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Community Services and Development - Elder Abuse

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 6 September 2021

Tags: Elder Abuse, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - We only have an hour. Minister, I'm very interested in your Government's response to elder abuse in the community and I want to place on the record that it was a Labor-Greens government and a Greens minister that introduced Tasmania's first elder abuse prevention strategy.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Is that you?

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes. I try not to be that person that at the table -

Ms BUTLER - I could do it for you; if it would be easier.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, no.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I think that's excellent. Thank you.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you very much. But the most important thing is that it's maintained and strengthened. There's quite a body of evidence that's developing around the world about the potential for elder abuse specific legislation that treats elder abuse as the crime that it is. For example, in California they have elder abuse specific legislation and it's a bit like the sort of legislation you would have regarding the abuse of children. Has any consideration been given to formalising those protections for older Tasmanians in legislation?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Our commitment at the last election was to introduce carers' legislation which we look forward to progressing. As a government, we're committed to raising awareness of elder abuse as a whole of community responsibility and to support people as they age, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

As a former minister, elder abuse can occur in many forms, as you would be aware, and can be hard to identify because often the person being abused feels fear, denial or shame and tries to hide the abuse. Tasmania's response to elder abuse is outlined in Respect and Protect Older Tasmanians: Tasmania's Elder Abuse Prevention Strategy 2019 22.

The strategy includes key actions in five areas - awareness, empowerment, action, support and safeguards. We have committed $880 000 per year for the next two years. The It's Okay to Ask the Question, Tasmanian elder abuse awareness campaign, was launched in June 2020, with a new elder abuse website launched on 15 June 2021 to coincide with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Work to safeguard older people and improve service systems is ongoing.

I'm advised that the Department of Justice is leading work on a gap analysis and options paper for safeguarding older Tasmanians. The paper will explore the current legislative and oversight system and include recommendations for strengthening or implementing legislative frameworks to safeguard older Tasmanians.

Ms O'CONNOR - That's very good news, minister.

Mr. ROCKLIFF - So thank you for the question. I'm wondering if we can provide some I guess it's the Department of Justice so it's a question for the Attorney-General as to when the options paper will be out and the gap analysis and recommendations and the like. I probably couldn’t commit the Attorney-General to that but it may well result to the positive of the question that you've raised -

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes.

Mr ROCKLIFF - - notwithstanding there's work I've got to do in carers' legislation and the like.

Ms O'CONNOR - Just a question that's supplementary to that, and I am really encouraged to hear that that work is happening. It's estimated that there are around 3500 to 4000 older Tasmanians who are experiencing some form of elder abuse. That is a number that has potentially stood up over time. What is your understanding of the extent of potential abuse of older people, whether it be financial, psychological, physical or emotional?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Based on national and international research, 2 per cent to 12 per cent of older Tasmanians may experience either one or multiple forms of elder abuse. Tasmania has the highest median age of all Australian jurisdictions and in December 2020 the ABS data indicates that 20.4 per cent of Tasmanians are 65 or over and that proportion is projected to grow, which is why your question is relevant.

When you talk about elder abuse we are talking about psychological, emotional, financial, social, spiritual, physical, sexual and neglect and that can occur both inside and outside the home. It is often perpetrated by people in a position of trust, including family members or caregivers. It is largely a hidden problem because some of the actions are not perceived as abuse and often the person being abused, feels fear, denial or shame and tries to hide the abuse. That figure of 2 per cent to 12 per cent of older Tasmanian, given we have an ageing population, is probably the most accurate figure I can provide you. I have to do the sums on your 4000 figure.

Ms O'CONNOR - Potentially it is up to more than 5000 Tasmanians.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Absolutely. Yes 2-12 per cent of older Tasmanians. If you are looking at 20 per cent of Tasmanians 65 and over, so 20 per cent of the 500 000 plus, then 2 per cent -20 per cent of that. Significant in other words.

Ms O'CONNOR - I will do the maths while you take another question.