Published on 12 December 2016.

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) today released a Discussion Paper for its Elder Abuse Inquiry, Elder Abuse (DP 83), and is calling for comments and feedback on its law reform proposals.

Elder abuse usually refers to the abuse or neglect of older people by family, friends and carers. Psychological and financial abuse are common types of elder abuse. Psychological abuse includes name calling, bullying and harassment. Financial abuse includes such things as taking an older person's money or belongings, forcing them to sell their home or hand over assets, moving into their home without permission, and incurring bills which the older person is left to pay. Physical assault and neglect are among other disturbing types of elder abuse.

This is the second consultation document for this Inquiry, in which the ALRC has been asked to consider existing Commonwealth laws and frameworks which seek to safeguard and protect older persons from misuse or abuse by formal and informal carers, supporters, representatives and others, and to examine the interaction and relationship of these laws with state and territory laws.

The Discussion Paper includes 43 proposals for law reform. Key proposals have been made concerning powers of investigation for public advocates and public guardians, enduring powers of attorney and enduring guardianship; family agreements, banking, aged care and social security, including:

  • An online  national register for enduring documents, and tighter witnessing and reporting requirements
  • Expanding the role of public advocates and public guardians in responding to elder abuse
  • Requiring banks to take reasonable steps to prevent financial abuse
  • Allowing tribunals to hear disputes within families about assets-for-care arrangements—providing a low cost and less formal forum for dispute resolution
  • For aged care, strengthening the compulsory reporting scheme by providing for independent oversight of complaints of abuse, enhancing employment screening processes, and the introduction of an official visitors scheme
  • Support for a national plan with strategies to combat elder abuse beyond legal reforms

ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, Commissioner-in-charge of the inquiry, said, “In developing the proposals in this Discussion Paper we have worked to balance the autonomy of older people with providing appropriate protections, respecting the choices that older persons make, but also safeguarding them from abuse. Consultation is at the heart of our processes, and we now call on the community to provide feedback, to build on the evidence base so far established and test these proposals ahead of the Final Report.”

The ALRC invites submissions in response to this Discussion Paper, which is available free of charge on the ALRC website—in html, PDF and as an ebook—at https://www.alrc.gov.au/publications/elder-abuse-dp83. Submissions are due to the ALRC by 27 February 2017.

The ALRC final report will be presented to the Attorney-General in May 2017. 

Subscribe to the Inquiry e-news on the ALRC website.


Contact: Marie-Claire Muir, Communications Manager, Australian Law Reform Commission (02) 8238 6305, 0466 635 405