Elder Abuse and Commonwealth Laws – Issues Paper

15 June is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has released an Issues Paper, Elder Abuse (IP 47), that asks a number of questions about how Commonwealth laws and legal frameworks could be reformed to better protect older Australians from abuse by formal and informal carers, supporters, and representatives.

The Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, has asked the ALRC to look especially at financial institutions, superannuation, social security, living and care arrangements and health. In addition to looking at laws, the ALRC will consider policy and practice guides, codes of conduct, standards, education, information sharing and the interaction of commonwealth, state and territory laws. There are instructive guidelines in several states and territories for recognising abuse of older persons. Elder abuse can be financial abuse; psychological abuse (including social abuse); physical abuse or neglect; sexual abuse (including non-physical actions such as obscene language); and chemical abuse (including inappropriate use, underuse or overuse, of prescribed medication).

ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, Commissioner-in-charge of the Inquiry said, “With Australia’s population ageing, the potential for elder abuse to affect a significant number of people in the community is very real. It is crucial to look at how we can provide better safeguards for older people from this abuse. Protection and autonomy are the two key principles that will inform this Inquiry. The Terms of Reference emphasise that all Australians have rights, which do not diminish with age, to live dignified, self-determined lives, free from exploitation, violence and abuse; and that laws and legal frameworks should provide appropriate protections and safeguards for older Australians, while minimising interference with the rights and preferences of the person.”

The ALRC has released its Issues Paper to encourage informed community participation in this important Inquiry. It provides background information and highlights issues so far identified as relevant the Terms of Reference. The ALRC invites individuals and organisations to make a submission in response to the questions or to any of the material in the Issues Paper.

The ALRC is keen to hear perspectives from diverse community groups, and has made information about the Inquiry available in 20 community languages (see the ALRC website). The submissions and further consultation rounds will inform the next stages of the inquiry process: a Discussion Paper to be released in November 2016 and the Final Report in May 2017.

The Issues Paper is available free of charge on the ALRC website at https://www.alrc.gov.au/publications/elder-abuse and as an ebook.

The ALRC prefers submissions via the ALRC online submission form: https://www.alrc.gov.au/content/elder-abuse-ip47

Submissions should reach the ALRC by 18 August 2016. Subscribe to the Elder Abuse e-news on the ALRC website.