E5.1 A whole of society response to Elder Abuse


Nick Tebbey
Relationships Australia National

Dr Susan Cochrane
Relationships Australia National

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Time: 3:50pm – 4:20pm

Room: Room 9

E5.1 Ageing

A whole of society response to Elder Abuse

This presentation did not use slides


Identifying an increasingly acknowledged need in the community Relationships Australia commenced trialling a counselling and mediation service, in 2016, to support families who needed help negotiating the often complex issues related to ageing. The service was developed in response to demographic, health and social shifts which have resulted in an ageing Australian population and increasingly complex family structures.

Work continues both in Australia and overseas to understand the prevalence of abuse and neglect of older people, the dynamics that drive it, and protective factors. We do know, however, that abuse of older people takes many different forms and can impact older Australians and their families in myriad ways. Abuse may take the form of psychological, verbal, financial, physical, and sexual abuse. Psychological abuse, often linked to challenging family dynamics and manifesting intergenerational conflict, is gaining increased recognition and was identified by the Australian Institute of Family Studies as the most prevalent form of abuse in its 2021 National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study (AIFS, 2021).

Abuse of older people often presents through acute needs, and often only after years of conflict and trauma. It arises from complex social and relational dynamics that can be entrenched across generations. Abuse is the tip of the iceberg; the common denominator across each successful intervention is the importance of durable, relational change below the water line.

This presentation will explore a variety of service responses that have been undertaken across the Relationships Australia Federation, including as part of the Commonwealth-funded Elder Abuse Service Trials and, most recently, the commencement of the first Australian pilot of Eldercaring Coordination, a new model for resolving conflict within families and centring older persons’ needs, will and preferences.

By reviewing evidence and data collected throughout these various service responses, this presentation will explore whole-of-society cultural transformations required to respond to ageism and abuse of older people, unpacking social norms and systems that give rise to abuse and neglect of older people, and identifying the rights-based, client-centred approaches to achieve enduring change to family dynamics.


Nick Tebbey is the National Executive Officer of Relationships Australia.  Nick has worked for a number of years in the social and community sectors. In his role at Relationships Australia, Nick is proud to be leading a team representing a Federation of organisations across the country, that promotes respect for the rights of all people, in all their diversity, to live with dignity and safety and to enjoy respectful relationships within their families and their broader communities.

Susan Cochrane is the National Policy Manager of Relationships Australia.  She worked for almost two decades across a variety of legal policy roles in the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, and then as senior ministerial advisor to the then Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC.  Since 2018, Susan has worked for Relationships Australia as National Policy Manager, where she advocates for policies and services to support all Australians to create and maintain respectful relationships.