Stronger protections for vulnerable adults

The Marshall Liberal Government has delivered on its commitment to protect vulnerable South Australians with new laws to establish Australia’s first Adult Safeguarding Unit passing State Parliament.

The Minister for Health and Wellbeing said this landmark legislation is an important milestone for South Australia.

“Until now, there has been no single government agency in the state that has a clear statutory role for vulnerable adults, who, despite having full decision-making capacity, are experiencing abuse or neglect,” Mr Wade said.

The Office for the Ageing (Adult Safeguarding) Amendment Bill 2018 was developed in direct response to issues identified in the Oaken Older Persons Mental Health Service.

“In the shadow of Oakden, the Marshall Liberal team committed to adult safeguarding legislation to protect the rights of vulnerable adults,” Mr Wade said.

“While the former Labor Government allowed reports to gather dust for years, the Marshall Liberal Government honoured its commitment to table legislation within 100 days of taking office.

“It will address the gaps reported in our current system, removing the complexities for people in the past, who have had to navigate multiple systems alone.

“The legislation will establish an agency here in South Australia with statutory responsibility and accountability for responding to reports of abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults and raising awareness about elder abuse in the community.

“The complex nature of abuse means there is no ‘one size fits all’ response.

“The Unit, to begin operating from next year, will also make it easier for the community to report suspected or actual cases of mistreatment of at-risk older Australians who may not be able to safeguard their own rights.

“I would like to take this opportunity to not only recognise all the key stakeholders who have guided this work but also the courage, perseverance, empathy and determination of the families affected so badly by Oakden.

“We believe implementing this legislation will lead the way for adult safeguarding reform around the nation.”

The new laws fulfil a recommendation of the 2011 Closing the Gaps report into elder abuse, which was co-authored by Professor Wendy Lacey and the SA Office of the Public Advocate with the leadership of Dr John Brayley at the time.

The legislation was developed after extensive community and stakeholder consultation, whilst the State Government also worked closely with Professor Wendy Lacey, who helped translate it into law reform.

University of South Australia Dean and Head of School of Law, Professor Wendy Lacey, said the topic of elder abuse has remained prominent in the community since the 2011 report.

“There is a clear policy direction towards encouraging and supporting people to live independently and healthily into their old age, and the majority of persons over 65 continue to live independently with various levels of ongoing support or care,” Professor Lacey said.

“I am pleased to have helped in the development of this national first legislation and congratulate the State Parliament in passing it.

“Through my involvement I have seen and would like to acknowledge the incredible work of many key stakeholders, both within and outside government, who have been working on this type of reform for almost 30 years.”

Passing of the Bill will formally change the name of Office for the Ageing to Office for Ageing Well, in line with the State Government’s commitment to challenging ageism and supporting all South Australians to age well.


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