Family Community & Development Committee: Opportunities for Participation from Victorian Seniors

Written on the 29 August 2012

As I said when I tabled this report during the last sitting week, I am pleased to rise to speak on the Family and Community Development Committee's report entitled Inquiry into Opportunities for Participation of Victorian Seniors.


We have heard from Ms Mikakos, who acknowledged some of the issues arising from this report, and we heard Mrs Coote's contribution earlier this afternoon. I would like to refer to a particular aspect of the report. As Mrs Coote said, it was a very interesting inquiry and many issues were raised throughout the course of the inquiry, but one particular area on which we heard significant evidence and about which we learnt more was the area of elder abuse.


In the report we highlighted the need to promote safety. As the report highlights:


The feeling of physical and financial safety and security is essential to the empowerment of people in later life.


Abuse for the elderly can come in various forms. It can be physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, social abuse, neglect and financial abuse. Those elements are of particular concern. At page 105 of the report the committee highlights:


Most old people have a view that it will not happen to them and that, 'My family will look after me, and I can trust them with everything', but it is more often than not their own family that will perpetrate the financial elder abuse.


That was part of the evidence given to the committee by State Trustees, and the incidence of abuse in terms of financial elder abuse is, as I said, quite alarming. This is due to it often being hidden in nature. It is difficult to get a sense of the numbers involved, as highlighted on page 106 of the report. In research that was undertaken it was found that up to 5 per cent of Australians aged over 65 have experienced it and that older women over the age of 60 are more at risk. It is not only those two cohorts but also different groups within our community are at risk of elder abuse.


The committee heard from a number of areas and identified that the challenges related to elder abuse are often exacerbated for seniors from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The committee heard evidence that in many instances abuse is hidden because of the need for interpreting services, and in many cases children and family members undertake that necessary interpretation. It is a very serious issue,


and it was highlighted in a Herald Sun article of last year. That article says:



Most cases are perpetrated by close family members. As a result it is a very silent crime, and one kept very much in the confines of the family.


I was pleased that during the course of the inquiry the government put out some guidelines entitled Elder Abuse Prevention and Response Guidelines for Action 2012-14. That has been prepared in conjunction with a number of people. The advisory group was put together, and it comprised representatives from the health, legal, finance and community sectors. It was chaired by Nick Wakeling, the member for Ferntree Gully in the other place. This document outlines some practical guidelines and also highlights this very alarming rise in elder abuse.


One of the recommendations or findings of the committee was that there is a greater risk of abuse, and one of the recommendations of the committee was that the government work with various groups and implement a campaign to raise awareness of elder abuse and how it can be prevented. As I said at the outset, it was a very interesting inquiry. It raised many issues that I think we should all be aware of, but the effects of elder abuse that are spreading throughout our community and are identified as a silent crime need to be noted.

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