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Elder abuse

Age Discrimination
Elderly lady looking out a window

Elder abuse has been defined by the World Health Organization as 'a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person'.

Elder abuse can take various forms, including: financial, physical, psychological, emotional and sexual abuse, or neglect. No older person should be subjected to any form of abuse.

In June 2017, the Australian Law Reform Commission published a report titled: Elder Abuse — A
National Legal Response
. Former Age Discrimination Commissioner, the Hon. Dr Kay Patterson AO, worked alongside organisations and government departments to implement the recommendations from this report and the priorities outlined in the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians.

In particular, Dr Patterson:

  • raised awareness of elder abuse and informed older Australians of the supports available to them
  • raised awareness of people’s rights and obligations when entering substitute decision arrangements, such as wills and power of attorney arrangements
  • encouraged the development of elder law education programs and the establishment of an elder law specialist accreditation
  • fostered connections between organisations to encourage the evaluation and sharing of existing programs and best practice
  • worked with stakeholders across various industries, such as health and finance, to increase workforce understanding and awareness of elder abuse.

Planning ahead for later life 

Older parents with their children and grandchildren

The Australian Human Rights Commission has produced a range of educational resources to raise awareness about the importance of planning ahead for later life. 

The focus of our Have You Thought About Later Life? campaign is to provide resources in English and five community languages to support Australians to have these conversations.   

Future planning empowers older people to have choice and control over their senior years and provides peace of mind for them and their loved ones. It involves thinking about and then talking to those you trust about your future healthcare, financial and lifestyle choices. 

Planning ahead maximises your opportunity to live and enjoy your later years the way you want and helps those around you understand your wishes and how best to support you. making plans can safeguard your rights in the future, reduce family stress and conflict, and even protect you against elder abuse. 

Find out more about planning ahead for later life...


Shift your perspective | 2022 campaign

Encouraging perpetrators of elder abuse to understand the impact of their actions is the focus of this new awareness campaign.

Launched on Saturday 1 October to coincide with the 2022 International Day of Older Persons, the campaign includes a series of videos which prompt perpetrators to consider how their behaviour might be affecting older people in their lives.

We hope this new campaign will bring about a shift in perspective among perpetrators and educate all Australians about what elder abuse can look like and where to get support.


Past elder abuse campaigns

What can you do to help | 2021 campaign

On the International Day of Older Persons, 1 October 2021, Dr Patterson launched a new elder abuse video campaign ‘What can you do to help’ to raise awareness among people who interact with older Australians about the warning signs of elder abuse and where to get support. 


Know the signs | 2020 campaign

This was the Commission’s second elder abuse awareness video. The first elder abuse video campaign ‘Know the Signs’ was launched on the 1 October 2020 and encourages people to open their eyes to elder abuse, know the warning signs and understand that it can happen to any older person.


Elder abuse resources in 20 languages

Dr Patterson also developed elder abuse awareness bookmarks and posters to increase community awareness of the signs of elder abuse and the National Elder Abuse phone line. The resources are available in 20 languages including English. If you would like to request bookmarks and posters to share with your community, please contact or click on the links below to download:

During her term, Dr Patterson worked closely with key stakeholders on the issue of elder abuse and encouraged the sharing of a range of elder abuse programs and resources.

For more information on national, state and territory activities to respond to the abuse of older Australians, see the Implementation Plan, available at

If you are concerned about elder abuse you may want information, or the opportunity to talk to someone about your concerns, and options for getting help.

1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374) is the National Elder Abuse phone line. 1800ELDERHelp automatically redirects callers seeking information or advice on elder abuse to their state or territory phone line service. If you require assistance in an emergency or life-threatening situation, contact 000.