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

Commissioner launches resource booklet

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

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

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

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

The booklet includes information on:

  • what is elder abuse
  • signs that someone may be experiencing elder abuse
  • what you can do if someone you know is experiencing elder abuse
  • preparing a plan to ensure the person is safe
  • answers to common questions, including if the older person does not want to involve services or the police
  • what to do if the person is from a diverse community including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, culturally and linguistically diverse, LGBTIQA+ or from a rural area.

To order copies of the booklet, contact info@seniorsrights.org.au or phone 9655 2129.
Download a digital copy (PDF, 2MB).

Picture of a gavel on top of a Family Law book

Seniors Rights Victoria voices opposition to court merger

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

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

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

‘Children and adults who have experienced family violence require a specialist forum to deal with family law matters involving family violence and this forum is the Family Court of Australia,’ Ms Edwards said.

A bill to merge the two courts was introduced into federal Parliament in early December.

To read the letter click here.

Picture of the front of COTA Victoria's annual report

COTA Victoria launches annual report

More than 70 per cent of clients who received legal and advocacy services from Seniors Rights Victoria in the 2019-19 were women. While any older person can experience elder abuse, a person’s gender or sexual identity and related sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia may exacerbate their experience of violence.

The most prevalent issue was financial abuse, which was raised by 41 per cent of the 3572 callers to the Seniors Rights Victoria helpline – 1300 368 821.

Find out more information about the activities of Seniors Rights Victoria during the 2018-19 financial year in the COTA Victoria Review |2018 – 2019.  Seniors Rights Victoria is a program of the Council on the Ageing Victoria.

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

Logo showing Human Rights Week 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rose and Elsa logos

Legal centre starts new response services

The Eastern Community Centre (ECLC) recently commenced two new elder abuse response services, ROSE (Rights of Seniors in the East) and ELSA (Engaging & Living Safely & Autonomously). The services are part of the Commonwealth Attorney-General Department’s National Elder Abuse Service Trials (2019-22) and add to ECLC existing elder abuse work, particularly in primary prevention.

ROSE (Rights of Seniors) provides an integrated, multi-disciplinary service for seniors at risk of or experiencing abuse (physical, psychological/emotional, financial, sexual or neglect) from a person in a position of trust. The ROSE Community Lawyer, Advocate and Financial Counsellor work together to provide advice, ongoing case management support and referrals based on the client’s wishes and needs.

ROSE is based in ECLC’s Boronia office with travel to other ECLC and partner offices, and outreach to clients with mobility and other challenges subject to a risk assessment.

Seniors living, working or studying in the Eastern Metropolitan Region can contact ROSE directly. Workers can also contact ROSE for secondary consultations and to discuss and/or request a referral form. For ROSE, please call 0429 697 960 or email ROSE@eclc.org.au.

ELSA (Engaging & Living Safely & Autonomously) provides a holistic service for seniors who are Eastern Health patients and at risk of or experiencing abuse (physical, psychological/emotional, financial, sexual or neglect) from a person in a position of trust.

Based on preliminary research, hospital staff are well-placed to identify elder abuse at the earliest stages as older people are more likely to disclose to health staff than others. A Community Lawyer and Financial Counsellor, in collaboration with hospital staff, provide an early intervention, integrated legal and financial information and support services in the health setting and provide referrals for post-discharge support.

The team is based at Eastern Health sites, commencing in at Peter James Centre, Burwood.

Patients can contact ELSA directly. Eastern Health workers can also contact ELSA for secondary consultations and to discuss and/or request a referral form. ELSA can be contacted on 0429 697 960 or at ELSA@eclc.org.au.

The OPERA Project (Older People Equity & Respect) will be launching its consultation report findings and digital interventions on Friday 13 December at Hoyts Cinemas in Eastland Shopping Centre, Ringwood. The OPERA Project explores the experiences of ageism for older people living in Melbourne’s east, using co-design digital storytelling to highlight and challenge negative attitudes that can lead to ageist behaviour. Bookings are essential, book here.

Picture of the Compass website

Website to provide better access to services

Greater awareness and better access to services are the aims of a new website launched last month to tackle elder abuse.

Compass was funded by the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department and developed by Elder Abuse Action Australia (EAAA).

‘The conversation about the abuse of older people needs to be treated as a priority,’ said Diedre Timms and Russell Westacott, the Co-Chairs of EAAA.

The site was a priority of the National Plan to respond to the Abuse of Older Australians 2019-2023, which was launched by Attorney-General Christian Porter in March 2019.

The EAAA Co-Chairs said that more content and resources would progressively be added to the site.

Jenny Blakey, Manager, Seniors Rights Victoria, is a board director of EAAA.

Picture of a person signing a document

Attorneys-General commit to powers-of-attorney register

The Council of Attorneys-General has committed to establish a national online register of enduring powers of attorney (POA).

The Council, which is composed of all state and territory Attorneys-General and the federal Attorney-General, said in late November the register would be part of a staged approach to enduring power of attorney reform for financial decisions.

With a register, third parties, such as banks and financial institutions, can quickly and easily verify that a POA is current and valid. This is a significant step in preventing a POA being used as an instrument of financial abuse.

The register is one step towards greater harmonisation of POAs across Australia. This would include a single, uniform form across all Australian jurisdictions. The single form would facilitate increased familiarity and understanding among all parties (particularly third parties) of the nature and scope of POAs, allowing them to more easily identify who can do what, and when.

Picture of a sign outside a hospital

Cultural factors must be considered when assessing capacity

Antonia is in her mid-eighties. She migrated to Australia from Italy in the 1960s. Antonia’s first language is Italian, and she speaks only limited English. She received the equivalent of a grade three education. Antonia’s communication is hampered by a hearing impairment. After Antonia contracts the flu, her doctor places her in hospital.

The treating team speak with Antonia without an interpreter present and when Antonia does not have her hearing aids in. Consequently, she feels unsure about what is happening. The treating team interpret Antonia’s uncertainty as a lack of understanding and arrange for Antonia to be assessed by the geriatrician.

The assessment is conducted on the ward, whilst Antonia is still unwell. An Italian interpreter is present but struggles to understand Antonia’s dialect. The geriatrician uses a set of standard tests which do not really take into account Antonia’s cultural or educational background. The geriatrician assesses Antonia as having impaired capacity and the treating team are concerned about discharging her given that she lives alone.

As a result, the treating team applies to the Guardianship and Administration list of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). They seek the appointment of a guardian who can make decisions for Antonia about accommodation and access to services.

The geriatrician uses a set of standard tests which do not really take into account Antonia’s cultural or educational background.

Antonia contacts Seniors Rights Victoria for assistance. By this time, she is feeling much better and a further specialist assessment is arranged for her. The assessment is conducted at Antonia’s home while she is wearing her hearing aids. An Italian interpreter who speaks her dialect is present and the geriatrician is provided with a full history of Antonia’s cultural and educational background. Antonia is assessed as having capacity to make reasonable decisions about financial and personal matters. 

When the matter returned to VCAT, the lawyer from Seniors Rights argues that  Antonia was initially assessed when she was unwell, the interpreter could not understand her well and there were lots of distractions in the hospital. We said that because of these factors and other factors she was not able to fully participate in the assessment

The Tribunal Member found that Antonia could make reasonable decisions and did not appoint a guardian. Antonia is now living happily and independently at home where she receives help with tasks such as cleaning and shopping.

Picture of a woman looking at the sea

Right to be involved in decisions on finances, accommodation

Mary is in her mid-seventies and lives on her own. She has three adult children. Several years ago, Mary appointed her son Michael as her enduring power of attorney. Mary trusts Michael and appointed him to make financial and personal decisions for her. 

Mary has a fall and is taken to hospital. While Mary is in hospital, Michael starts talking to the treating team about moving her into permanent care. As Michael has not discussed this with her, she is shocked when she hears about Michael’s plan. He tells her that the power of attorney allows him to make decisions, including where she will live, on her behalf.

Mary is shocked when she learns that Michael is talking to her treatment team about moving her into permanent care.

Mary contacts Seniors Rights Victoria and a lawyer and a non-legal advocate visits Mary. The non-legal advocate talks to Mary about getting an assessment of her home to determine what supports she may need live independently. The lawyer tells Mary that Michael, as her attorney, must involve Mary in the decision-making process and to consider to her wishes. The lawyer tells Mary that she can revoke the power of attorney if she wishes.

Seniors Rights Victoria write to Michael, educating him on his responsibilities as an attorney and encouraging him to involve Mary in the decision-making process. Seniors Rights works with the transitional care team at the hospital to support Mary in her desire to return home to independent living.

COTA Victoria Logo

Treasurer – COTA Victoria Board of Directors

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria is seeking a suitably skilled individual to work in a leading not-for-profit organisation representing the interests and rights of older people as their Treasurer. 

About the Organisation

COTA Victoria is the leading not-for-profit organisation representing the interests and rights of people aged over 50 in Victoria. For nearly 70 years in Victoria, we have led government, corporate and community thinking about the positive aspects of ageing.

COTA Victoria’s strategic and operational focus is on promoting older age as a time of opportunities for personal growth, contribution and self-expression. We believe there are obvious National, State, community, family and individual benefits from this approach.

COTA Victoria has an experienced Board; highly qualified, permanent staff located in a central Melbourne office location; and a broad State membership and volunteer base.

About the Role

This is an outstanding opportunity to work with a committed Board to build your pro-bono board experience as well as making a significant impact on the lives of older people.

Our organisation is governed by a progressive Board of Directors with a wide variety of skills and experiences which now seeks to add an enthusiastic Volunteer Board Director to fill the Treasurer role with CPA qualifications and experience in Finance and Accounting. 

Previous or current Board experience would be highly regarded. Applicants must be residents within Victoria.

Key Duties:

  • Carrying out the responsibilities of a member of the Board of Directors;
  • Understanding the organisation’s finances;
  • Liaising with the CEO on financial matters;
  • Ensuring the Board receives regular financial management reports and acts as financial interpreter for Board members;
  • Liaising, on behalf of the Board, with funding authorities, auditors and other external parties on financial matters where Board representation is deemed to be necessary;
  • In liaison with the CEO, overseeing the auditing annual financial records and to fulfil obligations in relation to the audited accounts; and
  • Providing informal support to the organisation in terms of development of financial and business policies, plans and practices.

We’re looking for someone with:

  • CPA qualifications with a current practising certificate issued by either CPA Australia, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia or Institute of Public Accountants.
  • Sound finance technical knowledge.
  • An understanding of charities with experience in corporate governance in the context of a not for profit organisation ideally within the community sector.
  • The capacity to attend bi-monthly Board Meetings and willingness to service on two Board Committees (Executive and Audit & Risk) and participate actively in its work.
  • Contributing with passionate Directors and staff to support the organisations vision and objectives.
  • Has an interest in ageing and protecting the rights of older people as they age.

How to Apply:

This is an unpaid position. 

Please send a covering letter demonstrating what value/s you believe you will bring to this position including a copy of your current curriculum vitae to ceo@cotavic.org.au.

Applications close December 6 2019.