Wednesday, 24 February 2016
Questions without Notice
Senator Ronaldson, Domestic and Family Violence
I thank the chamber for its indulgence on this special occasion. The government is taking significant steps to put the rights of older Australians on the national agenda. As part of that, we are recognising and seeking to raise public awareness of the problem of elder abuse, which is a human rights issue and a social problem which should resonate with all of us. Earlier today, in Melbourne, I opened the 4th National Elder Abuse Conference, and I took the opportunity to announce that I have asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to conduct a major inquiry into the laws and frameworks that safeguard older Australians from abuse. That was a reference I sent to the Australian Law Reform Commission yesterday. That inquiry will assist the government in identifying best practices for protecting older Australians, while promoting respect for their rights and choices. I have asked the ALRC to report by May 2017.
I am sure all honourable senators would join me in believing that all Australians have the right to make their own decisions, to live self-determined lives, to live free from indignity, exploitation, violence and abuse, and that those rights do not diminish with age. The abuse of older Australians—psychological abuse, physical abuse and even, on occasion, sexual and financial abuse—is a deep problem for Australian society. It is, as I said a moment ago, an insufficiently appreciated problem. It can be addressed partly through the legal system, but at a deeper level it needs to be addressed by a change of attitudes and a change of culture. That is what the government seeks to lead, and I am sure that in doing so we will have support across party lines.