From today, let’s work as one to stop abuse

TIME TO MOVE: Maria Berry continues in her fight to increase awareness of elder abuse. Nicole Butcher has joined her cause and together they want to establish a working group locally. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE
TIME TO MOVE: Maria Berry continues in her fight to increase awareness of elder abuse. Nicole Butcher has joined her cause and together they want to establish a working group locally. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

“I can’t do this on my own”.

Maria Berry has taken on advocacy for elder abuse because she can’t stand the thought of another family going through what hers has.

But sometimes she feels like more doors have closed in her face, than opened.

“It’s really grown momentum, but it’s becoming so overwhelming,” she said.

“I don’t want to turn people away and many are trying to resource what we’ve got for support, but it’s not enough.

“Trying to get it on the radar is important – it’s just not getting through.”

Thursday is World Elder Abuse Day, and Mrs Berry will be sitting in the Melbourne Town Hall as Attorney-General George Brandis launches the Australian Law Reform Commission’s final report into the issue.

“We need law reforms; that goes without saying,” she said.

“We need legal accountability that covers residential care.”

All eyes will be on the federal government for the response to Senator Brandis’ plan for what needs to happen next.

But there’s no time to wait to begin action, according to Nicole Butcher, who has joined Mrs Berry’s cause.

“For there to be real change, it needs to be systematic and the power base needs to be shifted back on to families who have their vested interests in the right place and to the older person themselves,” she said.

“The pendulum has swung too far the other way.

“If peoples' motivations aren’t right, that’s when abuse can happen.”

Mrs Butcher, whose husband Martin is the Disability Advocacy and Information Service executive officer, thinks the community needs to stand up.

“What we need is a working group of people who are passionate about giving choice back to the elderly,” she said.

“We need people who have a voice to come together and work out a terms of reference and what we would like to see happen.

“There is a different between city and regional and that’s not recognised in policy.”

Senior Rights Victoria reports in 2016, people aged 60 years or over made up 5400 of those affected in family violence incidents recorded by Victoria Police.

Mrs Butcher believed the roots of abuse could be traced back to a problem in the cultural value place on older generations.

“Elderly people are seen as a burden … it’s dis-empowerment,” she said.

“If you look at different countries in the world, particularly Asia, it’s just poles apart from the western world.”