World Elder Abuse Awareness Week

On June 14, Seniors Rights Service commemorated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Hosting a panel of diverse experts, the event was attended by members of the human service sector and also presented as a live webcast. SRS CEO Russell Westacott chaired the event and was joined by the Hon John Sidoti – MP, the Hon Dr Kay Patterson – Age discrimination commissioner, Ms Wendy Morgan –Director, Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council and Superintendent Bradley Hodder. Each speaker presented and acknowledged the increasingly large issues surrounding the abuse of seniors and the role of their respective field in combatting these issues. By addressing the complex topic of seniors abuse through a diverse panel a holistic discussion presenting multiple perspectives was undertaken.

This year’s theme ‘lifting up voices’ aimed to address the voices of the unheard or dismissed. Speakers addressed how senior’s opinions, distress and perspectives are often disregarded and muted. Ms Wendy Morgan further elaborated and spoke about the severe nature of this in relation to women, Indigenous peoples and those of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Drawing on personal experience Ms Morgan said that ‘‘particularly with our mob we’ve never really had a voice and when we do have a voice people are saying that we’re aggressive’’. The difficulty of being heard and to be listened to not only as a senior but as an Aboriginal woman highlighted the many milestones that need to be overcome in order to be able to access support. Speaking to a room of industry professional she asked ‘’How [do] we lift the voices of the people in our community?’’

The new Minister of Seniors, the Hon John Sidoti MP expressed his ‘disbelief’ of the abuse of seniors within our society. The Minister stated that the issue is ‘’everyone’s business and everyone’s responsibility’’. Also holding the role as the Multiculturalism MP, he addressed the increased difficulty in reaching communities of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Seniors Rights Service works to tailor events to multiple culturally and linguistically diverse groups to promote inclusion and spread information to allow individuals to understand their rights.  It was the first time in his new role that he has publically spoken about the abuse of seniors and was empathetic problems our population face today.

Another issue raised is the difficulty of having interstate cohesion. The Hon Dr Kay Patterson spoke about this at length describing how legislation differs from state to state.  Different legislation including that of power-of-attorney proves to be yet another barrier to overcome when navigating the system. Thus, having a national conversation about how to improve and change policies is often difficult yet is a necessary step to ensure all Australian seniors have an improved standard of living. The Hon Dr Kay Patterson was also able to respond to the audience’s questions regarding individual cases and explained that ‘‘we can’t just treat all older Australians as the same’’. She also spoke about the different emotions that may be felt when experiencing abuse, how easy it is to be put in a vulnerable position and the importance of taking precautionary steps.  Ending on a positive note she exclaimed that she is ‘‘delighted to see that we have much more interest in this area that politicians are more aware of it and that the community is more aware of it’’.

Superintendent Bradley Hodder was also able to shine light on the difficulties in assisting and determining courses of action to take within the role of policing. Since our WEAAD event, NSW has implemented the new ‘Ageing and Disability Abuse Helpline’ which provides an avenue for trained professionals to provide specific assistance. This is an example of one of the positive steps that have been taken to address this national issue.

Overall the WEAAD event was a great success and we look forward to working with all industry professionals to eradicate the abuse of seniors. The passion and drive that was represented in this event provides great hope to create positive change for Australian seniors.

To find out more or to watch our webcast visit: https://seniorsrightsservice.org.au/weaad2019/

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