National inquiry into elder abuse welcomed

NARI has welcomed the inquiry into laws and frameworks to safeguard older Australians from abuse.

Attorney-General George Brandis announced the inquiry in March, saying that he had directed the Australian Law Reform Commission to assist the federal government to identify the best way to protect older Australians, while at the same time promoting respect for their rights.

The inquiry was launched in the wake of several inquiries into elder abuse in various Australian states, and an inquiry into employment discrimination against older Australians. It has also been discussed at Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence.

NARI Executive Director Associate Professor Briony Dow said that the inquiry reflected rising concern about the incidence and extent of “elder abuse” in Australia.

Dr Dow said it was essential to agree on a national approach to elder abuse with the Commonwealth, states and territories co-operating through laws.

“We are particularly concerned about powers of attorney, which are often misused to perpetrate financial abuses,” she said.

“There are considerable shortcomings in legislation, including the fact that powers of attorney do not have to be registered, and are difficult to revoke.”

Dr Dow said that NARI’s research showed that many older people were reluctant to report abuse or pursue the matter through courts. Research also revealed that experience and understanding of elder abuse varied widely especially for those living in rural and regional areas and from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

It is anticipated that the inquiry will report in May 2017.