Former High Court judge Michael Kirby has spoken out about the problem of elder abuse for the LGBTI community.
The prominent LGBTI advocate spoke to ABC Radio National yesterday, saying that elder abuse can take many forms but is often psychological for older LGBTI people.
“It is sometimes an abuse that arises from low self-esteem and the fact that people who are LGBTIQ have gone through their lives doing a deal with society, that they would pretend to be straight so that they didn’t upset the majority and suffer from the criminal laws against them.”
Kirby said that while homophobia in Australian society has decreased greatly in his lifetime, problems remain for the ageing LGBTI community.
He noted that last year’s marriage equality postal survey led to a great deal of hurtful discourse affecting young and old people alike.
“38 per cent of people still voted against it,” he said.
“People say what a wonderful result that was—well, I don’t think it was all that wonderful.
“The process was a very flawed process, and it was a form of elder abuse and certainly LGBT abuse, that they were singled out for this special treatment.”
Kirby said marriage equality poses new challenges in aged care.
“In the facilities that look after older people, there’s now the problem of accommodating to the fact that some older LGBT people will be married,” he said.
He added that not all care facilities were against LGBTI people, saying that he had met an older gay couple who had been married in a Catholic home.
“Things are definitely improving, but there are some facilities that will not be friendly,” he said.
“We’ve still got a bit of a journey to make in these matters, and I think it’s very important for people to feel comfortable and safe an accepted in their environment.”
Kirby said he was concerned about the review of religious freedoms following the introduction of marriage equality, particularly because many aged care facilities are run by religious groups.
He added that while the law may protect LGBTI people from discrimination, individuals working in aged care may still be discriminatory in their behaviour.
The federal government this week announced that stopping elder abuse will be among its top priorities.
The 5th National Elder Abuse Conference in Sydney, where Kirby also spoke on the issue of abuse of older LGBTI people, closed yesterday.