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Protecting elders from abuse in care

Adjournment

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (18:55): (1987)

My adjournment is to the Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, and the action I seek again is for the minister to detail how training in practice is being strengthened in state-managed aged-care homes in response to the sexual assault and abuse of residents.

On October 28 last year I raised an important adjournment matter concerning reports that abuse of residents by staff who commit a sexual assault could possibly be classified as non-urgent. This adjournment is still to be answered.

On June 14 — the day before World Elder Abuse Awareness Day — the campaign called #ReadyToListen was launched for 2022.

#Ready to Listen is aimed at building the skills and capacity of residential aged-care service providers so they can better respond to, and prevent, sexual assault in residential aged-care settings. Maria Berry, from the Older Persons Advocacy Network, is a loud and proud advocate for the rights and needs of older people in our communities. OPAN is one of the leaders of the #Ready to Listen project in partnership with Celebrate Ageing and the Older Women’s Network in New South Wales.

The statistic that 50 sexual assaults occur in residential aged care in Australia every week is horrifying. The fact that little has improved since the royal commission into aged care quality and safety (in 2021) continues the assessment of this issue as a source of national shame—and I am ashamed of this statistic for our older people. I am angry, and I fear for those who are vulnerable in settings where they deserve nothing but compassion, respect and safety.

When I raised this issue in October last year I noted a KPMG 2019 study found that almost 60 per cent of aged care staff considered a sexual assault survivor had experienced no physical or psychological impact after being raped or sexually assaulted. In one-third of cases incidents were resolved without any formal intervention.

The serious incident response scheme came into effect in April 2021 and requires every residential aged care service to have in place an effective incident management system for eight types of reportable incidents. This includes the use of unreasonable force, unlawful or inappropriate sexual contact and psychological or emotional abuse. It concerns me that the regulator asks staff to determine the impact on the victim and whether there are reasonable grounds to report an incident to police. This could mean that if staff deemed it to have no impact sexual assault might not be reported for 30 days or reported to police at all.

Victoria’s public health system is the largest provider of public sector residential aged care in the nation, and nearly 90 per cent of these homes are in regional and areas. As a leading provider the state government should be a model provider in leading the way and providing quality care that ensures the safety of residents. That includes ensuring that protective measures are in place to minimise the risk of sexual abuse and ensuring appropriate trauma-informed responses are there when required.