Elder Abuse Helplines

First year: 2017–18

Latest year: 2018

Frequency: Ongoing

Years in this publication: 2017–18

Size: 10,937 calls

Methodology: Administrative data set

Geography: In every state except the Northern Territory


Elder Abuse helplines from states and territories record calls regarding incidents of elder abuse. Elder abuse is characterised by the psychological, emotional, financial, physical and sexual abuse, and the neglect of an individual over the age of 50. Abuse is inflicted by persons of trust and can be inflicted by familial and/or non-familial perpetrators.

Scope and coverage

Every state and territory, except for the Northern Territory, provided AIHW with helpline data sourced from non-governmental organisations. Helpline data included information on those calls either suspecting, witnessing or experiencing elder abuse. Calls that were unable to collect detailed information about victims were not included in the AIHW analysis.

Elder abuse is often under-reported due to victims not wanting to identify or confront a family member, or being dependent on their abuser for care. Similarly, elder abuse victims with cognitive impairments may be unable to report abuse. The data collected are likely to underestimate the true prevalence of elder abuse, but give insight into elder abuse and its context.

FDSV definitions

The definition most broadly adopted by the Elder Abuse Helplines is from the WHO:

‘Elder abuse is a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.’

As elder abuse can be perpetrated by any individual that has an expectation of trust from the victim, abusers can range from carers and support staff to family members. The Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia: Continuing the national story, 2019 report has focused on elder abuse perpetrated by family members of the victim.

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