Adult Safeguarding Unit

The Adult Safeguarding Unit (ASU) became operational on 1 October 2019.  It is located in the Office for Ageing Well and has a strong focus on safeguarding the rights of adults at risk of abuse.

Key functions of the ASU includes:

  • responding to reports of suspected or actual abuse of adults who may be vulnerable
  • providing support to safeguard the rights of adults experiencing abuse, tailored to their needs, wishes and circumstances
  • raising community awareness of strategies to safeguard the rights of adults who may be at risk of abuse.

Reporting suspected or actual abuse to the ASU is voluntary. Once a report has been made, the ASU will assess the report to determine the most appropriate action. These actions are known as safeguarding actions.  Actions may include:

  • referring the matter to another more relevant service
  • gathering more information about the situation to develop a safeguarding plan.

In providing a safeguarding response, the ASU will complement the role of other organisations and government bodies, rather than duplicate services.

The ASU will work positively with and for the adult at risk of abuse, to preserve relationships that are important to them.  At all times, the ASU will balance the need to intervene, with the adult’s right to autonomy and self-determination. In most cases, consent of the adult at risk will be sought before any safeguarding action is taken.

For the first three years of operation, the Unit will respond to reports or concerns of abuse or neglect in relation to people aged 65 years and over, and 50 years and over for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. From 2022, the Unit will work with all adults who may be vulnerable to abuse, regardless of age.


The State Government’s landmark adult safeguarding legislation – Office for the Ageing (Adult Safeguarding) Amendment Bill 2018 – the first of its kind in Australia, passed both houses of the South Australian Parliament in November 2018.

The legislation establishes a new Adult Safeguarding Unit (ASU), to provide the South Australian community with an approachable, empowered body with statutory responsibility and accountability for receiving and responding to reports of suspected abuse or neglect.

Elder abuse responses discussion paper consultation

The South Australian Government introduced a suite of initiatives for elder abuse prevention, recognition and response through the implementation of the Strategy to Safeguard the Rights of Older South Australians 2014 - 2021 (PDF 2.4MB) and its Action Plan 2015-2021 (PDF 781KB).

The Elder Abuse Responses Discussion Paper (PDF 2MB) was developed to provide an overview of what actions government and non-government partners have taken to safeguard the rights of older South Australians. In reviewing the Strategy and Action Plan, Office for Ageing Well invited the community to provide their views on what is required to further safeguard the rights of older South Australians and to better respond to elder abuse. The consultation was held via the YourSAy website from 27 November 2017 to 8 January 2018.

The Elder Abuse Responses Discussion Paper (PDF 2MB) presents three areas of opportunity to build on this work and strengthen our response to elder abuse in South Australia.

Feedback was specifically sought on:

  • Area 1: Strengthening Awareness
  • Area 2: Increasing Responses
  • Area 3: Considering Legislation

The community was also invited to attend one of two Gallery Walks held on 11 December 2017, to find out more about these three areas of opportunity and provide their feedback.

Charter of the Rights and Freedoms of Vulnerable Adults consultation

On 6 December 2018, Office for Ageing Well conducted a community workshop to hear the views of interested individuals about how the new Adult Safeguarding Unit can uphold the rights of adults who may be vulnerable to abuse. This workshop engaged individuals from diverse backgrounds, including older people, those with lived experience of disability or mental health concerns, carers and families.

Attendees were also provided the opportunity to give feedback on the draft Charter of the Rights and Freedoms of Vulnerable Adults, and as a result of this feedback, the Charter (PDF 30KB) was revised.

Additionally, Office for Ageing Well invited community members and key stakeholders to comment on the draft Charter either by completing a survey or participating in one of two online focus groups between 27 March and 15 April 2019.

View the Charter of the Rights and Freedoms of Vulnerable Adults (PDF 30KB).

Ageing and Adult Safeguarding Regulations 2019 Consultation

Office for Ageing Well invited community feedback on the draft Ageing and Adult Safeguarding Regulations 2019, to help inform the regulations and support the implementation of Office for the Ageing (Adult Safeguarding) Amendment Act 2018.

A discussion paper (PDF 233KB) outlining what the Regulations could look like was prepared. The draft was informed by feedback from the community and organisations during earlier consultations.

Consultation was conducted via the YourSAy website, from 18 February to 29 March 2019.

Code of Practice Consultation

Office for Ageing Well held a Service Provider Workshop on 2 July 2019. Attendees were updated with progress on the implementation of the new adult safeguarding laws and the role of the ASU. They were also able to provide feedback on the draft Code of Practice.

Further consultation on the draft Code of Practice was conducted via the YourSAy website from 28 June to 19 July 2019. 

This feedback was collated and, where appropriate was incorporated into the Code of Practice (PDF 542KB).

Frequently asked questions

Did you know?

Around 1 in 20 older Australians experience abuse from a person they know and trust, such as a family member, friend, carer, or neighbour. It can occur at home, in places visited regularly, or where services or care are accessed.  However, abuse can often remain hidden and continue without any suspicions being aroused.

What is abuse?

Abuse is any deliberate or unintentional action, or lack of action, carried out by a person, often in a trusted relationship, which causes distress and/or harm to a person who may be vulnerable, or causes loss or damage to property or assets.

What does abuse look like?

The behaviours and signs of abuse can include, but are not limited to:

  • physical abuse: being hit or injured on purpose, restraining someone inappropriately
  • emotional abuse: intimidation, threats, humiliation, extortion, racial, verbal or psychological abuse
  • sexual abuse: involvement in a sexual activity which is unwanted or not understood, unwanted sexual attention
  • neglect: not providing food, clothing, attention or care. Withholding of aids or equipment (continence, walking, hearing, glasses), putting someone at risk of infection, failure to provide access to appropriate health or social care
  • financial abuse: the theft or misuse of money, property or personal possessions and includes any pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance.

What can I do?

If you suspect yourself or another person aged 65 and over, or 50 and over if Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, is at risk of or is being abused, you can take action and make a report or seek advice by:

  • calling the ASU via the Elder Abuse Prevention Phone Line on 1800 372 310, Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm.
  • emailing the ASU at
  • contact the Translating & Interpreter Services (TIS) on 131 450 if you require an interpreter to speak with the ASU.

Anyone can make a report and you can remain anonymous if you wish. 

The ASU is not an emergency/crisis service.  Dial 000 for emergencies.

Other Advice and Support Services

  • SA Police or SA Ambulance Service (for emergencies only) - 000
  • SA Police (for non-urgent Police assistance) – 131 444
  • Mental Health Triage – 13 14 65
  • Domestic Violence and Aboriginal Family Violence Gateway – 1800 800 098
  • Homelessness Gateway – 1800 003 308
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14

For more information, please visit the Stop Elder Abuse web page.


Adult Safeguarding Unit
SA Elder Abuse Prevention Phone Line: 1800 372 310 (free call)