To mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2021 Financial Counselling Victoria (FCVic) held a special forum about parent visas. Attended by about 40 members and invited colleagues, we were fortunate to hear from an excellent panel –
- • Mr Don Susantha Katugampala – Fairfields Lawyers
- • Mr Henry Sherrell – Grattan Institute
- • Dr Santosh Kumar – Northern Region Indian Seniors Association (Vic) Inc
- • Dr Medha Gunawardana – Australian Multicultural Community Services
Our guests contributed their expert and up to date knowledge of the parent visa system including, most importantly, the lived experience of families. Australia’s parent visa system is extremely complex and introduces many points of vulnerability for families seeking to reunite and support each other. There are several different types of visa each with its own waiting times, costs and conditions.
Hearing our four speakers was like listening to the four winds: as each would take a fresh position from the other, adding to our understanding of the issues. So, the session built a deep, rich and multi-faceted appreciation of the vexed issues raised by the parent visa system.
2021 also marks the beginning of the United Nations Decade for Healthy Ageing (2021-2030) and FCVic is busy building on the work of several years – ‘Dignity and Debt’, a joint project with the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Mansfield Shire Council and Goulburn Valley Health, explored the issue of aged care clients experiencing financial hardship. This was followed by two years of funding from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services for ‘Financial Counselling Capacity Building in Elder Abuse’ building capacity in and around financial counselling as an integral part of service responses to potential elder abuse.
We have recently partnered with Australian Multicultural Community Services (AMCS) on their project ‘Money Talks for Better Ageing’ funded by Ecstra. This work, supported by members: Katrina Barrett, Mike Kirkness, Amanda Bernhard and Rachna Bowman, has generated two videos and a factsheet to increase awareness of financial elder abuse and introduce the help offered by financial counsellors. The videos (watch the English version below) and factsheet have been translated into ten community languages – they will be used to support community workshops organised by AMCS and will be available to members for use in your own community development activities as well as to other interested organisations.
Building on all this work, we have recently been working towards two further projects tackling financial vulnerability and abuse affecting older Victorians (see box case examples). The first, ‘Stronger than Before: Rebuilding financial resilience for older residents of bushfire areas’ complements allocation of funding for three financial counsellors in Victoria’s bushfire areas – East Gippsland, Alpine and Towong – to specifically address elder abuse following the disaster. The second, ‘Standing Strong: Financial resilience for older carers’ has been submitted as an Expression of Interest in partnership with Alfred Health Carer Services and Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre. If successful, it will pay specific attention to the challenges faced by hidden or under-acknowledged older age carers, including those from LGBTIQ and/or culturally diverse communities.
We are delighted to have these to strengthen the contribution that financial counsellors can make for these vulnerable groups, and welcome member input to the work. The elder abuse community of practice was formed last year and will continue to meet to guide and inform these projects. Please get in touch if you would like to join the effort.
Please contact: Suzy Goldsmith [email protected]
‘Stronger than Before: Rebuilding financial resilience for older residents of bushfire areas’
“Mary” lost her home during the bushfires. Prior to this she and her husband had lived in their family home for more than 40 years.
Following the bushfires Mary went to live with her son and his family, she then purchased a property after eight months as she felt it was time to leave. Mary says that she does not love her new property but because there were not many properties available she just bought it so she would no longer be a bother to her family.
A few months after this Mary was very shocked to be told that her son and his family were now moving away from the area. Mary said that although she did not expect her children to look after her it would be nice to have family close by. Mary stated that she thought she should be coping better following the bushfires and that she felt she just couldn’t make decisions anymore like she used to. She said she was feeling pressured by her children to sell the land (this was all that was left after the bushfires).
Mary said that she felt conflicted as this land was where her children had grown up and she said she still felt attached to it. She said her children were aware that she was a self-funded retiree as her husband had set this up for her many years ago before he passed away. Mary said that discussions with her children now were always about selling the land as they believed this was a way for Mary to “move on”.
Case supplied by Jodie Ashworth
‘Standing Strong: Financial resilience for older carers’
Alison and Bill have been married for 37 years. Recently, Bill has developed difficulties associated with dementia, and Alison has become his carer. The role is a challenging one for Alison, herself now 75 years old, and Bill a few years older.
Alison and Bill have always kept their finances separate, at Bill’s insistence – Alison pays for all the living expenses and Bill pays the mortgage.
Bill’s children from his first marriage have become newly engaged with and reconnected with Bill. Without warning or discussion, Bill has stopped paying the mortgage. Bill’s daughter arrives at the house unannounced and takes him out, often only returning him late at night. Large withdrawals are being made from Bill’s bank account. Bill refuses to discuss any of this with Alison which is deeply upsetting for her.
At the same time, Alison’s own financial situation and indeed, that of the couple, is becoming increasingly precarious.
Case supplied by Suzy Goldsmith