Thursday, June 16th, 2011
The most frequently reported abuse of elderly people in Western Australia is not physical but financial, according to a report released today (15 June) - World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Conducted by the Crime Research Centre at the University of Western Australia, the Examination of the Extent of Elder Abuse in Western Australia found that Elder Abuse occurred in Western Australia to 4.6 percent of the population aged over 65 years. This equates to approximately 12,500 victims for 2011. Incidences are growing steadily and the report estimates that these figures will grow by 90 percent over the next 20 years.

The most frequently reported incidences of financial abuse were revealed to be:
• The Misuse of Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPA)
• Inappropriate withdrawal of funds by family, friends and carers from an older person’s bank account and the bank’s responsibility to note and report unusual transactions; and
• Fraud by people in a relationship of trust

The report, commissioned by Advocare and supported by Lotterywest, also revealed that there was no cohesive approach to elder abuse across both government and non-government organisations.

Advocare CEO Greg Mahney said leadership from Government was urgently needed to create a broad and multi-level strategy to combat elder abuse.

“The report confirmed what we already suspected - we need a better coordinated system for responding to elder abuse.

“We also need a public awareness campaign to alert people to this vital issue,” he said.

“There is not the same attention or resources spent by Government on elder abuse as there is on domestic violence or child abuse.

“These causes are obviously equally important, but with an ageing population elder abuse is not going to go away, and will in fact become a more prevalent issue in our community,” he said.

Mr Mahney said the report showed a need for more attention to be paid to the vulnerabilities of older people in our community.

“Research, policy and practice in the area of elder abuse is approximately 30 years behind that of child abuse and domestic violence.
“Although it has been documented since the mid 1970s, there is still no nationally integrated system to address the mistreatment of older people,” he said.

“From this research we would like to see the key government and non government agencies coming together to find ways to improve first response tactics and address gaps in the response processes.

A key finding of the Elder Abuse report was the need for greater general public awareness and education.

In relation to bank-related fraud, the report recommended Australian banks develop policies, practices, educational processes and regulatory measures that reduce the risk and incidence of financial abuse.

The report recommended development of uniform federal legislation and a national system for registering and auditing Enduring Powers of Attorney.

Elder Abuse is defined by Advocare 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.

Definitions of Elder Abuse vary across agencies, states and countries, which also creates challenges in making comparisons of incidents occurring.

Research was conducted via interviews and focus groups with professionals from 10 organisations that respond to elder abuse in WA. Many examples of elder abuse in the financial sector are recorded in the report.

Organisations interviewed included WA members of the Alliance for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (Advocare, Department of Health, Disability Services Commission, Legal Aid, Department for Communities, The Mental Health Commission, Office of the Public Advocate, Public Trustee, WA Police, WALGA), the Older Person’s Rights Service, and the State Administrative Tribunal.

The complete report can be found on the Advocare website:

If you, or anyone you know has experienced any form of elder abuse, contact Advocare on (08) 9479 7566 or visit

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June supports the United Nations International Plan of Action, which recognises the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.

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Fremantle Sailing Club

Fremantle Sailing Club is a not for profit sporting organisation that plays a key role in the Western Australian maritime community. It is the gateway to the Indian Ocean. An aquatic playground envied worldwide for the unique obstacle free expanse of water and consistent local winds. Home to over 2800 enthusiastic members of all ages, Fremantle Sailing Club is a community dedicated to the ocean.
Janine Pittaway
P: +61 418 911 796
M: 0418 911 796


elder abuse, Western Australia, seniors, financial abuse, Advocare, Enduring Powers of Attorney



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