Skip to main content

Protecting the Rights of Older Australians

The Australian Government is committed to preventing and responding to elder abuse

What is elder abuse?

The Australian Government is committed to preventing and responding to elder abuse.

Note: The Attorney-General's Department provides policy support to address elder abuse. We cannot provide legal advice to the public or investigate any complaints of unlawful or abusive behaviour. For assistance with potential or actual cases of elder abuse, refer to information on the elder abuse phone line: 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374).

Abuse of older people is a complex issue which is often caused by someone who is trusted by the older person, such as a family member, friend, professional, or paid caregiver. Abuse can occur in a number of settings, including the older person's home. Sometimes, both the victim and perpetrator do not recognise that what is occurring is abuse. Abuse affects both men and women, and people from all walks of life.

There are a range of definitions and frameworks to describe the abuse of older people.

The World Health Organisation (Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse 2002) defines elder abuse 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. It can be of various forms: physical, psychological/emotional, sexual, financial or simply reflect intentional or unintentional neglect. Elder abuse is a violation of human rights and a significant cause of injury, illness, lost productivity, isolation and despair.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) developed the following working definition of elder abuse:

a single or repeated act or failure to act, including threats, that results in harm or distress to an older person. This occurs where there is an expectation of trust and/or where there is a power imbalance between the party responsible and the older person.

We have developed the 'Elder Abuse: Everyone's Business' animated video to increase awareness of elder abuse in the Australian community.

We also provide information in a range of languages about elder abuse and guidance on where people can go to access help or further information.

1800ELDER Help phone line posters
Downloadable web tiles

Elder abuse in Australia

As at 30 June 2020, around 16% of the Australian population is aged 65 and over – approximately 4.2 million people. Australia has an ageing population and this number is projected to rise to 23% by 2060-61.

The National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study, released in December 2021, was the largest study to date into elder abuse in Australia. The research suggests that approximately 1 in 6 older Australians experience elder abuse in a given year.

Evidence also suggests that most abuse of older people is intra-familial and intergenerational, making it challenging and complex to address.

The response to elder abuse

Since 2016, the Australian Government has led a range of initiatives to respond to and prevent elder abuse. These include:

  • developing and implementing the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians
  • developing an Elder Abuse Knowledge Hub (
  • targeting research activities, to strengthen our understanding of the nature and prevalence of elder abuse in Australia
  • increasing specialist front-line services to support older people and their families seeking help
  • establishing a national helpline for elder abuse, 1800 ELDERHelp
  • increasing community awareness and understanding of elder abuse
  • supporting the establishment of the national peak body for elder abuse, Elder Abuse Action Australia (EAAA)
  • supporting the work of the Australian Human Rights Commission's Age Discrimination Commissioner in tackling ageism,
  • working with states and territories to reform enduring powers of attorney arrangements.

National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians

The National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians (Elder Abuse) 2019-2023 (National Plan) was launched in 2019.

National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians (Elder Abuse) 2019-2023

The National Plan was developed in collaboration with state and territory governments, and provides an overview of the priority issues that governments need to act on as a priority, as well as early agreed actions to address them.

It sets out a framework for ongoing cooperation, action and monitoring against 5 key priority areas:

  1. Enhancing our understanding
  2. Improving community awareness and access to information
  3. Strengthening service responses
  4. Planning for future decision-making
  5. Strengthening safeguards for vulnerable older adults.

These priority areas will result in:

  • access to better information about elder abuse, to enable governments to target effective responses
  • better co-ordination across jurisdictions, as many families live across multiple states or territories and may struggle to navigate systems and rules operating in different locations
  • an improvement in people's access to information about elder abuse, including driving greater service responses, through additional investment in front-line support services
  • greater attention on the benefits of planning ahead and making it easier and safer for older people to utilise future-planning tools such as powers of attorney.

The National Plan complements, but does not replace, federal, state and territory policies about ageing and elder abuse.

The National Plan's release met a key recommendation of the Australian Law Reform Commission's 2017 report, Elder Abuse: A national legal response.

Companion documents to the National Plan

There are 3 companion documents supporting the National Plan:

National Plan monitoring

An Implementation Executive Group made up of senior-level representatives from the federal, state and territory governments monitors and oversees the implementation of the National Plan and Implementation Plan. The Implementation Plan is reviewed annually.

COMPASS – Guiding action on elder abuse

COMPASS – Guiding Action on Elder Abuse brings together the best resources and information on elder abuse from across the country. Funded by the Australian Government and developed by EAAA, COMPASS is designed to improve community awareness of elder abuse and access to information.

National research program

The Australian Government is focused on strengthening the evidence base on the nature and prevalence of elder abuse in Australia.

National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study

In 2019, we commissioned AIFS to conduct Australia's first national study into the prevalence of elder abuse.

Read a full copy of the National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study on the AIFS website.

The study has improved our understanding of the scope and nature of elder abuse in Australia and continues to inform federal, state and territory policy and program design to address elder abuse.

Research insights

In March 2019, we also commissioned 2 research reports to build an evidence base and provide insights into the nature of abuse of older Australians. These reports complement the data collected in the prevalence study.

Specialist Elder Abuse Services

The Australian Government has committed further funding from 2022-23 to 2025-26 to continue to deliver specialist elder abuse services to older people experiencing, or at risk of, elder abuse.

The specialist elder abuse services have been trialled since 2018-19 and include the following components.

Specialist elder abuse units

The units comprise lawyers, social workers and other specialist and support staff, who work side by side with clients to develop a case plan and respond to the individual's needs.

Health-justice partnerships

Older people in the health care system who are identified by health care workers and social workers as being at risk or potentially subjected to elder abuse, can access specialised legal support services. These work in partnership with the health system and related referral agencies, such as community aged care services. Early evidence suggests this model reaches very vulnerable people who are not otherwise identified, such as those experiencing neglect and/or isolation.

Case management and mediation services

Case management and mediation services work with the older person and their family, to find solutions to the underlying problems driving abuse. Elder abuse can have its roots in complex family relationships, where there is conflict between adult children, family breakdown, family violence and mental health problems. This model recognises that older people may seek to first address issues within their family before seeking external assistance.

An evaluation of the specialist Elder Abuse Service Trials was completed in 2021 and is available here.

Eligibility for services

Generally, these services will assist people aged 65 and over, or 50 and over for First Nations Australians.

To access support from a service, you may be referred from another service or you can contact them directly to determine eligibility for assistance.

Each service primarily focuses on the older person, but depending on the support required, other family members may use the services (particularly family-based mediation services).

Services will be available in circumstances of elder abuse, but it is possible abuse may be co-occurring with other issues (e.g. gambling addiction, substance abuse or lack of alternative accommodation), and referrals to other support providers may be required.

Grant recipients

The following services have received grants under the program:


Type of service


Eastern Community Legal Centre INC

T: 1300 32 52 00

Specialist elder abuse unit

Vic metro

Uniting Community INC

Uniting Communities Law Centre - Elder Abuse Unit
T: (08) 8202 5960 or 1300 886 220 for country callers

Specialist elder abuse unit

SA metro

Legal Aid Commission of Tas

T: 1300 366 611 or (03) 6236 3800 (South) or (03) 6328 4000 (North)

Specialist elder abuse unit

Tas regional

Kimberley Community Legal Services INC

T: Free Call Kununurra 1800 686 020
T: (08) 9169 3100

T: (08) 9192 5177 Free call Broome 1800 797 088

Specialist elder abuse unit

WA regional

Legal Aid Commission of NSW

T: (02) 4324 5611

Specialist elder abuse unit

NSW inner regional

Justice Connect NSW

T: (02) 8599 2100

Health-justice partnership

NSW metro

Eastern Community Legal Centre INC

T: 1300 32 52 00

Health-justice partnership

Vic metro

Caxton Legal Centre INC

OPALS lawyer 
T: 0408 376 117 or (07) 3214 6333

OPALS community social worker 
T: 0427 727 399 or (07) 3214 6333  

Health-justice partnership

Qld metro

Relationships Australia (Qld)

Elder Mediation Service
T: 1300 364 277

Elder Abuse Prevention and Support Service
T: 1300 063 232 (Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturdays 9am to 5pm)

Senior Financial Protection Service
T: 1300 063 232 from Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturdays 9am to 5pm.

Case management and mediation

Qld metro

Relationships Australia (NT)

Senior Relationship Services
T: 1300 458 600

Case management and mediation

NT metro and regional

Relationships Australia Canberra and Region INC

T: 1300 364 277 
Canberra Region (02) 6122 7100
Riverina Murray Region (02) 6923 9100

Case management and mediation

ACT metro/
NSW regional

Relationships Australia (WA)

Peel Senior Relationship Service
T: 1300 364 277 or (08) 6164 0173

Case management and mediation

WA regional

Elder abuse phone line

1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374) is a free call phone number that automatically redirects callers seeking information and advice on elder abuse with the existing phone line service in their jurisdiction. The phone line was established in collaboration with state and territory governments.

Elder abuse phone lines are not crisis support services, and operating hours and services vary across jurisdictions.

If you require immediate assistance in an emergency or life-threatening situation, contact Triple Zero (000).

For assistance with other aged care issues, visit My Aged Care or call 1800 200 422.

To raise concerns about your aged care support, visit the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission website.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is commemorated each year on 15 June to highlight elder abuse.

The United Nations General Assembly officially recognised WEAAD in December 2011. This followed from a request by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), who first established the commemoration in June 2006.

International Day of Older Persons

In 1990, the United Nations General Assembly designated 1 October as the International Day of Older Persons. This date of significance is celebrated annually to recognise the contributions of older persons and to examine issues that affect their lives.