As our population ages, elder abuse and greater supports and services for the aged increasingly require a societal response.  Darwin Community Legal Service and the Council of the Ageing NT are united in calling for governments at all levels to step up in dealing with these emerging issues.

We welcome the announcement of a National Plan by the Federal Attorney-General and invite the Northern Territory Government to match other states and territories in developing its own strategy.  However, too often governments commit to plans without actions and this cannot be just another piece of paper.

We seek confirmation that the plan will outline reforms and actions developed in conjunction with the ageing and be adequately resourced.  The objective should be quality service delivery that better supports social and economic participation.

The abuse of older people occurs more commonly than we would like to believe, and is rapidly being recognised as a serious issue that must be addressed. The prevalence of elder abuse ranges from 2% – 14% of all people over the age of 65 years. The 2016 census identified 6.87% of the NT population as being over 65 years and growing.  Care and support services are growing exponentially but need to be better regulated and appropriately funded.

In the Northern Territory, the problem is more complex.  Demographics and remoteness challenge the provision of support and services.  Family and cultural issues and the nature of small communities contribute to a culture of silence and shame.

Linda Weatherhead, Executive Director Darwin Community Legal Service said,

“The statistics we have are alarming and the stories even more so, but these are just the tip of the iceberg.  It is important that we identify the social and economic impacts of elder abuse and neglect which are still largely unknown.

Social exclusion, the lack of voice and economic clout, and the gap in services and supports are all issues that lead to a vast under-representation of this problem.”

Sue Shearer, CEO of Council of the Aging NT

“It is vital that our vulnerable Territorians are protected from abuse as unfortunately it is all too prevalent and it needs a concerted effort by the NT government across all agencies to ensure we can meet the needs of our senior Territorians who are experiencing elder abuse.”

DCLS has conducted a survey to assist us in drawing a picture of the type and range of mistreatment experienced by older people in the Northern Territory.  The results will be released soon.

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