Setting Sale for Gippsland

What a week it has been…. Following on from Wednesday morning’s launch of the first ever jointly commissioned edition of ‘Securing Their Future’ – an information booklet for parents, relatives and significant others caring for Victorians with a decision-making disability – I hit the road, bound for Sale in East Gippsland on Thursday morning.


Visiting Victoria’s regions is something I am personally passionate about, and it is extremely important to all of us at State Trustees that the organisation is able to provide value across the entire state. We are here for all Victorians; beyond Melbourne, Bendigo and Dandenong, where we have our offices. Ensuring people understand what State Trustees is passionate about, and what we can offer them is crucial, and one way I can help to achieve this is to meet and engage with key regional organisations and individuals in the areas I visit.


On Thursday morning, at the offices of the Australian Red Cross in Sale, I had the pleasure of speaking with caseworkers and volunteers from Latrobe Community Health Services, Red Cross and the Australian Deaf Society. I was able to meet people who work at the front line to care for and represent the most disadvantaged people in our communities. It was also an opportunity for me to highlight the role State Trustees can play in this, and shine a light on the serious issue of financial elder abuse.


As Victoria’s public trustee, we are charged with protecting the interests of our most vulnerable people – which often means our elderly. One of State Trustees’ priorities in representing the State’s elderly people is to help prevent financial abuse however we can. Financial elder abuse occurs when someone takes advantage of a personal relationship with an elderly person to exploit them for financial or personal gain.


Tragically, State Trustees is often called in to assist in the aftermath of a case of financial elder abuse. This issue is insidious and pervasive – and I believe it is under-reported – and as our population ages, more Victorians are likely to become victims of elder abuse. My message to those gathered in Sale was that we must do more to protect our parents, grandparents and loved ones.


I am becoming increasingly concerned about this issue. Our recently-commissioned research demonstrated that financial elder abuse is perhaps an even more significant issue in Victoria than we had previously thought. Speaking to caseworkers and volunteers on the ground in Sale certainly reaffirmed that this in fact is the case. The overwhelming message from those present was that further collaboration between organisations is urgently required if this issue is to be effectively highlighted and tackled.


Whilst in Sale, I also had the opportunity to discuss and highlight this massive community problem with local media outlets The Gippsland Times, ABC Gippsland and WIN TV News. It was heartening to meet with journalists who had a genuine interest in the issue and firmly believed it needed to be highlighted more in order for it to be addressed and dealt with. This is a step in the right direction for dealing with this widespread societal problem.


Although we discussed serious and important issues, my visit to East Gippsland was refreshing, because all my conversations with stakeholders yesterday were honest, transparent and focused on solving problems – something that is really important to me.


I am deeply encouraged by the work carried out by community organisations such as the Latrobe Community Health Services, Red Cross and the Australian Deaf Society on a daily basis. These organisations need all the support they can get and I look forward to working with them to tackle the scourge that is financial elder abuse.