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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.