Elder Abuse – A Confluence of Rights and Responsibilities

In July 2017, the Australian Law Reform Commission released a report into the prevalence of “elder abuse” in Australian society. Elder abuse is defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person’.

The increase in instances of elder abuse in Australia is understood to result from overlapping socio-economic factors including a crisis in housing affordability, rising costs-of-living and increased longevity. In the ACT, approximately 6% of persons surveyed had suffered elder abuse (ACT Elder Abuse Prevention Program Policy June 2012) and according to research presented by the Australian National University this figure has not dropped in the past five years.[i]

The Law Commission’s report makes a number of recommendations to address the problem of elder abuse, such as:

  • Establishing new laws and modifying existing legislation (e.g. the Aged Care Act 1997 Cth and Crimes Act 1900 NSW) and to allow provision for new serious incident response scheme and new adult safeguarding laws for ‘at risk adults’ in each state and territory
  • Implementing stronger safeguards against the misapplication of Appointments of Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardianships
  • Establishing an online register of Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardianships documents that is accessible Australia-wide

It is very important to ensure that your Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship documentation is reviewed regularly and updated if necessary to ensure that it is in line with your most recent wishes and that it accords with any changes to the law.

Here at elringtons we can assist people in addressing some of the problems associated with elder abuse at an individual and community level.  By providing legal advice and assistance in understanding yours and your loved one’s rights and responsibilities in relation to estate planning, nursing home accommodation and the role of the law in family relationships and agreements, together we are becoming part of the solution.

If you have questions about Estate Planning matters (your Will and Superannuation, your Appointment of Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardianships), yours or your family member’s nursing-home accommodation, or other matters relating to the care and wellbeing of elders, please contact one of our experienced practitioners today.

e: | p: +61 6206 1300

Further Information:

If you need further information about elder abuse call the NSW Elder Abuse Hotline and Resource Unit on 1800 628 221 (free call) or visit the NSW Website now:

In the ACT please call the Older Persons Abuse Prevention Referral Line 6205 3535 or go to the ACT Community Services website

For more information about see the ACT Elder Abuse Program Policy.


World Health Organisation Elder Abuse,

ACT Elder Abuse Prevention Program Policy, (June 2012),

Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth)

Australian Law Reform Commission report on Elder Abuse  (3 July 2017)

Families being torn apart with Gen Y relying on inheritance cash to buy a home (20 August 2017)

Financial abuse of elderly parents on the rise as housing becomes more unaffordable (27 August 2017) (27 August 2017)

[i] The signs of elder abuse you could be missing

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