169 The avenues for redress for elder abuse should be cheap, simple and accessible. However, redress for financial abuse may involve costly and complex applications to state and territory supreme courts. Other avenues of redress for both financial and other elder abuse are limited. State and territory civil and administrative tribunals are largely limited to making a guardianship or administration order as a response to elder abuse where the victim has a significant cognitive impairment. Where criminal offences are committed, some older people may not be willing to contact police for a number of reasons, including the impact on family relationships.
170 One option to provide alternative forums for redress is to expand the jurisdiction of state and territory civil and administrative tribunals. For example, in the context of financial abuse, these tribunals could be vested with jurisdiction to hear and resolve complaints relating to the misuse of powers of attorney and arrangements such as family care agreements. As discussed in the section above relating to family agreements, VCAT has the power to hear and determine disputes in the limited circumstance where financial transactions relate to property interests.
171 State and territory civil and administrative tribunals could also be vested with jurisdiction to make a broader range of orders in relation to at-risk adults. These might include orders such as:
- service provision orders—to authorise an entity or Minister to provide services to a person experiencing, or at risk of elder abuse;
- protection orders—to direct a person not to approach, contact or live with the protected person; or
- removal and placement orders—to authorise the removal of a person experiencing, or at risk of, elder abuse from a premises and placement in other housing arrangements, including residential care facilities.
172 Other initiatives could include changes to the physical design of courts or tribunals to take into account accessibility issues, and changes to procedural requirements to take into account the vulnerability of a party or witness.
Question 39 Should civil and administrative tribunals have greater jurisdiction to hear and determine matters related to elder abuse?
Question 40 How can the physical design and procedural requirements of courts and tribunals be improved to provide better access to forums to respond to elder abuse?
Alternative dispute resolution
173 In addition to cheaper and more accessible court- or tribunal-based responses, there may be a greater role for mediation and conciliation services to assist in responding to elder abuse. Some examples of existing services include:
- the Elder Relationship Centre, a pilot counselling and mediation service run by Relationships Australia, to support families in negotiating complex issues related to ageing;
- the Seniors Mediation Program run by Family Mediation and Counselling Victoria and Benetas, which provides mediation services relating to the move into aged and community care; and
- community justice centres in NSW, which provide free mediation services in a number of contexts, including where there is a disagreement between family members.
174 The VLRC has recommended that the Public Advocate (Vic) be empowered to require persons to attend conferences to resolve a matter being investigated.
Question 41 What alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are available to respond to elder abuse? How should they be improved? Is there a need for additional services, and where should they be located?