuse Gerard Mansour; Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Director, Seniors Programs & Participation, Barbara Mountjouris; and Seniors Rights Manager, Jenny Blakey.

Seniors Rights Victoria was celebrating a milestone, a decade of frontline service delivery, which has resulted in:

  • 22,063 calls to the Helpline
  • 4,382 older people receiving personalised assistance through advice and casework
  • 29,182 participants in community education sessions
  • 12,247 participants in professional development sessions
  • Production of nine different information sheets and the booklet, Care for Your Assets: Money, Ageing and Family.

Jennifer stood proudly, sharing her experiences of being a peer educator with Seniors Rights Victoria for more than seven years, a role she said received continual support and ongoing training.

A former social worker and trainer in family welfare and health, Jennifer was a recipient of a Council of the Ageing Senior Achiever Award in 2016 for her voluntary work with SRV, Court Network and local climate action group.

“As older people ourselves, who are conveying our strong passion for justice, it seems that we are accepted and believed more readily,” Jennifer said.

“By us naming what elder abuse is, reinforcing that older people have a right not to be abused or ripped off, and that it is okay to seek assistance, participants do listen. They appear to really appreciate the knowledge we bring and the information we share, and it is very gratifying to have others thank us for doing something that we really enjoy”.

Jennifer said when she first started the talks it was rare for people to have heard the words elder abuse and Seniors Rights Victoria, but that was no longer the case.

“Although there is still a long way to go before we have a world where older people do not experience elder abuse, recognition that help is available is growing in our audiences. Also growing is the number of people who indicate they have appointed powers of attorney for when they can no longer make decisions themselves. And this is a real change,” she said.

“I cannot remember any community group talk where I have not come away feeling I have done something worthwhile and meaningful. I am very grateful that I have been able to play a small part in the challenge we all face in ensuring that in future, all older people can live without fear.”

Seniors Rights Victoria has subsequently released an anniversary brochure celebrating its work from the past 10 years and its future aspirations which it is distributing to all Victorian politicians in the new Parliament. To view the digital version of brochure go to Our Work Makes An Impact.