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Mandatory national Power of Attorney register a win for older Australians

29 November 2019

Today’s decision by the Council of Attorneys General in Adelaide to set baseline minimum standards for Powers of Attorney and create a mandatory national online register is a big leap forward to combating elder financial abuse.

The coalition to fight elder financial abuse, backed by Bauer Media, includes the Australian Banking Association, the Seniors Rights Service, Elder Abuse Action Australia, the Older Persons Advocacy Network, National Seniors and the Council on the Ageing has campaigned for three key changes which can tackle the growing issue of elder financial abuse.

The coalition has specifically called on governments across Australia to act and establish:

  1. Power of Attorney laws which are the same across the country and protect people from this kind of abuse.
  2. A National Power of Attorney (POA) register to check if POA documents are legitimate and current.
  3. Somewhere to report abuse in each state that can investigate and act.

CEO of the Australian Banking Association Anna Bligh said today’s decision represented a major win for the coalition of banks, Bauer media and seniors advocacy groups and would be a reform that  protects older Australians at risk of this insidious abuse.

“Today’s decisions by the nations attorneys general to establish a mandatory national online register of Power of Attorneys will empower bank branch staff who are often at the front line of detection of elder financial abuse,” Ms Bligh said.

“The leadership of the Federal Attorney General Christian Porter in taking this initiative to today’s Council of Attorneys General meeting was a critical turning point in this campaign.

“A mandatory national online register will help bank staff check to ensure a Power of Attorney is valid and up to date when a customer comes into a branch to complete transactions on someone else’s behalf.

“The campaign still has a long way to go, we need to see this register established as quickly as possible, completely standardised Power of Attorney laws across the country and a safe place to report abuse to help tackle elder financial abuse,” she said.

Brendon Hill, CEO of Bauer Media said: “We welcome the decision made by governments to begin urgently needed reform around elder financial abuse and move to stamp it out. It’s a growing problem faced by many elderly Australians and coordinated action is needed to address it. This is the start of that.”

Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson said “I welcome the progress the Attorney’s General have made towards developing one Power of Attorney document – I reiterate my call for the implementation of this initiative before end of July 2021.”

“Commitment to a mandatory register for Power of Attorney documents will be one more measure to reduce the likelihood of financial abuse of older Australians.

“I look forward to ensuring that the advance made at today’s meeting of the Attorneys General remains a key priority with defined outcomes,” she said.

ENDS

Contact: Rory Grant 0475 741 007

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