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Calls to end abuse of migrant seniors

Victoria needs a co-ordinated strategy to stop its multicultural seniors falling victim to elder abuse, a new parliamentary report says.

A Legislative Assembly committee inquiry into support for older Victorians from migrant and refugee backgrounds delivered 76 recommendations on Tuesday.

They include calls to support professional development and career pathways for bi-cultural and bilingual workers, and to increase funding for ethno-specific and multicultural organisations.

The legal and social issues committee also recommended the state government trial or implement a care finder initiative to help culturally diverse older people access support in their local areas.

The inquiry received 73 submissions and held five days of public hearings.

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition says while language barriers have been identified as a common hurdle, he believes there are issues stemming from a cultural divide and a lack of information on available services.

“This is both a language issue but also one of accessibility, where the information actually reaches. Very often it just doesn’t reach the individuals and communities that need the information.”

He added that there is a general wariness of authorities among refugee and migrant communities, that comes from a lifetime of experiencing discrimination.

Authorities are perceived as a threat to wellbeing instead of a source of help, he said.

Seniors Rights Victoria principal lawyer Rebecca Edwards said certain factors can increase the risk of abuse among older migrants and refugees.

“Elder abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, socio-economic background, number of children et cetera,” she said.

“There are however factors that can heighten the risk of elder abuse … cognitive impairment, being divorced or in a second marriage, and having stepchildren.”

Human rights advocate Fabia Claridge from People Just Like Us said too often the value of multicultural elders is overlooked.

“People from non-Anglo cultures have so much to offer our general society,” she told AAP.

“Storytelling and dance come to mind but there are other ‘non tangible assets’ about ways of being in the world and the importance of sharing and community that our excessively individual culture can learn from multicultural seniors.”

Committee chair and Labor MP Natalie Suleyman said the pandemic had negatively impacted many communities.

“The Victorian government has a role to play in facilitating the safe re-engagement of older people in the community,” she said.

“It must build healthcare and social services systems that deliver high-quality and culturally safe care that adequately meets the diverse needs of older Victorians.”

The Victorian government has six months to respond to the recommendations.

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