Guiding principles

Proposal 3–2              Public advocates or public guardians should be guided by the following principles:

(a)           older people experiencing abuse or neglect have the right to refuse support, assistance or protection;

(b)           the need to protect someone from abuse or neglect must be balanced with respect for the person’s right to make their own decisions about their care; and

(c)           the will, preferences and rights of the older person must be respected.

3.38       These guiding principles strike a balance between an older person’s autonomy and the role of the state in assisting older persons in protecting their rights, and reflect a rights-based approach. The principles acknowledge an older person’s right to exercise the dignity of risk, and ensure that the older person is at the centre of any decisions relating to providing support and assistance in responding to elder abuse.

3.39       Stakeholders emphasised the importance of considering the older person’s agency. People with Disability Australia, for instance, noted that any investigative power vested in the public advocate/guardian should be framed in a manner that is not ‘infantilising, and … doesn’t impede the dignity and rights of older people’.[63]

3.40       Adults ‘are entitled to make decisions based on their own needs and values’.[64] It requires collaboration with the older person. Under a rights-based harm reduction approach, ‘the person being abused is being offered information and options and then asked “what do you want?”’[65]