Page updated June 15, 2021

Eastern CLC joins with community leaders to mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2021

June 15, 2021

Earlier today, the Victorian Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, the Hon Luke Donnellan MP, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Anthony Carbines MP, marked World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2021 alongside a range of experts, advocates and stakeholders.

Elder abuse is any act that causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they trust, such as a family member or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect.

Minister Donnellan talked about an additional $1 million in funding for initiatives that prevent and respond to elder abuse across Victoria and spoke movingly about his personal commitment to turning around increasing rates of abuse against older people.

Parliamentary Secretary Carbines chaired a panel focused on the impact of COVID-19 on elder abuse in the community. The panel featured Commissioner for Senior Victorians, Gerard Mansour; National Ageing Research Institute Director, Briony Dow; Better Place Australia CEO, Serge Sardo; Southern Melbourne PCP Acting CEO, Michelle Lord; and Senior Rights Victoria Policy Officer, Melanie Joosten.

Commissioner Mansour spoke about efforts by community groups to recover from COVID-19 and re-engage with their communities. Many of these local groups play an important role in community connection for older people.

He also touched on themes from his landmark report, Ageing Well in a Changing World, around people feeling less valuable and more invisible as they age. He reminded us that stereotypes about older people can be harmful, such as mistaken beliefs around taking up technology such as Zoom. These beliefs contribute to ageism and we all have a role in challenging them.

Briony Dow spoke about their research into the impact of COVID-19 on older people. They found significant increases in reported family violence and elder abuse following periods of lockdown. Accessing assistance during lockdowns was very difficult for people experiencing abuse. Increases in financial hardship, stress and adult children returning to live with their parents were all contributing factors for this.

Serge Sardo spoke about COVID-19 as creating a ‘perfect storm’ for elder abuse due to the economic downturn, family stress, social isolation and restrictions on activities that contribute to health and wellbeing. Better Place saw an increase in all kinds of abuse during 2020 with demand exceeding their service capacity.

Michelle Lord spoke about Victoria’s Elder Abuse Prevention Networks and the work they did during 2020 to integrate primary prevention approaches into a range of community settings. This presented challenges as many of their activities and networking events were face-to-face and had to be moved online.

Melanie Joosten spoke about how Senior Rights Victoria moved to telehealth and remote working during 2020 and the change in people seeking help. They saw decreases in people seeking help during lockdowns with sharp increases once lockdowns were lifted. Evidence suggests that abuse continued during lockdowns, but getting help was harder due to either the presence of perpetrators or lack of community connections and referral opportunities.

Following the panel, Eastern Community Legal Centre’s CEO, Michael Smith, was invited to present our Primary Prevention Framework as a leading example of work in this area.

Michael Smith spoke about the work of the Eastern Elder Abuse Network to ensure community members in Melbourne’s East were safe, valued and respected at all ages and stages of their life.

The launch of the Primary Prevention Framework and associated guide is an important development that will support organisations of all kinds to extend primary prevention to more community and service settings.

People can find out more and register for the launch event from 2-3pm on 30 June.

There were also presentations by Natasha Spicer from Frankston-Mornington Peninsula PCP, Dr Becky Nevin Berger from MPower and Michelle Lord showing there are many ways to create a community that is safe and welcoming for people of all ages.

We will post the event video here when it becomes available.

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