Why there should be a National Plan

Proposal 2–1              A National Plan to address elder abuse should be developed.

2.3          National plans to guide reform and action have facilitated long-term strategic and whole-of-government responses to a diverse range of issues.[2] A plan provides a framework for action, identifying priority reform areas, performance indicators and appropriate responsibility and oversight for such reform. The momentum for national approaches in relation to child protection and family violence has led to frameworks and plans developed through the Council of Australian Government (COAG) processes.[3]

2.4          Many issues that arise in a consideration of ‘elder abuse’ sit across the federal/state jurisdictional lines. National consistency of laws, such as state and territory powers of attorney and guardianship and administration laws is one matter, among many, that could be led through a national plan process.

2.5          In the 2015 report of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Elder Abuse: Understanding Issues, Frameworks and Responses, Rae Kaspiew, Rachel Carson and Helen Rhoades, identify the importance of a national plan in relation to elder abuse, with an appropriate evidence base.

The WHO emphasised the importance of having comprehensive data-driven national action plans to ensure effective violence prevention. However, it noted that while many of the surveyed countries reported having national action plans for child maltreatment (71%) and intimate partner violence (68%), fewer than half (41%) had addressed elder abuse. The report noted that such plans are an important ‘way for countries to articulate how violence impacts the health, economic viability and safety and security of a nation’, and provides direction for policy makers about what needs to be done, including the identification of objectives, priorities, assigned responsibilities, a timetable and an evaluation mechanism.[4]

2.6          The development of a National Plan would squarely place elder abuse ‘on the national agenda’, as the family violence plan has done. As the Welfare Rights Centre (NSW) observed:

Child abuse and family and domestic violence are now firmly at the centre of public policy debates … Placing elder abuse on the national agenda must also be a priority. Elder abuse is an issue that, finally, has come of age. The ALRC’s current inquiry is an important step along this path.[5]

2.7          The National Plan would:

  • establish a national policy framework to guide government, industry and community policies, initiatives and programs with respect to safeguarding the rights of older persons;

  • outline a plan for action by government and the community; and

  • establish specific performance indicators and monitoring mechanisms to ensure accountability and establish a basis for measuring progress.

2.8          A National Plan will capture the momentum and consolidate the work that has been undertaken or is currently in train across state and territory governments and research bodies.[6] The development of a National Plan will also provide the opportunity for a national conversation and engagement.

2.9          The National Plan could be developed by a steering committee under the imprimatur of the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council of COAG, expressing the commitment of all governments. Commonwealth, state and territory Attorneys-General have agreed to establish a working group to discuss current activities to combat elder abuse in jurisdictions, consider potential national approaches, and consider the findings of this Inquiry.[7] Such a group could lead the development of a National Plan. The Age Discrimination Commissioner may be well placed to lead a number of strategies and actions of the plan, in consultation with key stakeholder groups.