Planning project continues with Dementia Australia

In 2020, using the second round of funding from the Department of Justice’s Integrated Services Fund, Seniors Rights Victoria will deliver talks to around 30 groups of older people around the importance of planning for the future.

Most of these presentations will be for people living with dementia and their carers and families, while others will be to people from particular culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups. The focus this year will be on working with people from Chinese, Greek and Vietnamese backgrounds.

We will continue to work closely with Dementia Australia, and are also strengthening our links with groups including Chinese Community Social Services Centre and the Indochinese Elderly Refugee Association.

The talks will highlight the importance of talking to people close to you about what your wishes are for the future. This includes wishes related to financial, personal and medical decisions. The talks will be delivered by advocates and lawyers from Seniors Rights Victoria.

In addition to highlighting the importance of ‘having the conversation’, information will be provided about the various avenues available to people who want to formalise their wishes in legal documents such as powers of attorney and advanced care directives. There will also be opportunities for attendees to make appointments to discuss their personal situation and make tailored powers of attorney.

To find out more about this project, please call Seniors Rights Victoria on 1300 368 821. Please note that we are considering how to run this project in light of the physical distance requirements imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Dementia Australia logo
Dementia Australia logo
Andelka Obradovic

Introducing Community Lawyer Andelka Obradovic

How long have you been with Seniors Rights Victoria?

Since 10 February 2020, so seven and a half weeks.

Have your impressions of SRV changed since you began?

I didn’t have any preconceptions. I anticipated it would have been a compassionate and proactive workplace in regards to the protection of seniors’ rights and that has been confirmed. I still have a lot to learn and feel very fortunate to be in a very supportive team. Despite still being a fairly junior lawyer I have found the transition to the new practice areas and workplace pretty seamless.

How long have you been a community lawyer ?

I have been a community lawyer for 14 months. Before that I had volunteered in community legal centres during and post studying law. My attraction to community law is the people that tend to work in this sphere and the difference we can make for vulnerable individuals. The people that tend to work in community law are compassionate and socially minded, which is the type of people I prefer to surround myself with.

Where did you work before coming to SRV?

Prior to coming to SRV I worked at Brimbank Melton Community Legal Centre as a locum community lawyer and prior to that I was at St Kilda Legal Services as the community outreach lawyer predominantly working with people affected by homelessness and drug and alcohol addiction. Prior to that I was at the Transport Accident Commission for 12 months which was my first job as a lawyer. I career transitioned to law almost two and half years ago after working as an occupational therapist for 20+ years.

How do you think you might influence good outcomes at SRV?

I hope to achieve good outcomes for vulnerable seniors who have difficulty standing up for themselves and that perpetrators of abuse may think are unlikely to stand up for themselves.
Even while working as an occupational therapist I found myself readily advocating for my older clients and clients with disabilities and their carers in situations where I felt their rights to make their own choices/decisions were being infringed upon. So much so that in August 2010, I wrote to SRV with five case examples of abuse. I got a lovely reply from Sue and Philippa who I understand managed to obtain some funding to provide community education with my case examples.

What’s the one thing about you that would surprise other people?

I took classical singing lessons on and off for about 10 years as an adult as I love opera and musical theatre. I’m not that great at it though, because I never practised enough.

Person signing a legal document

Power of Attorney register progresses

In early March, Seniors Rights Victoria’s Principal Lawyer, Rebecca Edwards, took part in in a consultation in Canberra about the establishment of a national register of powers of attorney (POA) .

The Council of Attorneys-General is moving to establish a register as recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission’s 2017 Report on Elder Abuse.

All states and territories were represented at the consultation including state justice departments, public advocates, tribunals, banks, law societies, elder abuse legal centres like Seniors Rights Victoria, Councils on the Ageing, and older persons advocacy networks.

Concerns raised included:

  • That the current proposal only relates to enduring POAs financial. Many people felt that a register should cover both enduring and general POAs and both financial and personal POAs. It was also raised that the register should include guardianship and administration orders. If this did not happen, a tribunal could make an order overriding a POA. However, the register might indicate that the POA was still valid.
  • Would it be mandatory to register POAs before the register is introduced? This might impose a massive burden on solicitors. Would a POA that was valid when made potentially become invalid? Another related question was when registration would occur – when the POA is made, or when it becomes operational?
  • If the POA becomes operational on loss of capacity, how is that recorded? Seniors Rights Victoria is particularly concerned about this given that capacity can fluctuate.
  • Who would have access to the register and what would the balance be between transparency and privacy.
  • Would it be possible to notify the donor of the POA if the attorney’s appropriateness came into question. For example, in New South Wales if a person say Mr X, had their Working with Vulnerable person’s card revoked, would people that they have appointed Mr X as their attorney be notified?

It is clear that a register is not going to stop elder abuse, or abuse of powers of attorney. There was agreement that this was not a silver bullet for financial elder abuse. A good community education campaign should also accompany the establishment of the register in order to lower occurrences of breaches of the powers of attorney.

Conversation Seeds - training program for discussing elder abuse flyer

Conversation Seeds – training program

Are you an older adult in the Frankston or Mornington Peninsula area? Do you enjoy talking to people and want to make a difference in your community? Elder abuse is hidden in our community – you could help people understand it and talk about it. Join the Conversation Seeds training program to help you to find the words to start conversations and help others.

When

** Important date change **

The training program is held over two Wednesdays:

  • 11 March, 10 am – 1.30 pm
  • 18 March, 10 am – 1.30 pm

Where

Mornington Community Information and Support Centre,
320 Main Street, Mornington

Register and more information

Register online through Surveymonkey. For more information, contact Natasha Spicer on 0402 851 983 or nspicer@phcn.vic.gov.au.

Download a PDF (161 KB) of the flyer.

Picture of an man sitting down

Call for culturally appropriate material for older migrants

A Seniors Rights Victoria scoping project is calling for more culturally appropriate information about support services for older migrants who might be experiencing elder abuse.

Carmela Quimbo, a social work student on an extended placement at Seniors Rights Victoria, recently undertook a study into elder abuse and its relation to Contributory Parent visas. This topic was chosen because Seniors Rights Victoria’s casework team had been receiving more inquiries from older people living in Australia on Contributory Parent visas. Older people who migrate to Australia, often to assist with care for their grandchildren, may find themselves without access to Centrelink payments and health and social services if they are subject to elder abuse.

Contributory Parent visas usually require adult children to provide a legally binding agreement, called an Assurance of Support, to financially support their parent for up to 10 years.

The Assurance of Support means that if a person on a Parent Visa needs to access social security within the 10 years, this will ultimately be paid for by the adult child.

The scoping project interviewed service providers who told us that older migrants:

  • may not seek assistance due to different understandings of what constitutes abusive behaviour
  • may be less familiar with Australia’s social security system and other social services, which may be due to language and cultural differences
  • may be conflicted about reporting elder abuse due to loyalty to their children, a wish to avoid further deterioration of relationships, and the stigma around family breakdown.

Seniors Rights Victoria suggests that these barriers could be addressed by:

  • a linguistically and culturally appropriate information pack regarding services, specifically directed at older migrants on Parent visas
  • the provision of education and planning programmes for prospective older migrants and their families focusing on Australia’s social security system, financial protection and preparation for potential problems, especially family conflict
  • early intervention for family conflict, including, if suitable and available, mediation
  • Centrelink information sessions on the effects of Assurances of Support and eligibility for Special Benefit.
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.