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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3002 ..

MR RUGENDYKE (10.42): I rise to mention that this report is an important one of the health committee. The problem was identified and brought to us through the agencies that deal with people, such as the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, the Community Advocate, the Council on the Ageing and others, all of whom put in very substantial and authoritative submissions.

Mr Speaker, it was quite difficult to get individuals who are the subject of abuse to come forward. It is very difficult to identify people other than from anecdotal and second-hand evidence, so from that point of view the committee was obliged to rely mainly on the submissions of the various agencies.

Issues such as carer burn-out and power of attorney were identified. There was discussion on issues such as mandatory reporting of abuse of the elderly. The Council on the Ageing was one body which suggested that that might be appropriate, but others disagreed. While I think it was conceded that mandatory reporting in relation to children is appropriate, for various reasons mandatory reporting of abuse of the elderly was seen generally as not worthy of support. In fact other jurisdictions have not gone along with the concept of mandatory reporting for the elderly.

Mr Speaker, this is a very good report. It includes several case studies of abuse. I urge members to look at the sort of abuse that, anecdotally, the elderly do suffer and are reporting. I thank my colleagues on the committee for their work in this regard. As Mr Wood said, it has been a good committee to work with and be part of over the last three years. I look forward to the recommendations in this report and in the others of the health committee being seriously considered.

MRS BURKE (10.45): Many of the points have been raised by the chair and my colleague, Mr Rugendyke, but I would like to add a couple of things. The report is an excellent report and it deals with a very difficult and sometimes unspoken area of discussion within our community. It was very clear in our community consultations with several people that it is often a difficult area for all family members to talk about. The person who may be perceived to be the abuser is often the one being abused also. That clearly came out, and obviously makes it a very sensitive issue. It is a difficult, sensitive and complex issue. However, I urge the government of the day, as my colleagues have done, to carefully consider the recommendations made by this committee.

I should mention at this stage some of the steps put in place by this government to date. We have a boarding house initiative. You may recall that $2 million was allocated in the 2001-2002 budget. The boarding house program will provide supportive accommodation that offers an exit point from the supported accommodation assistance program services into more independent living, which is what we want for elders and the families involved.

In contrast to the traditional boarding house, this boarding house program will consist of relatively self-contained, one bedroom units with some common spaces which provide opportunity for social interaction, peer support and enhanced security. Success of the program is contingent on linked support packages, which is also something that came out in the report. The linkage is made by the parties involved.

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