Elder Abuse Prevention Strategy

The Public Trustee supports Respect and Protect Older Tasmanians: Tasmania's Elder Abuse Prevention Strategy 2019-2022 (you can read the Tasmanian strategy here) and is a member of the Statewide Elder Abuse Prevention Advisory Committee, which was instrumental in developing the strategy.

The World Health Organisation defines elder abuse as “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person”.

Elder abuse may involve physical or sexual abuse, taking an older person’s money or possessions, neglecting them, making threats or stopping their social contacts. It can happen at the hands of an adult child or other family member, and it often occurs in the home.

If you are experiencing elder abuse or know someone who is, please call the Tasmanian Elder Abuse Helpline on 1800 441 169.

Based on available evidence,  World Health Organisation estimates that gloabaly 15.7% of people 60 years and older are subjected to abuse. These prevalence rates are likely to be underestimates as many cases of elder abuse are not reported. Globally the numbers of people affected are predicted to increase as many countries are experiencing rapidly ageing populations.

Every state and territory in Australia has developed elder abuse strategies, led campaigns to raise awareness, and provided education about elder abuse and its effects. All states have also established an elder abuse helpline. Tasmania’s Elder Abuse Helpline is 1800 441 169. A national helpline – 1800 353 374 – is also available for national campaigns or for people unsure of which jurisdiction to call.  Staff answering the national helpline will talk to the caller about their concerns and transfer them to the appropriate state or territory helplines or services.

BACKGROUND

Tasmania has had an elder abuse strategy since 2011 but several national developments from 2016 to 2019 made its review and revision advisable. The Tasmanian strategy gives the following summary of those events:

“In 2016, the then Commonwealth Attorney-General asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to consider Commonwealth laws and legal frameworks and how they might better protect older people from misuse or abuse, and safeguard their autonomy. The Elder Abuse – a National Legal Response: ALRC Report 131 (2-17) report was tabled in 2017 and made 43 recommendations across 12 areas. This included the recommendation to develop a national plan to combat elder abuse, reforms to the aged care sector, reforms to guardianship and administration practices, and enactment of laws to safeguard at-risk adults. As a result, the Australian Council of Attorneys-General launched the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians [Elder Abuse] in March 2019, that demonstrates the Australian Government’s commitment to support measures to reduce the prevalence, severity and impact of elder abuse. All states and territories are working collaboratively with the Australian Government, through the Attorney-General’s Department, to develop nationally coordinated responses to the abuse of older people.”

RESPECT AND PROTECT OLDER TASMANIANS: TASMANIA’S ELDER ABUSE PREVENTION STRATEGY 2019-2022

Tasmania’s newly revised elder abuse prevention strategy was released by the Minister for Human Services, Roger Jaensch, at COTA Tasmania’s 2019 Hobart Walk Against Elder Abuse. It lists and provides definitions of seven forms of elder abuse: physical, sexual, psychological, financial, social and spiritual abuse, as well as neglect.

The strategy makes “a whole-of-government commitment to support  individuals to make informed choices about their health and wellbeing, education, participation and security”. It recognises the role played by ageism in creating the conditions for elder abuse to be ignored or tolerated. And it outlines five areas for implementing meaningful change to prevent the abuse of older Tasmanians: awareness, empowerment, action, support and safeguards.

You can download and read Tasmania’s strategy on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

If you are experiencing elder abuse or know someone who is, please call the
Tasmanian Elder Abuse Helpline on 1800 441 169.