Australian Law Reform Commission Begins Inquiry Into Elder Abuse

Thursday 25 February 2016 @ 11.46 a.m. | Legal Research

Attorney-General George Brandis has announced that he has asked the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to conduct an inquiry into laws and frameworks to protect the rights of older Australians, and address concerns about the level of elder abuse in the community.  The ALRC inquiry announcement follows a “scoping study” report released by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.  The ALRC inquiry will also run concurrently with an inquiry by the Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner that specifically deals with employment discrimination and is already underway.  The ALRC inquiry will involve consultation with relevant stakeholders and consideration of other inquiries and reviews into related areas.  The ALRC is scheduled to produce a final report by May 2017.

Announcing the inquiry at the National Elder Abuse Conference in Melbourne, Mr Brandis said:

“Elder abuse is a human rights issue and it is also an underappreciated and serious problem…

All Australians have the right to make their own decisions, to live self-determined lives, to live with dignity and free from exploitation, violence and abuse. Those rights do not diminish with age.”

Terms of Reference

The ALRC is tasked with considering areas including regulation of financial institutions, superannuation, social security, living and care arrangements and health.  They will consider  best practice laws and frameworks that:

  • promote and support older people’s ability to participate equally in their community and access services and advice
  • protect against misuse or advantage taken of informal and formal supporter or representative roles, including:
    • formal appointment of supporters or representatives
    • informal appointment of support and representative roles (eg family members)
    • prevention of abuse
    • mitigation of abuse
    • reporting of abuse
    • remedies for abuse
    • penalties for abuse, and
  • provide specific protections against elder abuse.

The terms of reference also outline that the ALRC “have regard to” the recommendations of other reports, including a 2014 ALRC report on “Equality, Capacity and Disability in Commonwealth Laws” and the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs’ 2015 report on violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability.

The ALRC will also be examining how Commonwealth laws interact with existing state and territory initiatives. In his speech to the conference, Mr Brandis noted:

“States and Territories have developed elder abuse strategies and education material and led awareness raising campaigns. All have established elder abuse helplines, which assist thousands of people every year. The recent Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence and the New South Wales Government’s current inquiry into elder abuse will further inform our understanding of this issue and potential strategies to deal with it.”

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