Report launch hails success of elder abuse program partnership

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus at the report launch on Wednesday 12 April. Picture: PARKER MCKENZIE

By Parker McKenzie

An independent review has hailed the success of two programs run in partnership by Eastern Health and Eastern Legal Community Centre to combat elder abuse while earmarking the programs for expansion.

A launch at Eastern Health’s Box Hill office was attended by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on Wednesday 12 April to release the report into the first three years of the Engaging and Living Safely and Autonomously (ELSA) and Rights of Seniors in the East (ROSE) programs.

ECLC CEO Michael Smith said his organisation has been working in the area for 15 years now.

“In the early days, all our projects had names like under the carpet or behind,” he said.

“Sadly, but thankfully, we’ve become much more aware.”

ECLC partnered with Eastern Health to launch ELSA and ROSE in 2019, and the programs “have achieved their goals to the highest possible levels” and support the adaption of the ELSA and ROSE models to other geographical locations and their continuation and expansion” according to the report.

Eastern Health CEO David Plunkett said the report release was a big moment in the partnership between his organisation and ECLC.

“One key aspect that is discussed at length in this report is collaboration with community partners,” he said.

“We know the needs of our community are changing, in fact the proportion of our population over 85 years is set to grow by 75 per cent by the year 2036.”

The ELSA program comprises of a partnership coordinator, community lawyer, elder abuse advocate and financial counsellor to respond to older Eastern Health patients at risk or experiencing elder abuse.

The ROSE program features a community lawyer, elder abuse advocate, and financial counsellor to respond to older people experiencing or at risk of abuse, working in partnership with Oonah Health and Community Services Aboriginal Corporation and other community partners.

Mr Smith said he first met Mr Deyfus 10 years ago during his first stint as Attorney-General as a part of the Gillard Government, where he pitched a community legal centre in Healesville.

“I’m pleased to say the Yarra Ranges Centre is now in its 10th year,” he said to applause.

Mr Dreyfus said the evaluation demonstrates the incredible work and service the ECLC has provided to “some of our most vulnerable Australians.”

“ECLC has been at the forefront of strenuous efforts to tackle elder abuse and has engaged in policy, advocacy and community education on elder abuse for many years,” he said.

“There is growing awareness in our communities of elder abuse, in part that is thanks to the first national elder abuse prevalence study in December 2021, which revealed that approximately one in six Australians experienced elder abuse in some form.”

The programs have received funding until 2026.

Mr Dreyfus said often pilot programs don’t result in long-term funding.

“I’m very interested in predictability of funding for obviously the legal assistance sector,” he said.

“It’s very important organisations are able to plan.”