“Longevity is a public health achievement, not a social or economic liability. On this International Day of Older Persons, let us pledge to ensure the well-being of older persons and to enlist their meaningful participation in society so we can all benefit from their knowledge and ability.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Monday was International Day of Older Persons, a day to celebrate the contribution and achievements of older people.
With all the talk about the burden of our ageing population, it’s easy to forget the important (and changing) role that older people play in our community. So, to mark International Day of Older Persons, we thought we’d share the story of a grant project that has had a positive impact on the lives of older people in Moreland.
Grandparents, grandchildren and family law
Becoming a grandparent can change your life. Many grandparents play a very hands-on role in the lives of their grandchildren, relishing every opportunity to participate in their care and development. But when a family breakdown happens, the role of a grandparent can change significantly – in some cases, the role of the grandparent can increase as they provide extra support or care. In other cases, some grandparents are given little or no contact with their grandchildren.
Family law in Australia recognises the importance of maintaining family links in children’s lives, particularly in divorces or separations. But it seems grandparents rarely seek legal advice or information about their rights following a family breakdown.
In the tight-knit Australian Greek community in Moreland, Moreland Community Legal Centre and the Australian Greek Welfare Society found that few grandparents understood that they had any legal rights when a family breakdown happens.
In 2011, Victoria Law Foundation awarded a general grant to Moreland Community Legal Centre, in partnership with the Australian Greek Welfare Society, to provide legal information for grandparents in relation to family law and access to grandchildren.
As part of their project, they spoke to more than 300 grandparents at three community legal information sessions to understand the issues they faced. They produced six fact sheets, in Greek and English, covering issues such as family dispute resolution, family violence, child protection and financial support for grandparents. A key part of the project was to promote children’s welfare and the role of the grandparents in relation to the welfare and development of children.
According to our Grants and Awards Manager Erin Dolan the project is a good example of how to develop legal information that meets the needs of the people you are trying to help.
“Although the project was not without difficulty, Moreland Community Legal Centre and the Australian Greek Welfare Society listened to the local community, heard what grandparents were saying to them, and the factsheets and legal information sessions were very successful as a result,” said Erin.
Moreland Community Legal Centre Principal Solicitor Scott Ashley said the project has had a number of unexpected outcomes. “The factsheets have really helped to raise awareness of our services, and we are seeing more older people coming to the centre with a variety of issues since the factsheets were launched. The project has also made the Board of Moreland Community Legal Centre rethink their priorities, to make sure it is best meeting the needs of the ageing migrant community in the area.”