Students to lobby Canberra on sexual violence in aged care

Aged Care Residents

Monash University Science students Ashleigh May and Meghan Wright will head to Canberra next week to address the management of sexual violence in Australian residential aged care facilities.

Their research found that Australian institutional aged care facilities receive inadequate support from governing and regulatory bodies. In their discussions with aged care workers the pair heard they were under-resourced and lacked the knowledge to deal with incidents of sexual violence.

Sexual assault is considered the most hidden, as well as least acknowledged and reported, form of elder abuse.

“This is a human rights issue, and an institutionalised problem against one of Australia’s most vulnerable groups,” Meghan said.

Ashleigh and Meghan will present nine recommendations to members of parliament and the Department of Health to improve the management of sexual violence.

The recommendations include an Australia-wide multidisciplinary elder abuse prevention and management service.

They also recommend:

  • National, regional and local initiatives;
  • A public communication strategy that improves the perception of aged care and older people;
  • The development of partnerships with stakeholders in the prevention and management of sexual violence;
  • A review of how the current allocation of resources to residential aged care services impacts the likelihood of sexual violence and efforts to prevent sexual violence;
  • A review of the existing reporting mechanisms for sexual violence in aged care;
  • Responses to the recommendations in a number of earlier reports into aged care;
  • That every aged care service has the skills to provide appropriate responses to residents who have experienced past or current sexual violence;
  • The Australian Government uphold the agreed set of national research priorities (proposed in the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians).

“We believe these recommendations have the potential to address aged care tensions that currently hinder the likelihood of a successful intervention against sexual violence and elder abuse within facilities,” Ashleigh said.

Their recommendations will be presented ahead of the Royal Commissioner’s interim report into Aged Care Quality and Safety, due to be released October 31, 2019.

Since it’s establishment in October 2018, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has already found evidence of inadequate training and understaffing at multiple aged care facilities across Australia.

“Without recognising the importance of the proposed interventions, the investigation, royal commission and recommendations will be a waste of time and taxpayer dollars,” Ashleigh said.

Ashleigh and Meghan will present their recommendations during a sitting week in parliament from 16th to 20th September.

The pair are led by Professor Joseph Ibrahim from the Health Law and Ageing Research Unit at Monash University’s Department of Forensic Medicine. They are completing their research as part of their honour’s year of a Monash Science Advanced Global Challenges degree.

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