Report tabled by the South Australian Joint Select Committee into Elder Abuse in South Australia

Ali Clarke: Now I want to talk about something that has been, as it should be, in the forefront of all of our minds all of us know or have had to deal with looking after a loved one who is elderly and it’s just so hard at times. Barb Spriggs was awarded South Australia’s Senior South Australian of the Year yesterday she spoke with both myself and David Bevan this is the lady who lifted the lid on abuse at Oakden after all the pushing and all of the movement forward where she was trying to find out what had happened to her family member, Bob, there was a time that she nearly gave up.

Excerpt from yesterday’s interview with Barb Spriggs: We just kept chipping away because we really wanted to know why Bob had those bruises and why he was overmedicated. And as a family, yeah, we just wanted to know why that had happened and when we were just coming up against so many brick walls it just made us realise that maybe this is happening to other people. Why is it so hard to get such a simple question answered?

Ali Clarke: Was there ever a moment that you or other members of your family thought, no enough is enough, we can’t do this anymore, let’s just walk away and leave it?

Barb Spriggs: Yes, many times

Ali Clarke: So what drove you on?

Barb Spriggs:I guess I got inspired by other people. There was one stage I remember that I really thought I think the Community Visitor must be sick and tired of me keep ringing and ringing, finding out have we got any answers yet, what’s happening?

End of excerpt

Ali Clarke: The search for answers continues Bruce Lander’s ICAC Report into the Oakden inquiry will not be able to hand down its findings until most likely next year. The South Australian Joint Select Committee into Elder Abuse in South Australia tabled its final report to both Houses of Parliament, Nat Cook we heard from Barb there and we’ve heard from Bruce Lander as well that there are roadblocks into getting information. How did you and your team go into trying to get this Select Committee report through?

Nat Cook: First of all Barb Spriggs is amazing, the advocacy and the push that she’s shown for her beautiful husband it’s mirrored by other people in the community but what’s been amazing is she’s now come into the spotlight and been rewarded for that and I think that’ll continue on nationally, so congratulations Barb Spriggs, it’s fantastic, I saw her the other night receive that award that’s just incredible. What we did, Ali, was we sought to examine the evidence that told us where elder abuse was occurring. It was triggered by first of all an inquiry that had been referred by Kelly Vincent to the Social Development Committee with Kelly’s report after I saw the incident with Clarence Hausler at the Mitcham Residential Facility on TV, I got together with Kelly and we pulled that report and made the recommendations then what we did was we called a heap of peak bodies, organisations like Council of the Ageing, ARAS we asked SAPOL, we asked peak providers of aged care also the Office of the Ageing, where does abuse happen. In a nutshell while there are some very high profile, awful situations which can’t be ignored and must be addressed from various angles, the vast majority of abuse happens in the community and it’s actually undertaken against people that they know. It’s usually relatives or carers or close friends, that type of situation, who are involved in their life then we started to pull together the processes, so how does it get reported, where are the barriers for reporting, what stops action happening once it is reported, and then how do we prevent it. 34 submissions were considered and we’ve come up now with what we think is a really good balance of recommendations, bearing in mind that aged care in the main is regulated Federally. We have looked at other reports that have been done, one very big report by the Australian Law Reform Commission earlier this year we are calling on the State Government to advocate strongly in the space with the Federal Government to demonstrate good, consistent, across the board, Australia-wide leadership around this issue. Then there’s a couple of separate recommendations which we can pull from a lever point of view in South Australia.

Ali Clarke: Okay, so the first three of your five recommendations really relate to the Federal and national collaboration with the Commonwealth?

Nat Cook: Yes, and we’ve called on the State Government via the Premier, via the Minister for Ageing and other Ministers to work in that space with the Federal Government and actually just stop doing reports and get it done now.

Ali Clarke: What are the specific recommendations relating to South Australia and those levers that can be pulled?

Nat Cook: if I keep it really simple it’s ones based on a similar process to child protection in terms of how we will establish a protection act for adults, and the other one is then about similar to the maps you’d be familiar with Ali, where there’s a multi-agency service that pulls together information around people who are experiencing domestic violence we are recommending that the State Government form a elder abuse prevention unit. Which has been recommended previously but we’re saying now is the time, so we need to bring agencies together and provide some leadership and a process in order to prevent elder abuse happening.

Ali Clarke: So you said, basically get it done. How long, if these are your recommendations that it’s taken 12 months to come up with and to put forward, how long really could we be before we see this happen and have effect?

Nat Cook: Given the caveat that I don’t want to name a date because I don’t want to be held to it, it needs to happen very quickly and I can tell you I’ve met yesterday with the Minister for Ageing to talk through a couple of things and I didn’t have to talk very long, she’s all over it I would expect that we will see something coming out very soon. It’s not rocket science this is simple stuff that says we know it’s happening, we now know where it’s happening, we will never know why it happens because to me it’s the most appalling thing that you could do to a vulnerable South Australian it’s completely incredulous that people can do this to older people.

Ali Clarke: With all the submissions and the witnesses that you’ve heard from in person what was the biggest frustration and the biggest roadblock?

Nat Cook: There’s a few little things in terms of getting clear information about the stats I wouldn’t call it a roadblock, I’d just say a bit like, again I was on the inquiry into domestic violence, so I just thought, oh here we go again. How do you know exactly who this is happening to and how often and where because the way data is collected doesn’t always represent this truly enough for us to be able to pluck out the figures, so that’s one of the recommendations. I wouldn’t call it a roadblock, I’d just say it’s a bit like Groundhog Day in terms of being able to get data we need to do that much better now in out civilised society, we need to be able to identify vulnerable people quickly and act on it I think over time vulnerable people will change, vulnerable groups always, always change in their nature so we need to do that and be able to respond really quickly. I don’t think that’s roadblocks everyone was really, really forthcoming, willing to tell their story and the agencies that work in this space are completely supportive of getting this happening. Sadly, political process or process as it is, it will be difficult to get everybody on the same page but at this particular juncture I say it’s time to get on and do it.

Ali Clarke: Isn’t that essentially it, this is something that needs to be fixed, this is something that yes we have heard about what has happened at some institutions and this is not ignoring that there are really good people that work in this space, but again when you’re now saying that the majority of this elder abuse happens almost in the private home and within the community itself, that it’s time to just be completely everybody on the same page and move forward?

Nat Cook: Yes, what people need to know is that in terms of this space of prevention and community awareness and providing skills to the people, South Australia is a leader in this. There are some great resources that are already available on the Office for Ageing website people in my community I have already distributed hundreds of packs to them and I’m holding another forum coming up in November which every person in my electorate will get invited to, to bring together a whole range of peak providers in the aged care sector and in the community sector to say, ‘this is what you can do’.

Ali Clarke: Marg has called, wants to know if these recommendations and certainly the South Australian Elder Abuse Prevention Unit and the bill to protect them, will it look at specific things like for example volunteers in nursing homes will now be able to speak out because at the moment they have to sign something saying, ‘I won’t say anything about what goes on’  will you look at specific points like that?

Nat Cook: Yeah, they will be looked at that, all of that stuff needs to be looked at as well I’m really happy to talk to Marg if she wants to get in contact with me as well.

Ali Clarke: Thank you very much.