Call for national commitment to stamp out elder abuse

The National Association of Community Legal Centre’s National Older Persons Legal Services Network recently submitted a response to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into elder abuse. The submission discussed the need for the establishment of a national entity designed to stamp out elder abuse, stating:

An issue as complex and multi-dimensional as elder abuse requires a proportionate response.  The Network welcomes the Commonwealth Attorney General’s announcement of a $15M allocation toward the development of the plan.  A proportionate response (national framework and plans) would however be more akin to the scale of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children 2010-2022, developed through the Council of Australian Government (CAOG) processes.    

It is important that COAG is responsible because:  

  • The need for national leadership to establish elder abuse as a national priority requiring both ‘whole of government’ and ‘whole of community’ responses;  
  • The limited sources of Commonwealth power to legislate elder abuse measures;  
  • The traditional role of COAG in developing model, uniform laws in areas of high public importance; and 
  • The particular need for uniformity of state and territory laws with respect to personal autonomy, including powers of attorney, guardianship and administration laws.  

We support the suggestion that the Age Discrimination Commissioner lead a number of strategies within and around the National Plan.   

We note that since late 2015 members of the Network and the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) including representatives from five jurisdictions [1] have held discussions about the desirability of the formation of a national entity to represent the views of elder abuse prevention advocates and service providers.  More recently those discussions have involved the Age Discrimination Commissioner.  

At this time there is consensus amongst the potential membership of the national entity as to the establishment of Elder Abuse Action Australia (EAAA).    

The Network looks forward to meeting with the Departments of Attorney General and Health and Ageing shortly to progress these discussions with a view to the EAAA becoming operational within a timeframe that would facilitate engagement with the Government during its initial consideration of the Commission’s final report.

NACLC Recommendations:   

The Australian Government engage and resource the Age Discrimination Commissioner to lead strategies and or processes within and around the National Plan.  

The Australian Government fund the establishment of an independent national body, representing service providers and advocates to:  

  • participate in the development and implementation of the Nation Plan to better protect the rights of older Australians; 
  • coordinate independent research and evidence based policy development; 
  • promulgate best practice in elder abuse prevention, intervention and remediation measures.   [2]

[1] Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, NSW and Queensland

[2] National Older Persons Legal Services Network Submission to Australian Law Reform Commission, Elder Abuse Discussion Paper 83, March 2017