Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and on Sunday the Federal Government announced the launch of a new ‘Serious Incident Response Scheme’ (SIRS).

SIRS imposes new rules upon residential aged care facilities with the goal of better protecting our vulnerable elderly population.

The scheme is a welcome addition to the elder law landscape and follows a Royal Commission report in 2017 which referred to a “shocking tale of neglect” of elderly Australians, and more recently, a KPMG report that estimates a deeply disturbing number of approximately 52,000 cases of assault and abuse against the elderly annually go unreported annually in Australia.

Of course, the work doesn’t end there; elder abuse does not only occur in aged care homes but in many areas of life.

In our line of work, we encounter many older Australians who have tragically suffered from physical, emotional, or financial abuse within the family home.  There is enormous reluctance to report this sort of abuse within families – whether that is due to fear, shame, or simply a lack of knowledge around what constitutes abuse, and what to do about it when it happens.

Elder abuse at home is not simply a family matter, it is a matter of family violence. The SIRS launch is a good step forward in providing better protections for those elderly people living in aged care facilities, but it is not a cure-all.

What is needed, as noted by the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, is a change in community mindset, and with that, increased pressure on our lawmakers to keep pushing forward in ensuring that the vulnerable among us are protected.

We must all take responsibility for identifying and acting on elder abuse when we see it. If you suspect elder abuse in any form, you can contact the Elder Abuse Help Line on 1300 724 679. h