Become a guardian or administrator for a person with disabilities

The Guardianship and Administration Act 1990 provides for the appointment of guardians to safeguard the best interests of adults with decision-making disabilities.

These disabilities may be as a result of:

  • intellectual disability
  • mental illness
  • acquired brain injury
  • dementia.

The legislation gives the State Administrative Tribunal legal powers to appoint guardians. It also gives adults with full legal capacity the power to appoint enduring guardians.

For more information on enduring guardians, refer to the Enduring Power of Guardianship page on the Office of the Public Advocate website.

Guardians appointed by the State Administrative Tribunal

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A person with a decision-making disability may require a guardian when personal, lifestyle and treatment decisions need to be made in their best interests.

The legislation seeks to balance the rights of individuals to make decisions for themselves with the need to legally protect people from abuse and exploitation and to ensure informed decisions are made in their best interests.

The appointment of a guardian is a legal way of giving a responsible person authority to make decisions on behalf of the person they represent.

A guardian may be a close friend or family member of the represented person. In the absence of these, the Public Advocate may be appointed by the Tribunal. A guardian from the Office of the Public Advocate will then work with the represented person.

Guardianship may be considered as an option when there is:

  • a need for somebody with legal authority to make decisions in the best interests of a person with a decision-making disability
  • unresolved conflict between family members and/or primary care providers about the person's best interests
  • concern that the person may be at risk of neglect, exploitation or abuse.

The appointment of a guardian is not necessary when informal arrangements can ensure the best interests of the person with a decision-making disability are being met. For example, appointment of a substitute decision-maker is not needed when:

  • a person with a decision-making disability is able to manage and maintain a reasonable quality of life for themselves
  • an enduring guardian has been appointed, who is acting in the best interests of the person
  • the person is being adequately supported and cared for by others
  • there are no personal or family conflicts about the person's care and support needs
  • there are no major problems or issues that are posing an immediate or imminent threat to the person's quality of life.

Community Guardianship Program

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In most cases, the estimated 65,000 people who have decision-making disabilities in Western Australia have family or friends to make decisions in their best interests. Community guardians fulfil a similar role for those who have no-one suitable in their lives to advocate for their rights or make decisions on their behalf.

The Office of the Public Advocate recruits, trains and supports volunteers who are appointed as community guardians to act in the best interests of a person in need of a guardian.

Western Australia was the first state to appoint a volunteer as a guardian for a person with a decision-making disability.

Since its launch in 2005, the program has made a profound difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

The Office of the Public Advocate provides training for community volunteers before matching them with a suitable client over a period of months. When a relationship has been established and shown to be successful for 6-12 months, the Public Advocate makes an application to the State Administrative Tribunal for the volunteer to be appointed the person's guardian.

The community guardian makes informed decisions in the person's best interests. Decisions may relate to consenting to medical treatment or dental work, improving the person's lifestyle and well-being and meeting their accommodation and support needs. Community guardians do not have the authority to control a person's finances.

All volunteers receive ongoing support through training, social events and a newsletter. They can call the Office of the Public Advocate for additional advice if needed.

The Office continues to offer support to community guardians once they are appointed by the Tribunal.

Page reviewed 13 February 2020
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