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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (26 September) . . Page.. 3319 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

The ACT government deplores all forms of violence and exploitation. However, as do most members of society, we especially deplore violence and abuse directed towards the most vulnerable in our society, including our older citizens. We are 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 4.6 per cent of older people in Australia are abused in some way. Up to two-thirds of older people who are abused are women. 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. Over the next 15 years, the largest growth in the Canberra population will be among people aged in their fifties. The number of people aged 50 and over is forecast to increase from 76,000 today to over 128,000 in the next 15 years. There is expected to be an increase in the people aged 60 and over from 37,600 today to 75,900 by 2016.

We simply must have strategies in place before then to deal with the needs of older members of our society, including the prevention of abuse. The government has recognised the need to plan for an ageing population in our city. We went to the last election with the plan for older Canberrans. The plan outlines our aim to create a community where older people feel safe and valued, and where services are available to meet their needs. Addressing elder abuse was one of the key priorities of the plan. We are committed to ensuring this issue is addressed.

The government is committed to implementing its plan and maintaining dialogue with older Canberrans. It has taken a number of major steps to ensure that the views and needs of the community are taken into account in implementing the plan, and that a whole-of-government approach is adopted in dealing with ageing issues.

In particular, the government has established the Ministerial Advisory Council on Ageing, the first such council in the ACT since the introduction of self-government. The council will have a broad focus and provide advice to the government about the priorities for older Canberrans, and advise on issues such as positive attitudes towards ageing and older people, housing, accommodation, lifelong learning, mature-age employment and providing services for older people.

I attended a meeting of the council recently and was impressed by the wide range of backgrounds, skills and experience that the newly appointed members bring to the council. I understand that, at that meeting, it was agreed that the issue of elder abuse in our community is a concern. The council is currently deciding its priorities and will advise the government on this very important issue.

The government has also established the Office for Ageing in the multicultural and community affairs group, Chief Minister's Department. The Office for Ageing will support the work of the council and work with ACT government agencies, community organisations, other state and territory governments, the Commonwealth government and the broader ACT community to ensure a strategic, coordinated approach to ageing issues in the ACT, including elder abuse.

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