This letter has been sent to two seniors newspapers: Victorian Senior and Fifty~Plus. We hope that one or both will publish it as it is an issue that will not go away!
7 July 2012
Elder abuse takes many forms and the one to consider at the moment is the abuse metered out to the Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and HIV (GLTH) members of the community.
Consider that for many years of their lives GLTH people were considered pariahs by society, were treated with contempt, derision, homophobia, discrimination, bigotry, hatred and exclusion.
On 1 July 2009 the federal government became one of the biggest perpetrators of GLTH elder abuse. On that day, after GLTH people aged over 60, 70, 80 and more were suddenly outed and made into married couples (if living in partnerships), called de factos, and those who were single pensioners suddenly became “married pensioners” and each in a partnership received “married” rates thus losing some few hundred dollars each per fortnight of Centrelink payment.
There were campaigns around the country for some months before the legislation came into effect asking the government to “grandfather” the legislation, because many GLTH retired elders had had to make provision as best they were able, to plan for old age without the benefits of relationship recognition because of ongoing homophobia and discrimination.
The campaigns being waged requested the government to consider doing away with the “couple” pension rates and providing single pensions for all pensioners receiving benefits from Centrelink. The campaigns were not supported by any of the Seniors organizations such as Council on the Ageing (COTA), Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA), National Seniors Australia.
Amongst the points raised in the discussion were those that pointed out that “married” pensioner rates had been introduced when pensions were introduced because in those early days, many women had not worked in paid employment and governments still considered women to be “looked after” by their husbands who had direct control of the household income.
Those days vanished some several decades ago as women achieved changes in employment situations and became independent from having to rely on men for their handouts.
The government ignored the proposals because it was obviously going to save them millions of dollars for GLTH couples to be treated as married couples without providing the other securities which marriage would provide, legally and in other social ways.
So elder abuse of the GLTH communities writ large by a homophobic government and other ageing institutions came into force on 1 July 2009 and not a word of protest about this ongoing abuse.
How many of these organizations will take up the call to have this abuse stopped now?
Don’t hold your breath!
Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne; InterSection