The Public Advocate is an independent statutory (public) official appointed by the Governor in consultation with the Government under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993 (SA) . The Public Advocate promotes the rights and interests of people with a mental incapacity and, where appropriate, their carers.
Under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993 (SA), the Public Advocate has direct access to the Minister for Health, the Attorney-General and the Parliament. The Office of the Public Advocate has a responsibility to act to protect people with a mental incapacity from abuse, exploitation and neglect (including self-neglect), see contact details below.
Under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993 (SA) there are eight general functions of the Public Advocate [s 21(1)]. These functions can be summarised under four headings:
The Public Advocate also has a role in dispute resolution in relation to advance care directives under the Advance Care Directives Act (SA) 2013.
Office of the Public Advocate
Level 7, ABC Building
85 North East Road COLLINSWOOD SA 5081
PO Box 213 PROSPECT SA 5082
Telephone: 8342 8200, 1800 066 969 (country areas)
This section discusses advocacy on behalf of persons with a mental incapacity. There are two main types of advocacy: individual and systemic.
Individual advocacy involves representing the interests of a person with a mental incapacity. This may include:
- speaking for and promoting their rights and interests;
- speaking for and negotiating for resolutions to any problems they may have;
- giving support to and promoting the interest of carers.
Systemic Advocacy addresses issues causing problems for groups of people with a mental incapacity and their carers. The Public Advocate undertakes systemic advocacy by:
- reviewing programs designed to meet client's needs;
- identifies areas of unmet or inappropriately met needs;
- recommending to relevant Ministers and other decision makers the development of programs to meet those needs or to improve existing programs.
The Guardianship and Administration Act 1993 (SA) enables SACAT to appoint the Public Advocate as a guardian of last resort [s 29]. The Act uses the term guardianship as a last resort, expecting that an application to SACAT will only become necessary when a satisfactory outcome cannot be arranged informally.
The Public Advocate has a role in encouraging alternatives to formal guardianship.
As a guardian, the Public Advocate can make a number of important life decisions for an individual with a mental incapacity. This power will not allow the Public Advocate to give consent to certain treatments, which still require the authority of SACAT (for example, sterilisation and termination of pregnancy).
Under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993 (SA), SACAT can direct the Public Advocate to undertake investigations and give a written report to the Tribunal on the affairs of a person subject to an application before the Tribunal or a person who has had an advance care directive revoked by the Tribunal under the Advance Care Directives Act 2013 [Guardianship and Administration Act 1993 (SA) s 28(1)]. In complex or difficult cases this independent report from the Public Advocate is sometimes necessary in order to ensure that the Tribunal has all relevant information necessary to make the most appropriate decision. In particular such reports should ensure that the wishes and preferences of a person with a mental incapacity are made known to the Tribunal.
The Public Advocate has a role in advising the community about guardianship and the operation of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993 (SA) and the Mental Health Act 2009 (SA). The Public Advocate has produced easy to read leaflets and other resources about guardianship, mental health, enduring powers of attorney and enduring powers of guardianship, and about the office of the Public Advocate itself. Free copies of any of the leaflets are available from the Office of the Public Advocate and from the Office of the Public Advocate SA website.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.