December 12 2016
Law Reform Commission's elder abuse inquiry proposes compensation payments
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The appointed decision-makers of the elderly who abuse their powers could be forced to pay compensation by state and territory tribunals under a proposal by the Australian Law Reform Commission.
The body released its discussion paper on elder abuse on Monday. The wide-ranging document explored how best to protect older Australians from emotional, financial and physical abuse, calling for a national plan and prevalence study to address the issue.
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The Australian Law Reform Commission has released its discussion paper on elder abuse.
The Australian Law Reform Commission has released its discussion paper on elder abuse. Photo: Tamara Voninski
One suggestion was for a national online registration scheme of enduring documents - powers of attorney and enduring guardianship - to make clearer the appointment and role of that person.
Another was to allow state and territory tribunals to order enduring guardians and attorneys to pay compensation where a breach of their obligations has resulted in a loss to the person they represent.
Stop children stealing from elderly parents, discussion paper says
This would allow for the repayment of older people who were unwilling to involve law enforcement, the ALRC argued, while also working as a deterrent for the misuse of funds.
In its submission to the ALRC inquiry, Legal Aid ACT pushed for an expansion of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal's powers to allow the body to award compensation and impose penalties and sanctions.
Legal Aid ACT used confronting case studies to support its case for change. One story involved Alex, the attorney of her mother Beverley.
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Beverley's advanced health directive dictated she was not to be resuscitated. When Beverley became dehydrated, suffered heat stroke and fainted on a hot summer's day, Alex refused to seek medical assistance. Beverley's son Mark sought urgent legal advice and felt comfortable calling an ambulance.
In another case, Mona, an elderly woman who could not read or speak English, was kicked out of her son Hugh's home after a fight with her daughter-in-law. Hugh refused to provide his mother with her medication, important documents or bank account details and was later found to be withdrawing money from her bank account for his own use.
Mona would not pursue legal proceedings against her son due to the shame and stigma she felt at the relationship breakdown.
The Human Rights Commission urged people with views on the issue and discussion paper to make a submission by February 27.
Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson, a member of the inquiry's advisory committee, said elder abuse was a largely hidden phenomenon.
"The present inquiry into elder abuse draws much needed attention to this critical issue, which can have devastating impacts on older Australians physically, psychologically and financially," said Dr Patterson.
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