Mandatory national Power of Attorney register a win for older Australians

decision by the Council of Attorneys General in Adelaide to set baseline
minimum standards for Power of Attorneys and create a mandatory national online
register is a big leap forward to combating elder financial abuse.

The coalition to fight elder
financial abuse, backed by Bauer Media, includes the Australian Banking
Association, the Seniors Rights Service, Elder Abuse Action Australia, the
Older Persons Advocacy Network, National Seniors and the Council on the Ageing
has campaigned for three key changes which can tackle the growing issue of
elder financial abuse.

The coalition has specifically
called on governments across Australia to act and establish:

  1. Power of Attorney laws which are the same across
    the country and protect people from this kind of abuse.
  2. A National Power of Attorney (POA) register to
    check if POA documents are legitimate and current.
  3. Somewhere to report abuse in each state that can
    investigate and act.

CEO of the
Australian Banking Association Anna Bligh said today’s decision represented a
major win for the coalition of banks, Bauer media and seniors advocacy groups and
would be a reform that protects older
Australians at risk of this insidious abuse.

decisions by the nations attorneys general to establish a mandatory national
online register of Power of Attorneys will empower bank branch staff who are
often at the front line of detection of elder financial abuse,” Ms Bligh said.

leadership of the Federal Attorney General Christian Porter in taking this
initiative to today’s Council of Attorneys General meeting was a critical
turning point in this campaign.

“A mandatory
national online register will help bank staff check to ensure a Power of
Attorney is valid and up to date when a customer comes into a branch to
complete transactions on someone else’s behalf.

campaign still has a long way to go, we need to see this register established
as quickly as possible, completely standardised Power of Attorney laws across
the country and a safe place to report abuse to help tackle elder financial
abuse,” she said.

Brendon Hill, CEO of Bauer Media said: “We welcome the decision
made by governments to begin urgently needed reform around elder financial
abuse and move to stamp it out. It’s a growing problem faced by many elderly
Australians and coordinated action is needed to address it. This is the start
of that.”

Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson said “I welcome the progress the Attorney’s General have made towards developing one Power of Attorney document – I reiterate my call for the implementation of this initiative before end of July 2021.”

“Commitment to a mandatory register for Power of Attorney documents will be one more measure to reduce the likelihood of financial abuse of older Australians.

“I look forward to ensuring that the advance made at today’s meeting of the Attorneys General remains a key priority with defined outcomes,” she said.

/Public Release. View in full here.