Championing the rights of older Australians

Posted on Tuesday, December 20, 2022

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, no matter what our age, we are still entitled to – among other things – be safe and free from violence; have the highest possible standard of mental and physical health; and be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Yet not all older Australians are aware of the protections and support that are available to them as their living and personal situations change.

The Western Australian not-for-profit group, Advocare, seeks to change that by providing advocacy, information and education services to older people and the people who care for them.

Advocare has recently provided training sessions for Brightwater’s newest Registered and Enrolled Nurses to ensure that clients’ rights are understood by staff as well.

Information sessions are also held in Brightwater’s residential aged care facilities allowing clients to better understand their rights and to learn what they can do if they have any concerns.

CEO of Advocare Louise Forster says collaboration with providers like Brightwater enables the organisation to reach the people who might need support.

“One of our main aims is to ensure that more people know about rights in aged care and how to exercise those, whether that's for themselves or a family member or someone they work with,” she explains.

“We're on the journey of collaboration to ensure that message is really important to anyone that's in Brightwater’s sphere.”

The work done by Advocare covers three main areas: 

  • Providing advocacy and information about the rights of the older person;
  • Combating elder abuse; and
  • Delivering the Community Visitors Scheme.

Advocacy and information

The aged care system is complex and can be overwhelming.

Advocare can provide advice and information about the of support available, from at-home packages to
residential aged care.

Advocates also helps to inform people about the Aged Care Act and the Charter of Rights, as well as the Aged
Care Quality and Safety Standards. This information can help residents and their families to better understand what they can do if something doesn’t feel right.

“Most people aren't aware of all things they need to know and how to advocate for them,” Louise says.

“There’s a lot of information to take in when someone enters aged care or is doing the research for it.

“Our advocates can attend residents and families meetings. They can be really helpful in explaining what
the system looks like, and what fairness and equity look like.”

Combating elder abuse

Advocare operates a free and confidential WA Elder Abuse Helpline, where callers can discuss any concerns about a situation that is causing them harm or distress.

The helpline (1300 724 679) operates from 8.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Louise emphasises that the older person is always in charge of what happens after they raise issues with any of Advocare’s staff, from the helpline to the other advocacy services.

“We are free, independent and confidential so we will never take any action without the person asking for it,”
Louise adds. “We don't get the information then take it upon ourselves to follow up. Its only led by the individual.”

The Community Visitors Scheme

Advocare delivers this federally funded program which links volunteers with eligible older people, helping to reduce social isolation for people who live at home or in residential aged care.

“It links really well to the work we do because people might be victims of elder abuse or having some issues around their rights being infringed, but they haven’t had people around them to give them information,” Louise explains.

“So, if they have a community visitor – and those relationships build – then the visitor will often have
some idea about the services that we offer.”

Helping to advocate

Louise says one of the aims of Advocare is to ensure that more people know about, and understand, the rights of older people. Working with a provider like Brightwater helps to achieve that goal.

“Families, prospective clients, staff and service providers: it's about the community championing the rights of older people,” she says.