Federal, state and territory governments need to urgently fast-track the introduction of nationally consistent, strong Power of Attorney laws which protect older Australians from abuse, COTA Australia – the peak advocacy body for older Australians – says.
The call comes as people across the globe mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day – a day aimed at shining a light on the scourge of elder abuse.
COTA Australia Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Sparrow, said elder abuse takes many forms and Australia needs to take action on numerous fronts, but fixing the Power of Attorney laws is an obvious and timely step.
“Over 1 in 6 older Australians will experience elder abuse each year. Government action for a nationally consistent legal framework for Powers of Attorney will go some way to address the problem,” Ms Sparrow says.
“Each state and territory has its own laws and different approaches to Power of Attorneys which is a major impediment to a comprehensive approach to protection from elder abuse.
“The inconsistencies in our Power of Attorney laws make it easier for older people with diminished capacity to make decisions for themselves, including those with dementia, to be abused.
“We know from research and what we hear directly from older people that the perpetrators of abuse are often family members. It is mostly adult children, but can also be friends, neighbours, and acquaintances.
“Over 60 percent of older people don’t seek help when they are abused. The current inconsistency across the country perpetuates issues with enforcement and transferability across the states and territories.
Ms Sparrow said that while it is positive that the Federal Attorney-General is committed to advancing solutions to elder abuse, and that work has been commenced by the Ministerial Council of Attorneys General, it has progressed far too slowly.
“We need to see decisive and speedy action that will give older Australians greater control over their legal documents and allow less room for perpetrators of elder abuse to take advantage of legal inconsistencies.
“Numerous inquiries have recommended a national approach to the laws and requirements, as well as the creation of a national register, to prevent such abuses from occurring. Today, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, is a powerful reminder of the need to take timely and meaningful action to stop elder abuse.”
Media contact: Tamara Kotoyan, 0430 291 890 or Alana Mew, 0419 929 722