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Elder abuse

Elder abuse is any action, or lack of action, deliberate or unintentional, which causes distress, harm, or serious risk of harm to an older person, or loss or damage to property or assets.

Information about elder abuse, and its signs and effects, is available on the South Australian SA Health website.

Any person seeking support and information in relation to elder abuse can contact the SA Elder Abuse Prevention Phone Line: 1800 372 310.

Some instances of elder abuse can constitute a criminal offence, such as assault. Other types of elder abuse may have different legal remedies, such as a civil claim or an intervention order being issued, for example.

What is an act of elder abuse?

Elder abuse can occur as a result of the direct actions or omissions of a person perpetrating the abuse. An act of abuse includes a failure to act, such as failing to provide a person with adequate accommodation, medical care or clothing.

Elder abuse can also occur as a result of indirect actionsof a person, for example when they make threats to harm someone the victim is close to and this causes the victim dist distress.

Similarly, a person commits an act of abuse if they:

  • cause someone else to abuse the victim
  • allow someone else to abuse the victim
  • cause or allow someone to participate in an act of abuse

Types of elder abuse

Elder abuse can take many different forms and a person may experience more than one type of abuse. It is generally accepted that the types of elder abuse (and some examples of what constitutes that abuse) are:


Such as inflicting pain or injury on a person.


Such as using actions or language to intimidate person or cause them fear or distress, depriving them of their liberty, threatening to institutionalise them or cause them physical injury, using racial or derogatory taunts.


Such as misusing the person's money, assets, property or resources, improper use of planning documents such as Powers of Attorney, unlawful access and use of a person's bank account, incurring debts in the person's name without their knowledge, coercing a person to sign legal or financial documents, preventing a person from seeking or keeping employment.


Such as isolating the person, unreasonable denial of their social, financial or domestic autonomy, unreasonably restricting access to friends or family, stopping social contact with others.


Such as failing to provide adequate food, shelter, accommodation, clothing, and medical care to a person, refusing to allow others to provide this care to a person.


Such as non-consensual sexual contact, behaviour or language.

Where to seek assistance

The Adult Safeguarding Unit within the Office for Ageing Well commenced operation on 1 October 2019. It can receive and respond to reports of elder abuse within South Australia.

For information on elder abuse and services that can help South Australians, including in Auslan see our Abuse Prevention Accessible Videos.

There are further agencies that may be able to provide assistance depending on the circumstances of the abuse:

SA Police

In an emergency, contact 000

For non urgent police assistance, call 131 444

Police may be able to take reports and lay criminal chargers where the abuse relates to criminal offending, such as physical or sexual assault, theft or property damage. They can also, where appropriate, issue intervention orders.

See the SA Police website for more information.

Elder Abuse Prevention Phone Line

The Elder Abuse Prevention Phone Line can be contacted for confidential advice, information and referral to support agencies.

Phone: 1800 372 310.

Aged Rights Advocacy Service

ARAS provides support to uphold the rights of older people who are at risk of, or experiencing, abuse. ARAS can provide information, advice and advocacy to people residing in Commonwealth-funded residential aged care or receiving aged care services, people residing in retirement villages, or people residing in the community who have concerns relating to elder abuse.

ARAS has developed special resources for older South Australians during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as the risk of elder abuse incidents may increase due to more vulnerable adults self-isolating at home. Please click here to access this resource [link will open in a new window].

Phone: 1800 700 600 or (08) 8232 5377 or visit the ARAS website for more information.

Office of the Public Advocate

The Office of the Public Advocate promotes and protects the rights of people who may need assistance with decision making. OPA provides information and advice on matters relating to Advance Care Directives and Guardianship and can act as guardians of last resort.

Phone: (08) 8342 8200 or visit the Office of the Public Advocate website for more information.

Legal Services Commission

The Legal Services Commission provides free and confidential legal advice on matters relating to elder abuse and documents such as Powers of Attorney, Advance Care Directives and Wills.

Phone: 1300 366 424 or visit the Legal Services Commission website for more information.

Visit the Stop Elder Abuse website for more information on elder abuse. See also the list of publications including the 'Knowing Your Rights' booklet available to download from the SA Health website.

For complaints or concerns relating to Commonwealth- funded aged care services, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission can be contacted on 1800 951 822. SeeAged Care Quality and Safety Commissionfor more information.

Elder abuse  :  Last Revised: Thu May 7th 2020
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.