The effectiveness of Queensland law in its ability to protect vulnerable older Queenslanders from abuse has been questioned in a new discussion paper released today.
Coinciding with this week's World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the discussion paper - Elder Abuse: How well does the law in Queensland cope? - is a joint initiative of the Public Advocate of Queensland and the Queensland Law Society (QLS). The paper's release kick-starts a two-month consultation period on the issues and how the laws might be improved.
Chair of the Elder Law Section at the QLS, Brian Herd, said while Queensland's laws provide some protection against certain forms of elder abuse, some older people are left vulnerable, particularly those who may be dependent on others, are frail, of limited liability, or who have impaired capacity.
"With increasing awareness of elder abuse in Queensland, we need to explore whether the state's laws sufficiently deter physical or psychological harm or financial exploitation," Herd said.
"Queensland law does not criminalise the abuse of older people in the same way as the abuse of other vulnerable minorities such as children or those with an intellectual impairment."
Lindsay Irons, Queensland's acting Public Advocate, said that while many older persons are independent and able to manage their own affairs, others are highly vulnerable, such as those whose capacity to make their own decisions is impaired.
"A range of measures needs to be in place to deter abuse and respond appropriately when it does occur," Irons said. "The legal system is a key part of this process. This paper acknowledges the legal measures already in place to protect older people and asks the question of whether these protections, both civil and criminal, should be strengthened."
The paper, which will be launched today by Supreme Court of Queensland Justice Ann Lyons, argues for a multi-agency approach to the issues and consideration of legal reform where appropriate.
"The aim of this paper is to get people talking and thinking about these sorts of issues and how our laws can be changed to make them more relevant and accessible to the elderly," Herd said.
The issues paper is available at www.qls.com.au