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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (5 June) . . Page.. 1941 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

While I understand that there is money set aside for a pilot program for crisis accommodation for older women escaping elder abuse, the community and I are at a loss to know whether or not this program is actually progressing. In any case, it will be only a start to addressing one form of elder abuse.

The chief form of elder abuse that the Council on the Ageing has come across is financial. Financial abuse is generally perpetrated by those nearest and dearest to older people-their children, their relatives and their friends. It is one of those things that older people are reluctant to do anything about, because once they do it means that their family support, or their grandchildren, are not seen again. It is the removal of the ones that they love. And so it really is a hidden problem.

As people live longer there is a tendency for children to try to manage their parents money and neglect them. They prey upon parents' feelings that they are becoming a burden as they get older.

At the status of women hearing last week we heard of a case where a mother signed her house over to her son, and the next thing she knows she's living in a nursing home and he's taken over her house. And this is not an uncommon story.

Older people have the right to live safely in their own homes, free of violence, free of abuse, free of neglect and free of exploitation. Older people deserve to make their own decisions on matters affecting their lives, as should every member of this community.

We, as representatives of the Canberra community, need to consult with, support and protect all members of the community. For far too long this has been an issue hidden in families and aged care homes. Today I have a strong warning that if we ignore elder abuse the problem will not go away. And to drive that home further I would like to warn that we will all be elderly one day.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (3.27): Mr Speaker, the government unequivocally affirms that it deplores all forms of violence and exploitation. But we, like most members of our society, especially abhor violence and abuse directed towards the most vulnerable in our society and, in particular, our older people.

The Labor government is absolutely committed to working with other governments, community agencies, networks and individuals to develop and implement effective responses to the issues surrounding elder abuse. The government is gravely concerned about the level of elder abuse in our society. Indeed, a number of studies show that approximately around 4 per cent of older people in Australia are abused in some way. Up to two-thirds of older people who are abused are women.

Elder abuse is not confined to physical abuse. It also includes emotional, psychological, sexual and financial abuse. This concern is compounded by our knowledge that, with the ageing of both the ACT and Australian populations, the problem will grow unless we act soon.

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