A new report from Commonwealth Bank, in partnership with UNSW’s Gendered Violence Network (GVRN), has found a stark gap in the level of research relating to the perpetration of economic and financial abuse against older people in the context of domestic and family violence (DFV).

Understanding Economic and Financial Abuse and Older People in the Context of Domestic and Family Violence is the fifth and final report in a research series exploring analysing evidence relating to financial abuse developed as part of the CommBank Next Chapter program. 

Following a comprehensive review of academic and policy literature, GVRN found the term ‘elder abuse’ can obscure situations where financial and economic abuse may have been perpetrated as part of DFV.

Professor Jan Breckenridge, Co-Convenor of UNSW’s GVRN said: “This can drastically impact service providing spaces and create barriers for victim-survivors seeking help. Financial institutions have a key role to play in identifying and responding to economic and financial abuse of older people perpetrated in the context of DFV.”

Common tactics of economic and financial abuse against older people identified in the research include misusing, exploiting or stealing the older person’s money, property or assets, and controlling the older person’s access to money or assets, and coercing or pressuring the older person to sign legal documents regarding financial or property arrangements.

Additionally, some evidence suggested traditionally gendered approaches to financial management may facilitate economic and financial abuse against older people, including within First Nations communities. This includes the patriarchal norms around inheritance and the expectation for older women to play caretaking roles.

While the research identified a number of effective responses to the economic and financial abuse of older people, it noted significant barriers to service providers who can offer support, such as the reluctance of the victim-survivor to disclose the abuse, and a lack of resources and training to handle suspected abuse.

“At CommBank, we know elder financial abuse is prevalent and it can have a devastating impact on family relationships. This report is an important step in developing our understanding of this issue, and ensuring we continue to provide the right support for anyone impacted by elder financial abuse in the context of domestic and family violence,” says Claire Dawson, Executive Manager of Community Investment at CommBank.

Click here to read the report. A summary of key findings is also available.

About CommBank’s partnership with UNSW’s Gendered Violence Research Network

The partnership forms part of CommBank Next Chapter, which aims to support victim-survivors of financial abuse to achieve long-term financial independence. Through the partnership, CommBank and UNSW’s GVRN hope to increase community and industry understanding of financial abuse. When complete, the research series will be one of the most comprehensive compendiums of evidence on economic and financial abuse in Australia. Other reports can be found here.