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Elder abuse

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is when someone in a relationship of trust with an older person commits an act causing emotional, psychological, financial, physical or sexual harm or neglect.

Older people might not report or discuss concerns about abuse with others because of feelings of shame, fear of retaliation, worries about involving other family members, or concerns about being institutionalised. Often they're not aware that they're experiencing abuse, or may feel that it's their own fault.

There's no excuse for elder abuse.

If you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, in Queensland you can call the free and confidential Elder Abuse Helpline on 1300 651 192 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. If you, or someone you know is at risk of immediate harm, call the police. In an emergency, call 000.

Visit the Queensland Government website for more information about elder abuse, how to recognise abuse, how to get help or to access support services.

The Seniors enquiry line has information for older people in Queensland, their families and friends, grandparents and carers. Call 1300 135 500.

The Seniors Legal and Support Service (SLASS) gives free legal advice and social support for older people experiencing elder abuse. These services are available through the Caxton Legal Centre in Brisbane, and through some regional community legal centres.

Our services

We have services available to help older Queenslanders with their legal problems including family and domestic violence, consumer rights, family law, and anti-discrimination. For legal help call 1300 65 11 88 or visit a Legal Aid office in your area.

Family and domestic violence services

Everyone has the right to live without fear of violence or abuse. If you're an older person experiencing family or domestic violence from a partner, relative or a family member (such as your children) then there are services available to help you.

If you're at risk of immediate harm, call the police. In an emergency call 000. For help and support call DV Connect on 1800 811 811, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Family and domestic violence related services such as:

If you’re experiencing family or domestic violence, you can:

  • apply for a domestic violence order or ask the police to apply for you
  • apply for an urgent temporary protection order
  • ask the police to charge the person being violent.

Find out how to apply for a domestic violence protection order.

If you're applying for or responding to a domestic violence protection order, or you have a domestic violence order application before the court, then the following services are available to help you:

Find out more about services and support available for people experiencing domestic and family violence.

Consumer rights

There are laws protecting consumers when buying goods and services and when entering into a contract. If you have a dispute with a trader over the purchase of goods and services, or you think your contract includes unfair terms you should get legal advice.

We can give general legal advice about consumer disputes or unfair contracts. Our Consumer Protection Unit also provides specialist advice or representation.  

We may also be able to help older people experiencing abuse in situations such as:

  • Housing and tenancy:
    • Elderly parents being pressured to sign as a joint borrower to a loan rather than a guarantor.
    • Elderly parents being pressured into using their house as security for a loan taken out by their children (eg for a small business or a residential property).
  • Money and debt:
    • Elderly parents or relatives being pressured by debt collectors to help pay off debts despite not having any legal obligation.
    • Resolving debts from banks or financial institutions which may be owed money by older people experiencing financial hardship (eg they are on the pension and own no assets).
    • Older people being pressured into unfair or unsuitable contracts, for example, utilities such as phone, water, electricity, or for the sale of goods and services (eg massage chairs or beds).

Visit the Australian Bankers' Association (ABA) website for more information about financial abuse prevention.

Related publications:

Family law

Family law can be complex, especially if you're a grandparent or older person responsible for caring for a child, grandchild or another family member.

As a grandparent, you may find yourself having to look after your grandchildren because their parents aren't able to care for their children because of drug or alcohol problems, mental health problems, being in jail, working or studying away from home, or the children have been removed from their parent's care by state child protection agencies.

You may also be in a situation where you've been the primary carer for your grandchildren and their parents now want to take the children back into their care.

Special arrangements may be needed if you have a grandchild in your care. This can be done informally through a verbal or informal agreement (ie without signing any documents or going to court), but if you can't agree, then you may need a formal agreement such as a parenting plan putting in writing the living and care arrangements for the child.

Consent orders are another way of formalising an agreement for care arrangements, and can be filed with the court. If the agreement is broken, this option gives some protection for all people involved as it can be enforced by the court. When making an agreement it's important to remember that the court will always take the child's best interests into consideration when deciding the living and care arrangements for children or grandchildren.

For more information about your rights, responsibilities or financial support options read the do you have a grandchild in your care? Factsheet

The consent orders, parenting and parenting plans guide has more information about preparing consent orders, parenting orders and parenting plans.

Wills, power of attorney and legal capacity

Wills and powers of attorney 

We don't give advice about this area of law, and we can't help you prepare or execute a will.  We also don't give legal advice about preparing powers of attorney or advanced health directives, and we can't sign or witness these documents.

This is a complex area of law, and you should get private legal advice if you are being pressured into making a will, changing a will or cancelling a will.

The Public Trustee has information about wills and enduring powers of attorney.   

The Queensland Government website also has information about wills and estate planning and death, wills and probate.

Visit the Queensland Court’s website for information about applying for probate.

If you're making a civil claim about a will or deceased estate, you may be eligible for help through the Civil Law Legal Aid Scheme (CLLAS)

Powers of attorney can be prepared either through a private lawyer or the Public Trustee (for a fee) or by you.

For more information visit The Queensland Government website or the Office of the Public Guardian (for adults).

The Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer practising in this area of law.

Legal capacity

Legal capacity is the ability to make a binding legal agreement, sue another person or to make other legal decisions. To have legal capacity you must be able to understand the significance of what you're doing.

Adults with a mental illness or an intellectual disability may lack legal capacity if they can’t make decisions about property, money management, medical treatment or lifestyle decisions. An adult may lack legal capacity to make decisions in one area of life but not in others. Assessing capacity is a complex matter and you should get legal advice.

Another person may be appointed to make decisions on behalf of a person without legal capacity if an application is made to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to appoint a guardian or administrator or if there's an enduring power of attorney, an advance health directive or statutory health attorney. A litigation guardian may be appointed to act on behalf of a person without legal capacity in legal matters.

The Public Trustee or another person who has a proper interest in a person’s affairs (eg a relative or a doctor) can apply to QCAT to appoint a guardian (for personal matters) or an administrator (for financial matters). If you disagree with QCAT's decision, you may be able to appeal the situation.

If you think an appointed decision-maker is acting improperly, you can make a complaint to the Public Guardian. The Public Guardian protects the rights and interests of adults with impaired capacity, and can investigate complaints about alleged financial or physical abuse of adults with impaired capacity or complaints about abuse of an enduring power of attorney.

Find out more about legal capacity.

Discrimination 

There are legal protections in place to make sure people don't face discrimination, sexual harassment, vilification or bullying because of their age (and other legal attributes such as race, sexuality, disability etc).

Discrimination happens when a person is treated unfairly because of a legally protected attribute they have (eg race, sexuality, age, disability) in certain areas of public life like work or applying for a rental property. If you think you've experienced discrimination because of your age you should get legal advice.

Find out more.

Get legal advice

The following organisations may be able to give legal advice

Caxton Legal Centre's Seniors Legal and Support Service (SLASS) gives free legal advice and social support for older people experiencing elder abuse. These services are available through the Caxton Legal Centre in Brisbane, and through some regional community legal centres.

Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to find out if they can help with your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

National Legal Aid can refer you to other legal aid commissions if your debt or court proceedings are in another state.

LawRight provides specialist services including free legal advice and help about guardianship and public trustee matters.

Women's Legal Service gives free legal advice to women on areas of law including domestic violence and family law.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS) — may be able to give legal representation and advice on family law matters for Indigenous people.

Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Services (QIFVLS) provides legal and counselling services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples suffering from the direct and indirect effects of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Tenants Queensland provides free specialist legal advice and assistance for tenants regarding residential tenancies in Queensland. Tenants Queensland also provides free information kits and factsheets.

Gold Coast Legal Centre and Advice Bureau gives legal advice to both landlords and tenants in relation to rent owing, notice to leave, breach of lease, bond disputes and general duties and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.

Caxton Legal Centre Consumer Law Service gives free specialist legal advice to people with consumer and consumer credit legal problems, including loans, bankruptcy, debt collection, mortgage brokers and financial advisors.

Queensland Aged and Disability Advocacy have information and advocacy services for guardianship and administration matters. They can also help adults with legal capacity issues with Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) processes and help recipients of aged care or community care services to resolve service related matters.

Basic Rights Queensland - Disability Discrimination Legal Advocacy Service gives free specialist telephone legal advice and help in preparing cases and representation for disability discrimination in the workplace.

Queensland Advocacy Incorporated—Human Rights Legal Service gives advice and casework services for persons with impaired capacity that are subject to restrictive practices and involuntary treatment. They also operate a telephone-based legal advice service (HRLS Telephone Legal Advice Service). 

LGBTI Legal Service gives free legal advice and information to LGBTI clients, including legal advice about discrimination.

Who else can help? 

These organisations may be able to help. They don't give legal advice

Queensland Police Service responds to emergency situations (eg if there is violence or you or your children have been threatened). If you think you’re in immediate danger call 000.

DV Connect gives counselling, information, referrals and help including refuge and shelter placement and crisis intervention to people affected by domestic violence. They also manage the Pets in crisis project arranging foster care for pets while people affected by domestic violence are in temporary accommodation.

Mensline (DV Connect) is a free, confidential telephone counselling, referral and support service for men.

Immigrant Women's Support Service offers free confidential, practical and emotional support to immigrant and refugee women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and their children who have experienced domestic or sexual violence.

Family Relationship Advice Line is a free national telephone service giving help to families affected by relationship or separation issues, including parents, grandparents, children, young people, step-parents and friends.    

Family Relationship Centres—give information, referrals, dispute resolution and advice on parenting after separation.

Family courts—deal with family law cases. Court forms and information on family court processes are available online.

Australian Financial Complaints Authority gives independent dispute resolution for unresolved complaints about financial services providers and credit reporting agencies.

The ACCC has information about making a complaint, resolving a consumer problem, consumer guarantees, warranties and refunds, unfair sales methods, and regulations for products and services.

ASIC's MoneySmart website  has information that may be able to help with disputes about financial products and services.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has information on a wide range of consumer related issues, including; guarantees, warranties and refunds, complaints , consumer rights and responsibilities help for Indigenous consumers, buying or selling property, buying or maintaining motor vehicles recognising scams and frauds, buying and using products and services and the latest consumer alerts and product safety and recalls.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) can make decisions on behalf of a person without legal capacity, or they can appoint a guardian or administrator if there's an enduring power of attorney, an advance health directive or statutory health attorney.

The Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA) has information about bankruptcy, including how to go bankrupt, making a person bankrupt, what debts are covered, and consequences of bankruptcy.

The Energy and Water Ombudsman offers a free service to help resolve disputes with electricity, gas or water suppliers.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has a free alternative dispute resolution scheme for unresolved complaints about telephone or internet services.

The Residential Tenancy Authority provides information to all tenants, lessors, agents, residents and service providers in Queensland, and also provides additional services including a dispute resolution service.

The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is an independent body, working to protect the rights and interests of of adults with impaired decision-making capacity. For adults with impaired decision-making capacity, OPG may make decisions if appointed as their guardian or attorney, and may also investigate allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

Queensland Family and Child Commission has expert oversight of Queensland's child protection system and partners with other government and non-government agencies to ensure that best practice services are being delivered for the families and children of Queensland.

The Public Trustee can help with a free will-making service (no legal advice) and can give general information on wills and estates, and the administration of deceased estates. They can also help with preparing an enduring power of attorney and general power of attorney.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (Queensland Government) deals with complaints about workplace harassment, safety and fatigue. They also give information on making a complaint internally through your workplace, or externally through their complaints process.

Queensland Human Rights Commission gives information and helps to resolve complaints about discrimination in public life, including in the workplace.

Australian Human Rights Commission gives information on human rights and resolves complaints about discrimination or breaches of human rights under federal laws.

Related links and information
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