Skip to main content


Age Discrimination Commissioner explores elder abuse, homelessness in NT

Discrimination Age Discrimination

Australia’s Age Discrimination Commissioner will visit the Northern Territory to explore the growing challenges of elder abuse and the increase in the number of older women at risk of homelessness.

Dr Kay Patterson AO will travel through Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs to meet with older Territorians, advocates and service providers about the issues affecting them.

The NT has the highest rate of homelessness amongst older women in Australia, with 384 in every 10,000 women aged 55 and over experiencing homelessness, according to the 2016 Census.  Across the NT, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represent 89 per cent of people experiencing homelessness.

“The rate of homelessness among older women in the NT is 19 times higher than the national rate and while the NT saw a decline in homelessness generally between 2011 and 2016, the number of older women experiencing homelessness remains stable,” Dr Patterson said.

“Nationally, we know older Australians are one of the fastest growing categories of homeless. Older single women are particularly vulnerable to housing difficulties later in life due to the high cost of housing and having less wealth at retirement resulting from the gender pay gap and differences in workforce participation.”

Dr Patterson said across Australia, a range of innovative solutions are being used to respond to homelessness and the demand for affordable housing, which could be adapted for the NT context.

“These range from new housing development initiatives, to socially-driven investment models and highly integrated service delivery models,” Dr Patterson said.

The Commissioner said ageist attitudes and Australia’s ageing population were also contributing to the growing problem of elder abuse and the NT was not immune.

There is currently a lack of prevalence data on elder abuse but estimates are that 2 to 10 per cent of older Australians experience elder abuse in any given year, with financial abuse the most common form. “We know that victims are reluctant to report this abuse, which I believe is linked to the fact nearly 70 per cent of perpetrators are the children of the victim,” Dr Patterson said.

We can help protect older Australians with uniform national laws, cross-industry collaborations, helping older Australians understand their rights, and training up staff in banks, law firms and hospitals, who are well placed to detect abuse early, Dr Patterson said.

“Approaches I’ve seen work tend to be driven by and tailored to local communities and I look forward to hearing from services in the Territory who are already working to reduce elder abuse,” she said.  “Support and legal services should be developed with the particular needs of people in rural and remote places in mind – not as an afterthought.”

Dr Patterson will deliver a speech at ‘Seniors in the 21st Century – Your Rights Explained’ hosted by COTA (NT) in Darwin on August 28.  She is available for interview.

Media contact: Rania Spooner, 0448 939 997,