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Lawyers welcome elder abuse inquiry, but urge equal focus on safeguards, as well as prevention

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The Australian legal community has welcomed the Federal Attorney General’s commitment to protecting the rights of elderly Australians, but a leading elder abuse lawyer is urging equal attention be given to safeguards and preventive measures.

The announcement that the Australian Law Reform Commission will hold an inquiry into elder abuse was made this morning at the Fourth National Elder Abuse Conference in Melbourne.

Slater and Gordon Lawyer Jessica Latimer is speaking at the conference tomorrow and is urging lawmakers to consider the underlying causes of elder financial abuse.

“The prevalence, impact and distress caused by elder financial abuse are increasing at rates we can no longer ignore,” Ms Latimer said.

“The combination of Australia’s ageing population and the increased wealth of retirees is making our older generation a target for abuse and I welcome the Attorney General’s moves to make this issue a national priority.”

However, Ms Latimer warned safeguards and protective measures will not always be able to stop family, friends or carers doing the wrong thing by the elderly community.

“Elder financial abuse is sometimes described as the “ultimate betrayal” and can be devastating when carried out by a family member,” 

“In my experience, there are a number of existing legal avenues that can be used successfully to assist older people to recoup their financial losses or to enforce property rights, but often it can be difficult for those who are already vulnerable, frail or isolated to access legal assistance." Ms Latimer said.

“No two situations of elder abuse are the same and there are often emotional and financial barriers stopping elderly people exercising their rights.

“That’s why preventative measures, such as public awareness and training, are important, so those who work closely with the elderly community are able to identify and hopefully stop elder financial abuse in its tracks.”