Knowledge gaps in the understanding of economic and financial abuse of older people identified

Economic and financial abuse of older people is a serious issue with wide-ranging impacts for victim-survivors and their families.


To better understand this type of abuse in the context of domestic and family violence (DFV) further research is required, according to a UNSW Sydney report into economic and financial abuse funded by Commonwealth Bank (CommBank).


Understanding Economic and Financial Abuse and Older People in the Context of Domestic and Family Violence is the fifth report in a partnership between CommBank and UNSW’s Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN).


The partnership forms part of CommBank Next Chapter, which aims to help victim-survivors of financial abuse achieve long-term financial independence. Through the partnership, CommBank and UNSW’s GVRN hope to increase community and industry understanding and the prevention of financial abuse. With the release of the fifth report, the completed research series is one of the most comprehensive compendiums of evidence on economic and financial abuse in Australia.


GVRN conducted a comprehensive review of academic and policy literature to examine existing research on financial and economic abuse among older people. They found the term ‘elder abuse’ can obscure situations where financial and economic abuse may have been perpetrated as part of DFV.


“This can drastically impact service providing spaces and create barriers for victim-survivors seeking help,” says Professor Jan Breckenridge, Co-Convenor of GVRN at UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture.


The report also found evidence that traditionally gendered financial management may enable 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.


Effective responses to prevent financial abuse of older persons included family mediation, better training for health and legal professionals to detect and identify abuse, and formal regulations around transactions within families.


However, the research found service providers who are responding to the economic and financial abuse of older people face a range of barriers to providing support, including: reluctance of the victim-survivor to disclose the abuse, and a lack of resources and training to handle suspected abuse.


The report suggested areas for further investigation, such as: deepening the conceptual definitions and data on economic and financial abuse against older people in the context of DFV, improving the understanding how gender roles and culturally and linguistic diversity influence abuse, and the impact financial and economic abuse has on older people’s financial security.


“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.


Access the full report via the CommBank Financial Abuse Resource Centre


15 July 2022.