Elder abuse: How well does the law in Queensland cope?

14 Jul 2010

The abuse, neglect and exploitation of older Queenslanders is a significant concern. There is a growing recognition, both in Australia and internationally, that the abuse of older persons – whether physical, sexual, financial, psychological, or through neglect – is a fundamental human rights concern. It has serious personal, economic and social ramifications for both individuals and the community. Older persons whose decision making is impaired are particularly vulnerable to abuse, with potentially devastating consequences.

Elder abuse is widespread and under-reported. With a population explosion forecast for Australia over the next 50 years, persons over the age of 65 are predicted to make up one quarter of the nation’s population. It is timely to consider this complex issue.

As with all social problems, both legal and non-legal responses are necessary. Both have a role to play in preventing elder abuse and facilitating access to justice for older persons. Our community needs strong legislative safeguards, robust policy frameworks, well-resourced programs and services, and public awareness initiatives.

This paper focuses solely on legal issues. Its purpose is to raise awareness of such issues as they relate to elder abuse, to stimulate discussion and debate of these issues, and to advance options for reform. It is an invitation to explore and develop the law for the benefit of vulnerable older people.

The paper encompasses a broad scope of issues: those relating to both civil and criminal law, guardianship, reporting requirements, older persons as victims of crime, the arena of law enforcement, domestic violence protection orders, aged care complaints mechanisms, and access to legal assistance for older persons.

A joint paper of The Queensland Law Society and the Office of the Queensland Public Advocate.

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