COTA calls for stronger and more comprehensive protections for older people on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia has today called on the federal, and all state and territory governments, to take stronger and more comprehensive action to protect older people, including urgent reform of power of attorney laws.

COTA Australia Chief Executive, Ian Yates, said that all governments must urgently act to implement nationally consistent power of attorney laws, ahead of a national register, to protect older Australians from elder abuse.

“The Royal Commission into Aged Care, and the 2017 Law Reform Commission Report on Elder Abuse, have made Australians more aware of elder abuse in our community, but we still have a long way to go to enshrine better protections in our laws and procedures,” Mr Yates said.

“It has been four years since the Australian Law Reform Commission recommended that nationally consistent laws governing Powers of Attorney be adopted, as well as a national register.

“Making these laws consistent and clear across the country is a well overdue reform that would help protect older people from insidious abuse, facilitated by inadequate legal protections”

Currently power of attorney legislation varies across each state and territory, as do requirements about whether a power of attorney document must be registered.

“The law must protect every Australian from abuse and harm, regardless of where they live. For that, we need a nationally consistent approach,” says Mr Yates.

“State, territory and federal governments must work together to harmonise power of attorney laws while developing the national register.

“The Law Reform Commission recommended many other measures, and there has been much recent action in implementing its recommendations in aged care, many off which were also supported by the Royal Commission.

“However, despite the publicity given to residential aged care, most elder abuse occurs in the community and in families, and action in these domains has been slow and lacking in agency, with the National Action Plan lacking in timeframes and accountability.

“We also see very limited support for measures to tackle and eliminate ageism, which is so prevalent in Australian society.

“World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an important reminder to us all how prevalent the abuse of older people remains in our communities.

“Older people deserve to know they are safe from abuse. Reform of power of attorney laws are one important and urgent step in protecting them that governments can act on now.”

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