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Safeguarding At-Risk Adults in Australia

Safeguarding At-Risk Adults in Australia

Australia’s elderly population is at an increased risk of abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

John Chesterman, a Churchill Fellow and Queensland Public Advocate, is urging for a systematic overhaul to better protect at-risk adults. His research and international insights highlight the need for dedicated adult safeguarding agencies across all Australian states and territories.

The Call for Comprehensive Safeguarding

Dr. Chesterman emphasises that current measures are insufficient. Often, there is no clear pathway for community members to seek help if they suspect an adult is being mistreated but not necessarily a victim of crime.

He advocates for the establishment of state-based agencies empowered to receive inquiries, investigate concerns, and support the rights and well-being of at-risk adults.

Learning from Global Best Practices

In his role as Queensland Public Advocate, Dr. Chesterman draws on his international experience. He travelled to Canada, the UK, and the USA to study how other countries handle abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults.

He found that successful systems involve two critical components: the ability of investigating agencies to directly assess individuals’ well-being and the provision of supportive interventions based on the needs and wishes of the person.

Ethical and Legal Considerations

Implementing an effective safeguarding system in Australia involves navigating complex ethical and legal challenges. These include managing confidential information and respecting individuals’ autonomy, even when they refuse assistance.

Dr. Chesterman highlights that designing these systems requires consultation with at-risk adults, their families, and carers to ensure that the solutions are both effective and respectful of their rights.

A Rights-Based, People-Centred Approach

Dr. Chesterman’s vision for Australia is clear: a rights-based, people-centred safeguarding agency in every state and territory. Such agencies would streamline the use of government resources in emergency services and adult guardianship, ensuring timely and effective support for those in need.

For further details on Dr. Chesterman’s work and the findings of other Churchill Fellows, visit the Policy Futures: A Reform Agenda publication on the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust website.