Elder abuse – inquiry into the laws protecting vulnerable older Australians

  • Elder abuse – inquiry into the laws protecting vulnerable older Australians

As Australia’s population ages and the vulnerabilities of older people increase, the potential for elder abuse grows. The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is currently looking at how Australian laws respond to elder abuse, and how can they better protect older people and communities, including those in rural and remote areas.

Due to physical and social isolation, older people living in remote and rural areas may be more vulnerable to elder abuse. They may also have more difficulty accessing information or services. Data on the prevalence of elder abuse is limited, in part because older people experiencing abuse often don’t report it due to a sense of shame or embarrassment, or because they fear retribution. In smaller and rural and remote communities, it may be more difficult for an older person to seek legal assistance.

Elder abuse can be physical, sexual, psychological, or financial. Reports suggest the most common form of abuse is financial and is perpetrated by family members, for example where adult children take advantage of their elderly parents’ property or savings for their own use and benefit. The ALRC inquiry is looking at laws in the areas of banking, superannuation, social security, guardianship, and aged care.

Following a round of national consultations, the ALRC is releasing a Discussion Paper in December, which will include specific proposals for law reform. The ALRC is seeking feedback on these proposals from organisations and individuals in regional and remote communities. You can either respond to specific proposals and questions in the Discussion Paper, or simply convey your views by emailing elder_abuse@alrc.gov.au

The Discussion Paper is now available. Submissions will close on 27 February 2016.

The ALRC will present its final recommendations in a report to the Government in May 2017.

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