Q&As from the webinar

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

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

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

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

Do you know of similar services in other states? Likewise, statistics from other states?

Yes, there are services in all states in Australia but they are set up in a variety of ways. Not all are the fully integrated service like Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV) but some are (for example in Brisbane through Caxton Legal Centre)

If you call the national elder abuse helpline number you will be put through to the service in your state 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374).

In terms of statistics, each state collects information differently depending on whether they provide a helpline or case work service.

Queensland’s Elder Abuse Prevention Unit publishes a Year in Review document that collates data from calls to their helpline, which offers support, referrals and information but not case work.

Often elder abuse is a form of family violence. But it isn’t always. What does the seven years of data tell us about the proportion of elder abuse that is also a form of family violence?

We use a wide definition of ‘family’ or ‘family-like relationships’ that includes partners, ex-partners, siblings, extended and blended families and carers who are like family members. For 91% of SRV clients, abuse was perpetrated by a family member and in other circumstances it was by neighbours, lodgers and others.

We also receive calls and assist people with things that are about preventing elder abuse, including future planning, preventative work and powers of attorney.

Elder abuse can also include abuse in aged-care facilities or other institutions, and can include professional misconduct. In these situations, elder abuse would not be family violence. Seniors Rights Victoria does not work in this context.

Is there a tendency for men not to report?

The SRV statistics show that there are a smaller number of men than women who ring our service who are experiencing elder abuse. However, the statistics do not show whether this is because men are less likely to experience elder abuse or less likely to report (or both).

Until a prevalence study is conducted in Australia we can’t be sure if the numbers of men accessing support for elder abuse is reflective of the occurrence within the community.

We have good reason to believe men may not seek help as often as women. Research about rigid gender stereotypes and roles within families would suggest that expectations of male strength and stoicism may affect whether men inform others of what is happening. There is strong evidence to show men access health services less readily than women and it may be the same regarding elder abuse.

However, it is thought that overall women experience higher rates of elder abuse than men as these same rigid gender stereotypes and the resulting power imbalances can also play out across generations within families.

I note the recommendation 5.1 indicates that the findings are suggestive of a potential issue and not conclusive. Will there be a recommendation for ongoing federal/state funding and for conclusive data/findings to be standardised across all the states?

We plan to use this report to support funding further research about elder abuse. There are currently no plans to standardise data across states and territories as each service operates independently.

Elder Abuse Action Australia brings together representatives from many of these organisations to be a national voice advocating for action.

I was wondering if there was a specific focus on abusers where the victim belongs to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. Any specific trends or issues or challenges in gathering data regarding this specific cohorts of the population?

There is always more research to be done in this area. The data indicated that 48% of clients were born overseas, compared to 41% of the Victorian population aged over 60 years. This does not indicate an over- representation of abuse in overseas-born people as it does not indicate prevalence, just help-seeking.

‘Overseas-born’ is a very broad category, and even when considering the data by country of birth it does not indicate how long someone has lived in Australia, their various language abilities or community connections. The overall number of clients from each country are too small to draw any robust conclusions if considered against abuse type or other variables so this level of analysis was not undertaken. For example, the third most common country of birth was Greece, but with only 124 clients in this category we would not wish to draw any overriding conclusions about the Greek community from the experiences of these clients.

Interpreters are provided whenever they are needed (about 14% of clients) but we assume there are still barriers to non-English speaking older people accessing the service and would like to work further on addressing this.

Not a question but more a comment around impact of COVID-19. Many older people have cancelled their regular in-home services due to fear of contracting the virus, which leaves some of them more vulnerable with no external people keeping an eye on situations where elder abuse maybe occurring.

This is definitely an issue we are watching. More people may be reliant on family members for assistance in this time, and have fewer independent people to seek support from or who might notice changes or signs of abuse.

Is there any understanding about the correlation that may occur for daughters who perpetrate abuse towards the older person, who may be experiencing or have experienced Intimate partner violence themselves?

We have not collected data on this specific issue, and in general there is not enough research or evidence about the circumstance of those who perpetrate elder abuse to draw meaningful conclusions. Our data all comes from the person experiencing the abuse and we often don’t have any interaction with the perpetrator.

Our data noted when the perpetrator had a history of family violence (as reported by the older person) as victim or perpetrator, but it did not specify the type of violence or the role of the perpetrator.

Trauma or history of abuse for the older person is a recognised risk factor of elder abuse (see the excellent overview provided in the Child Family Community Australia research paper). Evidence suggests experience of family violence can affect a person’s mental health, level of stress, ability to meet the needs of others, and dependence on others, which are all risk factors for elder abuse so there may be some correlation there but it would need to be further investigated before drawing any conclusions.

Do you have any insights from the data that points to more clarity about the primary prevention of elder abuse and what we should look to address?

The data indicates that in the majority of situations the abuse is perpetrated by an adult child of the older person. This means the majority of the abuse is intergenerational, which would indicate that ageism plays a significant role.

Ageism does not just relate to the age of the victim but to how society perceives and values older people, as a cohort and also within the family. Older people are granted less power and social status, resulting in them receiving lower levels of care than they are entitled to.

Elder abuse is driven by ageism – perpetrators often abuse as they perceive the older person to have less power and agency than themselves, and their own needs as a higher priority. Primary prevention of elder abuse should therefore seek to address ageism across the community.

In addition, our data shows that many perpetrators had issues concerning substance abuse, mental health and gambling. Increased efforts to address these challenges across the community would also help prevent elder abuse from occurring.

I am a financial counsellor working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse in institutions who are applying for redress payments. We are seeing huge amounts of elder abuse in our client base as family members target their lump sum payments. I am interested in investigating options for clients to protect these payments (up to $150,000). Does the panel have any thoughts on this?

This comes down to a person’s decision-making capacity. However, if the person receiving the payment has capacity, they are entitled to make their own decisions, even if these decisions are ‘bad’ ones. The key is to provide the person with a lot of financial and potentially legal support around decisions they might want to make after receiving the payout. For example, advice that if they are loaning someone money to buy a car they should be clear on the loan terms and get the loan agreement written up properly (not let it be an informal family arrangement). Financial advice about what someone might need into the future to live the life they want would be a good idea too, as well as advice around supportive attorneys. Really interesting question!

Are intervention orders applied for by Victoria Police as effective in removing adult children from homes as intervention orders taken out by older people?

Yes, as long as they seek the exclusion order, which they often do. It’s about the requirements of the order itself not who applies for it.

In reading the report, it seemed like the data about women being victims was received from calls in to SRV, but the data around who the perpetrators was more definitive or concrete. I wondered why this was? The data around perpetrators seemed stronger than around victims. Also the use of the term perpetrator without using the term victim for people experiencing the abuse?

All data in this report is taken from the same source, which was older people who received advice calls from SRV. We would consider the data around the older person, or victims, to be the strongest element of the report as it was reported directly. The information about perpetrators is supplied by the older person in this contact. SRV as a service does not have direct involvement with perpetrators of elder abuse. Sometimes (in ongoing cases) the information about perpetrators would be independently verified by the lawyers and advocates over the course of their work.

The term perpetrator has been used throughout the report as the older person has informed SRV of their experience of abuse and the person responsible for perpetrating it. We choose not to often use the term ‘victim’ as some people feel is negative and defeatist. Family violence practitioners increasingly use the term ‘victim-survivor’ to indicate the agency of the person who has experienced the violence but as this term is not as familiar in the field of elder abuse we find the terms ‘older person’ or ‘client’ more suitable for this data.

Are there any statistics available to local areas?

There is some data relating to residential postcodes of clients. However, we have not analysed this in detail as the numbers in specific areas can be low enough to make people potentially identifiable. The numbers from each area may reflect the proportion of older people in the area, where we have done community education, and what other services are available.

In future, we would like to further consider this area to assist us with targeting our community education and promote our service.

Are the difficulties/special consideration of identifying abuse & providing services to older persons in rural areas included in the report?

These issues are not discussed in the report as the focus is on data collected by the service but they are considered by SRV and how we deliver our services.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data suggests people over 50 comprise 40% of the regional or rural population in Victoria, but only 21.8% of SRV advice clients were from outside the metropolitan area. As this indicates unmet need, we are continually trying balance our limited resources while also extending our reach and service into regional and rural areas.

How can we get the community to recognise elder abuse behaviours in a similar vein as family violence and to call it out?

We have come a long way with community recognition of elder abuse but still have further to go. People will feel more confident to seek help for elder abuse if they feel they will be listened to and their decisions respected. Encouraging open discussions and furthering our understanding of the systemic issues that lead to elder abuse, including ageism, will go some way to showing it is not an individual issue or something to be ashamed of.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an opportunity to encourage community recognition of elder abuse and the need to address it. Respect Victoria’s Respect Older People: Call It Out campaign is also a major step to bring elder abuse to the attention of the public.

What does the panel think older people think about the link we now recognise between family violence and elder abuse?

Elder abuse is a form of family violence, and there are many benefits to applying learnings from the more developed family violence field to that of elder abuse.

In Victoria, in particular, there is an increased focus (and funding) on preventing and responding to family violence and this has resulted in more opportunities to address elder abuse.

However, elder abuse is a unique form of family violence and has many characteristics of its own. There is a risk that these nuances can be subsumed by the wider discussion of family violence with its (rightful) focus on violence against women and children. Elder abuse practitioners have no desire to dilute the messaging around the role of gender in family violence, particularly intimate partner violence, but we also need to ensure that the significant number of male victims of elder abuse, and the circumstance of female perpetrators, are attended to.

In addition, not all elder abuse is family violence. Sometimes the perpetrator is not a family member but is someone who has ‘befriended’ the older person. Also, some elder abuse, mistreatment and neglect occurs in aged care and other institutions, or at the hands of professionals, and this should not be discounted.

Is there a study being done on the pressure/expectation from society being placed on older people to support their children and or grandchildren, whether financially, returning home or child minding, and the abuse that this may lead to? For example, working all their lives and then being expected to leave their savings to their children and not being able to enjoy their retirement money.

Not that we know of but we would love to see one! Inheritance impatience and intergenerational conflict are very important aspects of a lot of elder abuse and family conflict. This is exacerbated by the rise in value of Australia’s property and the increased difficulty of younger generations to break into the housing market.

Particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the related rise in unemployment, which has resulted in more people moving back into their parents’ homes, this is likely to be an increasingly important issue.

In terms of perpetrator participation, what do the barriers and goals around having them involved look like? What is the objectively perfect scenario?

Perpetrators need insight into their behaviour and be able to take some responsibility for it before they can make meaningful changes so they don’t return to abusive behaviours. In situations where there are additional challenges, such as substance misuse or unmet mental health needs, ideally these challenges could be remedied so a perpetrator was in a place where they could focus on their behaviour.

In addition, appropriate housing for the perpetrator, separate to the older person, would help in many situations where the older person puts up with a lot of conflict and stress because the perpetrator has nowhere else to live.

I absolutely agree that multidisciplinary approach is vital. Health sector see different cases from legal services, and different again in aged care, mental health etc. How do we move in this direction when funding is siloed?

A multidisciplinary approach is very useful regardless of the context where the abuse is being addressed but it is likely that different sectors will always see different iterations of abuse and need different responses. As there is no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing elder abuse it is appropriate that different sectors respond differently. However, the ideal is to allow a holistic intervention that considers all of a person’s needs and does not prioritise one – a multidisciplinary approach is good for this.

I wonder if anyone knows if there is a connection between women as perpetrators and their status as an older person’s official status as a carer?

More research needs to be done in this area. SRV does not see a high occurrence of abuse by a perpetrator who is considered by the older person to be a carer (less than 5% of clients reported being either financially, psychologically or physically dependent on the abuser). However, higher levels of abuse may occur for people who have higher care needs than this cohort, including those with dementia or lower cognitive ability that may prevent them from having the capacity to participate in an SRV advice call.

This report did show that daughters who lived with the older person reportedly committed less abuse than daughters who did not live with the older person, but the living arrangement was not linked to the caring role. Carer stress, related to the perpetrator, was reported by an average of 3% of clients over the seven- year period though interestingly this had increased to 7% in recent years, and this will be further explored.

As a mental health clinician working with older people in a community mental health service, what key indicators should I be alert to in the various areas of elder abuse.

Our resource Concerned About an Older Person? has some great tips of what key indicators might indicate elder abuse.

The low statistics around the Indigenous status of victims and perpetrators is interesting. What do you think is behind that? What culturally safe procedures and practices are in place at SRV?

To do this work well requires extensive work with Indigenous-led organisations and good resourcing to support a culturally appropriate approach. We would like to do more work in this area.

There was a low number of clients who identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage (approximately 1%). While this is slightly higher than the Victorian population (0.8%) who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (not adjusted for age) we are continually trying to do more to engage with this cohort. In addition, we seek the views of and work with Indigenous community and legal services as appropriate for our clients.

Is there any indication of perpetrators’ willingness and insights into their behaviours and willingness to change their behaviours and/or participate in programs?

Unfortunately, this data does not reflect any direct engagement with the perpetrators themselves so we are unable to assess how willing they might be to participate in a program. This is an area we are seeking to do further work in.

Hospital frontline staff express their hesitation with sensitive enquiry of an older inpatient they see signs or risks of elder abuse in conjunction with cognitive impairment. How to respond and refer keeping the older person’s safety in mind, maybe not knowing who the perpetrator is?

Our resource Concerned About an Older Person? has some information about risk assessment and safety planning. SRV works on an empowerment approach that assumes a person has capacity to make decisions, so we would encourage discussions with the older person concerned.

If it is thought there is a need for further investigation or concern about an older person’s wellbeing, we would suggest calling Seniors Rights Victoria or the Office of the Public Advocate to discuss further assistance.

Community Education in Spring from the comfort of your own home

A free talk each Tuesday in September at 11am via Zoom

Each talk will be for 30 – 40 minutes with 20 minutes for questions
and discussion.

Book for one Tuesday, book for some, book for all.

All sessions are free. Numbers limited to 15.

A Free Talk Each Tuesday in September at 11am via Zoom

1st Your Rights Your Safety
8th Your Home and Adult Children
15th Your Choices Your Values
22nd Your Medical Decision Maker
29th Your Powers of Attorney

To book or further information email us at info@seniorsrights.org.au or call Gary Ferguson on  0407 329 290

Download full flyer Speakers in Spring


An orange 7 against a purple background covered in cartoon older people. Title of the publication: Seven Years of Elder Abuse Data in Victoria.

Seven Years of Elder Abuse Data in Victoria

Seniors Rights Victoria, in partnership with the National Ageing Research Institute, analysed seven years of advice call data to produce this report about elder abuse in Victoria. Seven Years of Elder Abuse Data in Victoria gives an overview of who experiences abuse, who is responsible for perpetrating abuse, and what some of the contributing factors are. This project was funded by the State Trustees Australia Foundation. Highlights of the report include:

  • Over the seven years, the service has continued to grow, with a steep increase in the number of advice calls following the tabling of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence in early 2016.
  • The advice call clients were 72% women and 28% men.
  • Most clients (78%) lived in the Melbourne Greater Metropolitan area and were aged 70 or over (72%).
  • Almost two thirds of clients disclosed that they had experienced psychological abuse (63%) or financial abuse (62%), with many clients experiencing more than one type of abuse. Approximately 16% of clients experienced physical abuse and 11% social abuse (11%). Relatively few calls were received for neglect (1.2%) and sexual abuse (0.8%).
  • Almost all abuse (91%) experienced by advice call clients was perpetrated by a family member, most commonly sons (39%) or daughters (28%).
  • The majority of perpetrators were men (54%), however, the proportion of female perpetrators varied by ten per cent (41 to 51%) during the seven-years, reaching 51% in one 12-month period.
  • Drug, alcohol or gambling issues afflicted a rising number of perpetrators, averaging 35% over the seven-year period.
  • Mental health issues were experienced by an increasing number of perpetrators, rising to 39% in the most recent period.

In August 2020 an online panel discussion was held to launch the report. Hosted by Commissioner for Senior Victorians Gerard Mansour, the panellists discussed elder abuse occurring within the family and some of the contributing factors affecting perpetrators.

The panellists were:

  • Rebecca Edwards, Principal Lawyer, Seniors Rights Victoria
  • Professor Briony Dow, Director of the National Ageing Research Institute
  • Elena Campbell, Associate Director: Research, Advocacy & Policy at the Centre for Innovative Justice
  • Meghan O’Brien, Head of Social Work at Peninsula Health.

You can watch a recording of the panel discussion below. There were so many questions asked during the webinar that we didn’t have time to answer them at the time but our team put together some responses after the event. You can read them here. A PDF version is available here.

Access the full report (PDF, 3MB) and a summary document (PDF, 4MB). A recording of the webinar is available below.

MEDIA RELEASE: Extra funding provided for Seniors Rights Victoria

Media Release | 25 June 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roundtable considers the impacts of COVID-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dororthy Gilmour and Mary Barry who have initiated a Rotary program on family violence

Resource kit marks 100 years of Rotary Melbourne

Pictured above are Dorothy Gilmour, left, and Mary Barry

A project to mark the 100th anniversary of the Rotary Club of Melbourne will help raise awareness of elder abuse throughout Australia. ‘Rotary Melbourne is the first and largest club in Australasia,’ said Dorothy Gilmour, who initiated the Rotary Safe Families Program along with Mary Barry.

‘We have created two films and a message from Victoria Police for people to access, download and use as a tool to stem the flow and for prevention of family violence in particular violence against women, its impact on our children and abuse of our elderly,’ said Ms Gilmour.

Click here to access the resources

SRV Manager Jenny Blakey features along with the Commissioner for Senior Victorians Gerard Mansour in the video that discusses elder abuse.

‘I believe that everyone has the right to live safely and with dignity,’ Ms Blakey said in the video. ‘When I came to his job, I was really surprised that older people were not included. My concern is to make a change; to make some difference so that this [elder abuse] does not happen.’

Ms Gilmour is an educator in social sciences and therapist in trauma, loss and grief while Ms Barry was formerly chief executive officer of Our Watch, the national organisation to prevent violence against women and their children.

The Rotary Safe Families Program can be used at:

  • Rotary meetings throughout Australia
  • fund raisers on prevention of family violence/elder abuse
  • as an educational or information program in the workplace or community.
Illustration showing older woman holding a postcard detailing the Respect Older People: Call It Out Campaign

Respect Older People: Call It Out campaign relaunched

Respect Victoria and the state government have relaunched their Respect Older People: Call It Out campaign, which highlights the often-hidden nature of elder abuse and reminds Victorians that it is everybody’s business.

The campaign highlights the warning signs of elder abuse in the home and encourages neighbours, family members, friends, carers and community members to take action when it is safe to do so. The campaign also encourages older people to identify the warning signs of elder abuse and seek support, and is an important reminder that discrimination based on age has no place in our society.

Learn more about the campaign here.


World Elder Abuse Awareness Day banner depicting older woman

Stir a cuppa for seniors on elder abuse awareness day

Warm, safe houses, cups of tea, and liberal splashes of the colour purple will all be deployed next week to mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on Monday 15 June. In December 2011, the United Nations General Assembly designated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

For some older people, their homes are not safe or warm due to elder abuse within their home.

Elder abuse is exacerbated by a lack of housing or insecure housing.

‘Elder abuse is a global social issue which affects the health, well-being, independence and human rights of millions of older people around the world,’ said the Manager of Seniors Rights Victoria, Ms Jenny Blakey. ‘It is an issue which deserves the attention of all in the community.’

Most elder abuse occurs within the family or in a domestic setting with the most common form being ‘intergenerational’ which is perpetrated by an adult child against their parent. The most common forms of elder abuse are financial, followed by psychological or social.

This year, WEAAD activities have shifted online. And while the format of many events has changed, the commitment of participants has not dimmed. Next Monday, the City of Melbourne will lead the charge, lighting up the town hall for the evening in purple, the colour associated with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It will also be joined by the City of Monash Town Hall in Glen Waverley.

For a complete listing of WEAAD events, visit the dedicated WEAAD website.

Stir a cuppa for seniors

SRV staff are encouraging people to follow our lead next Monday afternoon (June 15) when we will be holding an online purple tea party called ‘Stir A Cuppa For Seniors’ with seniors and others. We encourage you to host your own purple tea parties and post the pictures on social media with the hashtag #WEAAD. The attached PDF file provides information about how to host your online tea party.

Warm safe home project

The importance of safe, secure accommodation towards reducing elder abuse will be highlighted through on online forum to be held on Thursday 18 June.

Former Aged Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan AO will be the keynote speaker at the Warm Safe Home online forum. Organiser Dr Rebecca Nevin-Berger has spearheaded the Warm Safe Home project for the past year.

The project is encouraging people to decorate handcrafted paper houses with embellishments and words that describe what a warm, safe home means to them.

Registrations are essential for this free webinar. A limited number of places are available for people without internet to access the forum over the phone. To book, email Dr Becky Nevin-Berger or phone 03 5561 8111.

Rod Quantock podcast

Noted Melbourne comedian Rod Quantock will invite his audience to challenge ageist and sexist attitudes in a new podcast launched in conjunction with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Monday 15 June.

The podcast features the Commissioner for Senior Victorians, Gerard Mansour, SRV’s own Gary Ferguson and Michelle Lord, Elder Abuse Prevention Network Project Lead – Southern Melbourne Primary Care Partnership. You can listen to the podcast on Spotify or find out more information on Facebook.

MEDIA RELEASE: Seniors Rights Victoria warns on financial abuse of seniors

Media Release | 28 April 2020

Seniors Rights Victoria today warned of the potential increase of elder abuse as a result of the economic and unemployment impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Jenny Blakey, the Manager of Seniors Rights Victoria, said significant economic and emotional pressures on families who did not have funds to pay for their rent, mortgages or regular bills could heighten the risk of elder financial abuse of older people and the broader community.

Ms Blakey said financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of a person’s property, finances and other assets without their informed consent or where consent is obtained by fraud or manipulation.

“On experience, this usually occurs between an older person and a family member but can also occur with carers or friends. The older person may not have the capacity or be empowered to make a decision which protects their assets or financial security.

“In many cases older people can be influenced by their family, friends and carers in negotiations or actions that are detrimental to the older person’s immediate or long-term interest without any independent oversight.”    

Examples of common financial elder abuse include: 

  • A family member taking a loan with a promise of repayment but not paying the money back
  • Taking money or using an older person’s banking and credit card without consent
  • Pressuring an older person to make changes to a will or other legal documents
  • Sale of any property or assets without authority or consent
  • Forced transfers of property.

Ms Blakey said the protection of the financial or personal interests of older people is vital because they may become homeless, in debt, lose money to pay for future aged care and result in a reduced pension.

“Dealing with financial elder abuse can be complicated when there is no independent advice to the older person. Individuals within the family may have different agendas and seek to gain control of the financial outcomes to their benefits to the detriment of the older person.

“This type of situation can place the older parent under great emotional pressure and cause increased anxiety, mental pressure and impact on their health and wellbeing.”  

Ms 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.

Seniors Rights Victoria provides information, support, advice, education and specialist legal services to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people.

For assistance, contact Seniors Rights Victoria on their free and confidential Helpline 1300 368 821

Media Enquiries:
Ron Smith
Media Communications
COTA Victoria
Mobile: 0417 329 201

Seniors Rights Victoria Case Study

Jane, aged 85 years, lives alone and lives with a medical condition which restricts her mobility outside her home. Jane receives community services from the local council.

As a result of her situation Jane relies on her daughter Sarah to assist her with her finances, which Sarah has been doing for a number of years.

Jane provides Sarah with her bank book and instructs Sarah the amount to be withdrawn from her bank account. Sarah goes to Jane’s local branch, whereby bank staff phone Jane to check Jane’s instructions.

This arrangement had been working well for Jane and thus agreed for Sarah to have internet access to her bank account.

Jane receives her monthly bank statements and checks them diligently.

Since the onset of COVID-19 and the government’s recommendations for people over the age of 70 years to self-isolate, Sarah has not been visiting Jane.

Because the banking arrangement had been working well for Jane, she agreed for Sarah to have internet access to her bank account to continue paying Jane’s bills for her.

Jane notices in her most recent bank statement Sarah has taken money from Jane’s bank account via internet transactions without her authority. As a result of these actions Jane wants to cancel Sarah’s internet authority to her bank account.

Jane speaks with a worker from the local council who visits Jane each Friday about her concerns. The worker assists Jane to contact her local branch via the telephone to discuss her concerns.

Outcome: The bank staff cease Sarah’s internet authority to access Jane’s bank account. Jane manages her bills by electronic direct debit. She has organized groceries delivered to her.

MEDIA RELEASE: Community alert on increase of elder abuse

Media Release | 6 April 2020

Community alert on increase of elder abuse

Elder abuse is a lack of respect and violates an older person’s
basic right to feel safe.

…….. up to 14 per cent of older people may experience it in the form of physical, emotional, financial, social or sexual abuse.

Seniors Rights Victoria have issued an alert highlighting the potential increase of elder abuse in the community as a hidden impact of the COVID-19 emergency.

Research suggests that up to 14 per cent of older people may experience it in the form of physical, emotional, financial, social or sexual abuse.

Elder abuse can cause stress, anxiety and depression and lead to increased risk of ill health, hospitalisation and early death.

Seniors Rights Victoria Manager, Jenny Blakey said the major stress being caused by the unprecedented and drastic changes to the social fabric of Australia could cause an increase in elder abuse.

“Elder abuse is any mistreatment of an older person by another person with whom they have a relationship of trust. Often that person is a family member or carer, but it could be a friend or neighbour on whom they depend.”

Ms Blakey said in the current economic climate with large numbers of job losses and people being unable to pay their rent or home loans, the trend to move and live with older parents or other relatives will be driven by financial necessity.

“Depending on family relationships and arrangements this may work out, however, at Seniors Rights Victoria we deal with cases that have resulted in elder abuse.”

On many occasions the problem of elder abuse is raised with Seniors Rights Victoria by a family member or a friend who has concerns for a person’s welfare.

The different forms of elder abuse are ways for another person to take over or control the life or property of an older person, Ms Blakey said.

Some forms of elder abuse are criminal acts, for example, acts involving theft or fraud. Elder abuse is a lack of respect and violates an older person’s basic right to feel safe.

Media enquiries:
Ron Smith, Media Communications COTA Victoria, mobile: 0417 329 201
Jenny Blakey, Seniors Rights Victoria Manager, available for interview.

Warning signs of elder abuse

  • The older person seems fearful, worried or withdrawn.
  • They seem nervous or anxious with certain people.
  • Family and or friends are denied access to the person.
  • They no longer go out socially or get involved in activities.
  • Unexplained injuries such as bruises, broken bones, sprains, cuts etc.
  • Unpaid bills, unusual activity in bank accounts or credit cards
  • Changes to a will, title or other documents.
  • Disappearance of possessions.
  • Poor hygiene or personal care.
  • Absence of needed health items: hearing aids, dentures, medications.

Victoria’s ageing population

One of the most critical demographic changes is that more Victorians are growing older than ever before. As of 30 June 2019, 30.6% of Victorians enrolled to vote were aged 60 and over – that is in excess of 1.2 million voters.

Overall, more than 20% of the Victorian population is aged over 60 and that number is increasing rapidly.

By 2031, Victorians aged over 60 living in Greater Melbourne will comprise 22% of the population, and almost a third (31%) of Victorians living in rural and regional areas will be aged over 60.

Seniors Rights Victoria, part of the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria offers a range of services to assist navigate the areas of elder abuse including a special free online booklet Concerned About an Older Person?Download a copy.

Seniors Rights Victoria helpline 1300 368 821

10 am–5 pm, Monday–Friday. Free support, legal advice, information and education. Visit Seniors Rights Victoria.

Seniors Rights Victoria Case Study

“When Uncle Zac let his alcoholic daughter, Gina move into his home, I was very concerned. I decided to visit more regularly, so that he knew I was there if he wanted to talk.

At first Zac said Gina was good company and as his eyesight was failing, he needed her to drive him to medical appointments and to the local shops.

Eventually Zac confided in me that Gina was not paying for her share of household expenses and that she charged Zac $50 every time she drove him around.

He could no longer afford a trip to the doctor. We rang Seniors Rights Victoria together. The staff spoke to Zac about applying for half-priced taxi fares, as well as his safety and care needs.

Gina is still living there, because that’s what Zac wanted, but now, he has his independence back. He is linked in with various community services and has a safety plan in case things go wrong. The best thing is that both Zac and Gina now know that if any further problems arise, help for Zac is just a phone call away.”