26 September 2013

Elderly woman looking out windowUniversity of South Australia's Associate Professor of Law Wendy Lacey is calling for a new legal framework to be put in place that would protect vulnerable elderly Australians from abuse.

According to studies, up to five percent of Australians over the age of 65 have experienced some form of abuse. At a free public lecture to be held at UniSA today, Assoc Prof Lacey will recommend legal changes that could significantly improve the rights of some of our most vulnerable citizens.

“In complete contrast to our system for child protection, we have not even considered how our laws are failing to safeguard older persons,” she says.

“Adult protection legislation which is premised on the inherent rights of older persons to autonomy, dignity and self-determination, and to be safe from abuse, exploitation and neglect, is essential if we are to protect older Australians.

“As a society we need to begin asking our state, territory and local governments to do more when it comes to addressing elder abuse and protecting the fundamental rights of older people in Australia.”

Assoc Prof Lacey says elder abuse - which can range from being taken advantage of financially to emotional abuse and neglect – occurs behind closed doors because the victim’s family are often the perpetrators.

“Many victims are dependent on the perpetrators for support and care and have a genuine desire to maintain the relationship despite the abuse. They can be ashamed to speak out,” she says.

“There is also a lack of community awareness around elder abuse, the types of abuse and the warning signs which accompany them.”

Based at UniSA’s School of Law, Assoc Prof Lacey says the current legal system doesn’t do enough to protect vulnerable older citizens.

“Our current legal framework is simply inadequate in terms of prevention and early intervention in cases of elder abuse,” she says.

“A comprehensive adult protection framework is needed, that could authorise an agency (other than the police) to lead investigations of abuse, provide a coordinated inter-agency response and lead early intervention strategies to safeguard and support vulnerable adults from abuse.

“We need to remember that human rights, including the rights to be safe and be treated with dignity, are held for life, and not only for as long as we are capable of self-protecting and self-advocating.”

Part of UniSA’s Knowledge Works lecture series, Behind closed doors: Elder abuse and the rights of older Australians will be held on Thursday, September 26, 6pm-7pm at UniSA’s City West campus.

For more information and to register to attend, go to http://www.unisa.edu.au/Business-community/Community-Engagement/Knowledge-Works/

Contact for interview:

Wendy Lacey office 8302 7127 mobile 0438 151 800 email wendy.lacey@unisa.edu.au

Media Contact

Rosanna Galvin office (08) 8302 0578 mobile 0434 603 457 email rosanna.galvin@unisa.edu.au


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