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Preventing elder abuse with technology and the law

Technology can help more older Australians take steps to prevent elder abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond.

 

Why we need digital witnessing enshrined in law

The COVID-19 pandemic has been placing older Australians at increased risk of abuse due to growing pressure on families and isolation away from community supports.

Older people can use legal documents like Enduring Power of Attorney and Appointment of Enduring Guardian to enshrine their agency and prevent elder abuse.

Often, the law requires solicitors to be physically present to witness the making or revoking of these documents. This has been made impossible by COVID-19 restrictions that have prevented lawyers from meeting with their clients physically.

Increased use of digital platforms to witness documents means that people who previously had difficulties commuting and accessing courts or their lawyer’s office can now do so wherever they are. For people who live in regional areas, or for who commuting brings about other issues (family commitments, disability, transport or limited financial resources), witnessing documents remotely increases equal access to legal advocacy.

Advocating for states to make progress

We’ve been monitoring our casework data to track how COVID-19 is impacting our older clients.

Read our analysis

In April 2020, we published a position paper to advocate for changes in New South Wales to witnessing requirements during the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 (NSW).

Read our position paper

In March 2021, the Victorian Parliament passed the Justice Legislation Amendment (System Enhancements and Other Matters) Bill 2021 (Vic), which made permanent two important changes.

Read more on Fair Matters

We need to roll out digital witnessing reforms nationally

When safeguards are in place, digital witnessing of documents is an effective way to prevent elder abuse and increase access to legal advocacy. Introducing these reforms and safeguards nationally will reduce the risk of elder abuse for our clients.

Advocacy to end elder abuse

As part of our advocacy effort, we regularly make submissions to Royal Commissions and provide recommendations to government.

Our stories

Margot overcomes elder abuse

She left the hospital knowing she had a right to feel safe in her own home.

Read Margot's story