At home with… Jill Exon, Elder Abuse Prevention Coordinator, Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Describe your work at ECLC?
As the Elder Abuse Prevention Coordinator, my role is to oversee the Eastern Elder Abuse Network (EEAN). The EEAN is a longstanding network that was established about 11 years ago and has over 150 members from more than 50 member organisations representing Local Government, Community Health, Legal Services, the Police, Aged Care, Hospitals, Women’s Health, Primary Care Partnerships, State and Government Departments, Family Violence, Finance, Ethno-specific and Multicultural Agencies, and other specialist services.

More recently the EEAN has undergone a restructure so we can work more strategically across the spectrum of prevention, early intervention and response. We now have working groups for each of these areas. I chair the EEAN Primary Prevention Working Group – I like to call us the Prevention Avengers!  

What excites and motivates you in your role?
I am really passionate about primary prevention approaches. That is, addressing the ‘drivers’ or underlying causes of elder abuse and shifting broader social and cultural norms that enable abuse or ageist attitudes to occur in the first place.

About 12 years ago I worked on one of the first rigorously evaluated Prevention of Violence Against Women (PVAW) Projects that was funded by VicHealth. It was an active research project, running bystander training with truck drivers and warehouse workers in one of Australia’s largest logistics and transport companies. At the time, we had a strong evidence base about the drivers of violence against women and a clear framework to guide primary prevention action but it was very much an emerging field.

Today, primary prevention of the abuse of older people is similarly emerging. The biggest difference is that for elder abuse, we don’t have a strong understanding of the drivers or a framework to guide primary prevention action. While this has its frustrations, it’s also an exciting time to be learning together and paving the way. I am motivated to work with a dynamic team at ECLC and a network of passionate people with strong expertise from primary prevention through to response, so I’m excited to see how this area unfolds.

How can IEPCP partners get involved in your work?
IEPCP Partners can get involved by subscribing to the EEAN mailing list where you can receive updates about elder abuse information, relevant training opportunities, member and working group updates, and invitations to attend EEAN meetings. Information about EEAN is on our website. We would also welcome new members to participate on our new EEAN Working Group (Prevention, Response and World Elder Abuse Day planning Working Group). You can do this by sending me an email JillE@eclc.org.au

What changes have you been reflecting on with your work due to the current pandemic?
I think that in the short time since social isolation and the events that have unfolded we are seeing a shift from consumerism and individualism toward a greater sense of community mindedness and looking out for one another. This presents an opportunity to rethink some of the norms that shape our attitudes and behaviours, and metrics by which we measure success and meaning. These are often so ingrained that we don’t even question them.

This is particularly interesting in light of findings from the Older People: Equity Respect & Ageing (OPERA) Project which was launched last year in partnership with Swinburne University that point to individualism and consumerism as the ‘frameworks that contribute to the underlying social context in which elder abuse can occur.’ If you haven’t already, you can check out the findings and resources here.

What strategies have you found that have helped working from home with children?
Most important for me has been sharing the load and working as a team with my husband. We both work part-time so we tag-team over the 2 days when we are both working from home and home-schooling our two boys. It’s pretty intense! The other thing that’s been helpful is creating a sense of structure for the day and making sure that we keep active and get out for a walk or a bike ride.

It helps knowing that although it’s a difficult juggle for now, that we’re all in this together! It gives me incredible appreciation for the amazing role of primary school teachers too. 

What are you looking forward to doing when our time of isolation is over?
Being able to go on a date! Catching up with friends and family over a good meal. Going on day trips and holidays – all of the things we so often take for granted. 

What is something you are secretly enjoying about this time of isolation?
The chance to slow down. Going for walks, bike rides, seeing the support and warmth of the community. We have never before met so many different neighbours who now take the time to stop and have a chat (social distancing of course!). I love the artwork displayed by children like rainbows and pavement hopscotch. There is a slowed pace and a chance to reconnect to nature and to each other.

We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people and other peoples of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of the land on which our work in the community takes place. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

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