For the first time, Australia has a National Plan to combat abuse of older Australians – and victims have a new National Hotline to help them.
Attorney-General, Christian Porter, launched the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians today and announced the first key initiatives under the plan being funded by the Morrison Government.
"Our population is ageing and the release of this National Plan reflects the commitment of our nation's governments at both the federal and state/territory level to work together to ensure that older Australians can feel and be safe and supported in their later years," the Attorney-General said.
"By 2056 it is estimated that 22 per cent of Australians or 8.7 million people will be aged over 65, up from 15 per in 2016.
"There's no doubt that a key benchmark of any society is how it treats and protects its older citizens, particularly those who may be vulnerable to abuse in whatever form it takes, emotional, physical or financial.
"This National Plan provides a framework for coordinated action across federal and state/territory governments over the next four years and reflects the commitment of all governments to act now to support older Australians dealing with elder abuse."
The Attorney-General also officially launched a new national, elder abuse free call number.
"1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374) will connect callers from anywhere in Australia to a state or territory phone line where they can discuss potential or actual elder abuse and get the information and referrals they need to protect themselves," the Attorney-General said.
"Getting assistance or advice is an important step in empowering older Australians to address issues affecting them."
The Attorney-General also announced the Morrison Government would provide $18 million over four years for national trials of frontline services designed to support older people who are victims of abuse.
"This funding under the Morrison Government's More Choices for a Longer Life package will support the establishment of three types of specialist support services: specialist elder abuse units, health-justice partnerships and case management and mediation services," the Attorney-General said.
"Every state and territory will have at least one trial site starting before the end of June this year."
The Attorney-General said these first tangible actions under the National Plan reflect the commitment of the Morrison Government and all states and territories through the National Help Line to doing all they can to protect older Australians from abuse.
"We have all heard through media or directly, stories of vulnerable older people being subject to financial abuse, all too often by family members," the Attorney-General said.
"The Morrison Government is determined to do all it can to protect older people at risk of, or experiencing such abuse and I am particularly pleased that my state/territory colleagues are demonstrating a similar level of commitment by backing the National Plan."
The National Plan details the priority areas for action over the next four years by all governments, including strengthening service responses, helping people better plan for their future, and strengthening safeguards for vulnerable people.
One priority is to improve our understanding of the prevalence of the abuse of older Australians. Comparable overseas studies show that up to 12% of older people experience abuse," the Attorney-General said.
"Based on a prevalence of 5% in Australia, it has been estimated that as many as 185,000 older people experience some form of abuse or neglect nationally each year.
"Unfortunately, there has been no detailed research in Australia to determine the extent of elder abuse in Australia and that's why the Morrison Government will be undertaking Australia's first national study of the prevalence of abuse.
"We are also today releasing two research reports by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales which provide insights into the trends over time of the rate of physical abuse of older people in the general Australian community, and about the multiple vulnerabilities and complex needs of older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The National Plan launched today was a key recommendation of the 2017 Australian Law Reform Commission's (ALRC) Report: Elder Abuse - a National Legal Response, which highlighted examples of serious physical abuse, financial abuse, neglect and exploitation of older people.
The National Plan, its companion documents and further information on elder abuse initiatives is available here.