Former Judge Michael Kirby Speaks Out About LGBTIQ Elder Abuse

Michael Kirby

Former High Court judge Michael Kirby has called for more awareness about elder abuse in the LGBTIQ community.

Kirby said that abuse for ageing LGBTIQ people was often psychological, “an abuse of the mind.”

“It’s sometimes an abuse of low self-esteem… People who are LGBTIQ have gone through their lives doing a deal with society,” Kirby told ABC Radio National.

“That deal was that they would pretend to be straight so that they didn’t upset the majority and they didn’t suffer from the criminal and other laws that were against them.

“It’s that confusion of the mind that’s harder to get out. You can change the law but it doesn’t change the attitude that people have, both gay people and those people who look after them.”

Kirby said homophobia had dramatically decreased in society in his lifetime but the same-sex marriage postal survey had prompted a range of “extremely hurtful” comments to be made.

The process also highlighted to LGBTIQ people that a significant amount of people in Australia don’t recognise their relationships, he said.

“We didn’t do it in the way we normally do it the way we deal with changing a law… [the survey] was an extra hurdle that had to be jumped,” he said.

“Thirty eight per cent of the people still voted against it. People say, ‘Oh what a wonderful result that was,’ but I don’t think it was all that wonderful.

“It was good that it came to the right conclusion, but the process was a very flawed process.

“It was a form of elder abuse, and certainly of LGBTIQ abuse, that they were singled out for this special treatment.”

Kirby said he was concerned about the Ruddock religious freedom review and the threat of the rollback of anti-discrimination laws, particularly those preventing aged care providers receiving government funding from discriminating against LGBTIQ elders.

He added that while the law may protect the LGBTIQ people from discrimination, staff working in aged care may still be discriminatory in their behaviour.

“You can have a law that says one thing, but there is then the issue of social habits and attitudes of staff and of families and all of this requires education in the community, and familiarity with just who are the gay minority,” he said.

“We’ve still got a bit of a journey to make in these matters, and of course it’s very important for people to feel comfortable, safe and accepted in their environment.”

Kirby spoke at the 5th National Elder Abuse Conference in Sydney about the issue on Tuesday.

The federal government has announced it will formulate a national plan to combat the issue of elder abuse, and plan to release a draft plan by the end of the year.

(Photo by SashaHMP/Wikimedia Commons)

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