Public opinion can make a difference when it comes to elder abuse prevention.
Public opinion can make a difference when it comes to elder abuse prevention. Highwaystarz-Photography

Have your say now to help prevent elder abuse in future

PUBLIC opinion could make a difference in the drafting of new laws that go right to the heart of elder abuse in Australia, but only if you act now.

The Australian Law Reform Commission is encouraging public comments on its Elder Abuse Inquiry second discussion paper, with submissions due to close on February 27.

This paper considers 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 examines the interaction and relationship of these laws with state and territory laws.

Forty-three proposals for law reform are listed in the discussion paper ranging from powers of investigation, to responsibilities of banks and superannuation funds, family arrangements, wills, social security, aged care and establishing a national online register of people who hold enduring documents, court and tribunal orders for the appointment of guardians and financial administrators.

The timing of this discussion is particularly important to Legal Aid Commission (ACT) which identified in its recently released 2015/16 annual report that; "...the Commission is seeing increasing numbers of people in relation to allegations of elder abuse - ranging from physical, to emotional and financial. This is consistent with national trends."

The Commission's chief executive officer Dr John Boersig said across government and the community the issues around elder abuse are becoming more visible.

"We believe this has been an invisible problem for a long time," Dr Boersig said.

"Now it is particularly timely to have a good look at these issues and what protections are required".

He considers that it is important there is a visible and active dialogue around this issue. "The report that is being put out is one way in which that discussion within the community can occur," he added.

"What we are concerned about is that elder abuse has been swept under the carpet; it's been invisible for way too long."

Dr Boersig expects it may not be until the end of next year that tangible legislative changes can be made due to the process of assessing the public comments and preparing a report for government review.

In the meantime, Dr Boersig recommends anyone concerned about elder abuse should contact the Legal Aid Commission or community legal centre closest to where the person lives, to get some advice.

For more information on the proposals put forward regarding enduring documents and family agreements, the ALRC conducted a podcast this week, which can be accessed at http://www.alrc.gov.au/news-media/alrc-media/podcast-elder-abuse-and-reform-proposals-enduring-documents-and-family.

To make your voice heard, go online to https://www.alrc.gov.au/content/elder-abuse-dp83.

Written submissions can also be lodged by mail and oral submissions by calling the commission on (02) 8238 6366.

The ALRC will remove private addresses and contact details from submissions, before they are made public.


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