Since 2012, ECCV has partnered with Seniors’ Rights Victoria to coordinate a free Elder Abuse Bicultural Community Educator training program for people working with CALD seniors, support services and community organisations. Once educators have completed their training, ECCV also supports them to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate workshops with seniors in their own communities to raise awareness of elder abuse and equip seniors with the resources to seek help.
Hayat Doughan was familiar with the problem of elder abuse, having observed it both in her own community as well as through her work as a case manager and community development worker in the family violence prevention sector.
For the past decade, Hayat has run a women’s group for Muslim women in Melbourne’s south-east. Three years ago, she also began running an Arabic-speaking seniors’ group at Doveton Neighbourhood Learning Centre, where she became closely acquainted with the lived experiences of group members, including the challenges facing seniors from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Hayat undertook ECCV’s Elder Abuse Bicultural Community Educator Training earlier this year because she wanted to identify pathways to help people experiencing elder abuse in her community. She delivered her first information session on elder abuse to her seniors’ group in May.
Hayat says elder abuse is a subject fraught with shame that is often not talked about openly in Muslim and Arabic-speaking communities. This is tied to a fear of judgement from the broader community, as well as to the concept of respecting one’s elders, which is foundational to the Muslim faith and many Arabic-speaking cultures.
“In our religion, we believe in ‘what goes around, comes around,’” Hayat says, “so if someone is subject to elder abuse, they don’t want people to know about it because it might mean that they deserve it; that they didn’t treat their parents well, so their kids aren’t treating them well now.”
In addition to complex cultural barriers, seniors experiencing elder abuse may also be hesitant to come forward or take action due to conflicting feelings of loyalty and obligation. Hayat believes this is one of the biggest obstacles to addressing elder abuse. People often want to protect their abuser and shield them from any adverse consequences because they are usually a close family member, someone they love and care about deeply. Some seniors are also dependent on their abuser, which fuels the fear that they will be left helpless and isolated if they seek help or take steps to end the relationship with the abuser.
ECCV’s Bicultural Community Educator training program is all about empowering seniors in culturally and linguistically diverse communities by providing them with information on their rights and the skills to identify abuse and seek help when necessary.
Hayat says that training and empowering bicultural workers to speak directly to their communities is the most effective way not only to raise awareness of elder abuse, but also to provide community education on available services and appropriate referrals for people to access ongoing support.
However, she believes more funding and resources are needed to deliver accessible and culturally safe services for migrant and refugee seniors seeking support. The majority of services are only accessible online, which is a barrier for many seniors, who often do not have the means or digital literacy skills to access online information.
“Elder abuse causes serious, lasting harm, physically and mentally,” Hayat says. “We can’t wait for seniors to call a number or go online. We have to go out into the community and reach the people that way.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, help is available through Senior Rights Victoria’s confidential helpline on 1300 368 821. If you require an interpreter, please call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 and ask them to call the helpline.
Find more information about ECCV’s Bicultural Community Educator training program here.