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Our fight to protect elderly Australians from financial abuse continues at Parliament House

A step in the right direction.

By Sarah Macrae
UPDATE 29/11/19: Today, Attorneys-General from state and territory governments agreed to work on establishing minimum standards for Powers of Attorney (POA) as well as a national register. "A mandatory national online register will help bank staff check to ensure a POA is valid and up to date when a customer comes into a branch to complete transactions on someone else's behalf," says Anna Bligh, CEO of the Australian Banking Association who, alongside Bauer Media — publisher of The Weekly — launched the Stop Elder Financial Abuse campaign earlier this year. While Bligh acknowledges that there is still more work to be done, this is a crucial first step in helping to detect and prevent elder financial abuse.
The statistics around elder financial abuse make for a sombre and heartbreaking read.
It's estimated that one in 10 older Australians experience financial abuse every year, with women aged 80 and over being most at risk.
Even more concerning: the majority of perpetrators of elder abuse are sons and daughters of the victims.
There's no doubt that it's a growing problem — especially when you consider the reality that many instances go undetected and unreported — that affects a very vulnerable section of society.
Earlier this year, The Australian Women's Weekly, along with the Australian Banking Association (ABA), announced our Stop Elder Financial Abuse campaign calling for better protection for older Australians and better laws against this insidious abuse.
Last week, Nicole Byers, Editor-in-Chief of The Weekly, and Anna Bligh, the CEO of the ABA, headed to Canberra to launch the campaign at Parliament House.
(L-R): Ian Yates, CEO of COTA, Nicole Byers, Editor-in-Chief of The Weekly, Anna Bligh, CEO of the ABA, and Christian Porter, Attorney-General of Australia, at Parliament House discussing the Stop Elder Financial Abuse campaign and lobbying for change.
The Parliament House launch was significant as it meant Bligh was able to brief the nation's decision makers on the campaign ahead of the all-important Council of Attorneys-General (CAG) meeting on Friday, 29 November.
The CAG meeting will see Attorneys-General from all states and territories meet to discuss economic, social and national security issues across the countries.
The Stop Elder Financial Abuse campaign calls on governments across Australia to establish:
  • Power of Attorney laws that are the same across the country to protect older people from this kind of abuse.
  • A National Power of Attorney (POA) register to check if POA documents are legitimate and current.
  • Somewhere to report elder financial abuse in each state so that it can be investigated.
"Laws that are the same in each state, plus a national online register, will mean elderly people can put their affairs in order without the added stress of updating it or starting again should they choose to move," says Craig Gear, CEO of the Older Persons Advocacy Network.

So what happens next?

Christian Porter, the Attorney-General of Australia, said the government is taking this problem "very, very seriously," pointing to the recent launch of the 1800 ELDERHelp helpline — an easy-to-remember nationwide number where anyone can report elder abuse.
At the CAG meeting next month, he will discuss the campaign and his suggestions for reforms needed with each state and territory's Attorney-General to see if they can reach a consensus that will assist the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
First and foremost, Porter will lobby for every state and territory to make it mandatory for a POA to be registered in their respective state or territory.
He'd also like there to be nationwide amendments to POA laws to make them consistent, paving the way for the possibility of a national POA register. While those are his primary objectives, his long-term goals involve more legislative changes to further help protect Australians against elder financial abuse.
The above actions all depend on the outcome of next month's Attorneys-General meeting — all states and territories must agree for national laws to change — but Porter's support of the campaign and awareness of the importance of the issue is a positive sign.

What can you do to help?

  • Sign our petition for nationally consistent laws and a National Power of Attorney Register.
  • Ensure you and your family members have a trusted Power of Attorney to protect their assets in the future.
  • Share your story of financial abuse to help others at mystory@bauer-media.com.au.

Where to get help, advice and confidential support about elder financial abuse:

The following confidential helplines and associations are designed to offer support, advice and guidance around elder financial abuse:

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