The World Health Organisation (WHO, 2018) defines elder abuse as a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. It can include physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse; financial and material abuse; abandonment and neglect. The prevalence of elder abuse in Australia is unknown and often goes unreported.
What did we do?
The Elder Abuse project was designed to promote awareness of elder abuse in the Eastern Metropolitan Region of Melbourne, and to support regional organisations in their work with people who experience elder abuse. It was jointly supported by the IEPCP (until 2016), Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV), and the Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC). Although the IEPCP is no longer contributing financially to the program, the ECLC continues to have a focus on both response to and prevention of elder abuse.
The Elder Abuse program aimed to:
- Broadly promote awareness of elder abuse
- Provide professional development & training to staff
- Support and encourage the development of policies and protocols
- Manage and convene the Eastern Elder Abuse Network
- Advocate for people experiencing elder abuse
The Elder Abuse project assisted:
- Older people experiencing elder abuse (through advocacy, referral and legal representation)
- Family members and friends who know someone who is experiencing elder abuse (through advocacy and referral)
- Professionals whose clients are experiencing elder abuse (through advice and referral)
- The general public (particularly people aged 65+) (through awareness-raising of elder abuse generally)
The highly successful Eastern Elder Abuse Network was established as part of this project. It involved a broad diversity of partners including aged care service providers, community health services, family violence services, government, hospitals and Victoria Police. The number and diversity of partners actively contributed to its strong success. It is one of the largest elder abuse networks in Australia and had over 100 members in 2016. The network focused on sharing information, peer support and increasing knowledge and understanding about elder abuse. In particular and as a result of the network and project, police in the Eastern Metropolitan Region developed a much stronger understanding of elder abuse.
The program also strongly promoted best practice elder abuse policies and protocols and was instrumental in assisting many organisations to develop and implement their own. An electronic case conferencing facility was developed to meet the needs of practitioners seeking advice, information or referral for clients who were (or could be) experiencing elder abuse.
The project developed and delivered training and presentations about elder abuse to both practitioners and community members. The Elder Abuse Toolkit includes a series of questionnaires and worksheets for use as exercises during training sessions. Behind The Curtain is a 2 minute video and posters for GPs and health professions to raise their awareness of elder abuse.
Max Walker was engaged to help raise public awareness of elder abuse with a 3 minute video Elder Abuse It’s a No Ball.
Strong Support of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15)
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is on June 15 each year and is an important opportunity to raise awareness about elder abuse. When the program in 2010 there was almost no awareness of this day in the eastern metropolitan region. Today, the story is very different, with almost all of the 60+ member organisations of the Eastern Elder Abuse Network now actively involved in commemorating the day.
The Elder Abuse program continues to support organisations and individuals in the Eastern Metropolitan Region from its home at the ECLC through training, advocacy and research.
How did the PCP contribute to this success?
The IEPCP provided funding and leadership support to ECLC for a number of years to support and extend the important elder abuse work, including coordinating the network, delivering training and presentations, and advocacy. Through this funding support elder abuse awareness in the region has increased significantly and has since helped contribute to ECLC success with funding to pilot response services and continue work in primary prevention of abuse of older people. The IEPCP continues to provide support and leadership with this work.