Published on 12 February 2015
The rarely talked about topic of elder abuse is the subject of a theatre script that aims to educate and raise awareness of issues surrounding our social and legal responsibilities to older people.
The script, Piano Forte, is a Master of Creative Arts project at the University of the Sunshine Coast by Toni Wills of Peregian Beach, a trained lawyer who has combined her interest in creative writing and theatre with her legal experience.
“Elder abuse is a complex social and legal issue which comes in many different forms,” said Ms Wills. “It can be psychological, physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse or neglect – reported cases in Queensland increased by 19.5 percent in the past year.
“It remains ‘hidden’ in society due in part to a lack of community awareness, ageism and the fact that 80 per cent of the perpetrators of the abuse are family members.
“Sensitive topics like domestic violence are discussed more openly within the community nowadays and I think it’s time that we also began talking about elder abuse.”
Ms Wills cut her legal teeth working in immigration law in Melbourne before moving to the Coast where she currently works as project officer for the Suncoast Community Legal Service whilst undertaking a Master of Creative Arts at USC.
“My script explores an act of financial abuse which is one of the more common forms of abuse in reported cases. I think theatre is a great way to raise awareness of sensitive issues.”
Piano Forte is about 80-year-old Eliza, who lives alone and has her grandson, Robert, as her carer and power of attorney. The responsibility of this role, and the competing loyalties Robert has to his pregnant wife, Lucy, affect how he can perform his duties.
The script was developed in part from interviews, transcripts and archival material and tells the story of one woman’s experience of abuse juxtaposed with the legal information she could use to help safeguard herself.
“My hope is that once the script is finalised, we can source funding to develop the theatrical production and see it performed in community theatres and centres,” said Ms Wills. “I would love to see it used as a resource to raise awareness and educate people about their rights and where they can go to seek help and support.”
USC Theatre will present a free staged reading of Piano Forte, directed by Lucas Stibbard at 6pm on Friday 10 April in USC’s Lecture Theatre 2 in Building K. Members of the public are welcome to attend. No booking necessary. This will be a staged script reading only, not a full theatrical production.
This performance was originally scheduled for February but postponed due to Cyclone Marcia.
— Jane Cameron