Research raises fears of concealed abuse of older Western Australians

15 June 2022

Bankwest research has raised concerns older Western Australians are concealing their experiences of financial abuse out of fear of being found out by perpetrators, who could threaten retaliation against any intervention.

The findings were part of Bankwest’s Hidden Costs survey, which canvassed more than 1000 Western Australian adults and was commissioned to raise awareness of financial abuse – a covert epidemic in the community.

The data has been released around World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which is commemorated on 15 June each year to raise awareness of the physical, social, financial, psychological and sexual abuse suffered by older people.

Bankwest is working alongside Council on the Ageing WA, Advocare, the Department of Communities, and other organisations to support the awareness campaign on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Bankwest’s research revealed a strong sense of vulnerability, with 76 per cent of those aged 65 and older believing they were susceptible to financial abuse, and 30 per cent saying they were “most likely” to experience it.

Of those surveyed who had experienced financial abuse, older people were the least likely to have sought help, with almost half (48%) of those aged 50-64, and two-in-five (37%) of those 65+ not willing to reach out for support.

The reasons given for remaining silent were concerning, with the vast majority of those older than 50-years-old fearful of the perpetrator of the abuse finding out and potential retaliation, reinforcing the sense of vulnerability.

Older Western Australians were also perceived as the second most likely group to experience financial abuse, behind only ‘women’, and were considered significantly more at-risk than other members of the community.

Advocare WA CEO Louise Forster said: “These findings are a concern, but they also confirm what we know and hear anecdotally from older members of the community, who are experiencing this abuse but remaining silent.

“It’s easy for people to question why someone doesn’t reach out for help, but these situations aren’t always simple and, while the fear of retaliation is a concern, there can also be complicated emotions and life circumstances.

“That’s why dates such as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day are so important, because they shine a spotlight on this critical issue and grow community awareness, because preventing elder abuse should be everyone’s business.

“Older Western Australians have explicitly said they are least likely of anyone to seek help when experiencing financial abuse, so it’s on us – their friends, family, and communities – to be aware and support them.”

Bankwest Chief Operating Officer Louise Tovey said: “Bankwest has been part of the fabric of WA for more than 125 years, and we’re committed to being there for our customers when they need us the most.

“We're passionate about supporting the causes such as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, as we can often be among the first contacted by someone experiencing abuse, from financial abuse to family and domestic violence.

“Financial abuse can be difficult to recognise, because it can take many forms and affect anyone, and it’s common for victims and survivors to stay silent, so it’s important to take that additional care in looking out for the older members of our community who might be more vulnerable."

About Bankwest
Bankwest’s vision is to deliver brilliant customer experiences every day and our purpose is to build a brighter future for all. Bankwest provides personal and business banking solutions for customers across Australia. Our customers enjoy access to an extensive network of branches and business centres, direct and third-party distribution channels, agencies and electronic banking facilities, as well as 24-hour banking on the telephone, internet and app. Bankwest, a division of Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL/Australian credit license 234945.

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