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COTA Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV) celebrated International Women’s Day 2023 by reflecting upon the work of Jennifer Evans, SRV’s longest serving volunteer.
Jennifer and her fellow peer educators have a strong commitment to raising awareness of elder abuse and ensuring the rights of older people are protected through the talks they deliver as part of our Community Education Program. For her hard work and dedication, Jennifer was awarded a 2016 COTA Senior Achiever Award and was asked to speak at Seniors Rights Victoria’s ten-year anniversary celebration in 2018 (shown above).
Jennifer’s first engagement as a community educator was back in April 2011; she recounted how different her role was then as compared to now.
“To date I have delivered 94 talks to groups ranging in size from 10 to 90,” Jennifer said.
“In the early years, we did about 10 per cent of talks with an interpreter,” she continued. These days, SRV partners with the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria to trained bilingual educators to deliver these talks in different languages, increasing the reach of elder abuse prevention. SRV's efforts are currently expanding to provide Auslan support to the Deaf community.
After twelve years of service, Jennifer continues her volunteer work because she finds it extremely rewarding.
“Educating people about elder abuse and the support SRV offers — the difference that it is making — is so important,” Jennifer said. “When you give a talk and someone comes up afterwards and what you've said has really connected with them — they're either experiencing abuse themselves or they know someone who is — and they then follow up by calling the helpline, that’s one of the key things that keeps me going.”
“Having someone act on what you say is so significant,” she continued. “When volunteering, you need to get something back. You need to feel that what you're doing is important; that it's worthwhile and you're appreciated.”
She also stressed that throughout her tenure as a volunteer, staff at Seniors Rights Victoria have worked hard to make peer educators “feel as if we are supported and valued”.
Elder Abuse sadly comes in many forms; on International Women’s Day, Jennifer highlighted how gender continues to be a factor.
“I happened to look at the news report detailing how Lisa Miller — the ABC morning presenter — was attacked on Twitter for what she wore recently,” Jennifer said.
“That hurts all women; if a young, highly intelligent woman in the public gets hammered like that, it has a flow on effect to all women. Many older women -- particularly if they haven't got support -- very easily feel undermined and undervalued.”
Both COTA Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria offer volunteer opportunities in a range of areas; head here to learn more about how you can take part. Together, we’ll continue to promote opportunities and protect the rights of older women, who experience social, economic, and health disadvantage at a much higher rate than men.