What we do
The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is an independent statutory office established to protect the rights, interests and wellbeing of adults with impaired decision-making capacity, and children and young people in the child protection system. This includes those in out-of-home care, such as a foster home, the home of a kinship carer, a residential care facility, a youth detention or adult correctional centre, disability service or mental health facility.
The purpose of OPG is to advocate for the human rights of our clients.
- For our children and young people clients, this means advocating for their rights, access to services and where appropriate, their independence and choice.
- For our adult clients, this means advocating for their rights, access to services, independence and choice as part of a supported decision-making model.
- Advocacy means understanding the lives and views of our clients with the aim of promoting and protecting their human rights. Advocacy can mean working to prevent or address discrimination, abuse or neglect. Advocacy does not mean taking over a client's life or problems. Advocacy does not mean taking over the roles and responsibilities of other government agencies or service providers.
The Public Guardian Act 2014 and Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 set out the OPG’s legislative functions, obligations and powers. The Powers of Attorney Act 1998 regulates the authority for adults to appoint substitute decision-makers under an Advanced Health Directive or an Enduring Power of Attorney.
The Office of the Public Guardian does not manage a person’s money, and cannot make any decisions regarding money or finances. Financial administration for people with impaired decision-making capacity is often handled by The Public Trustee of Queensland.
How we protect children and young people in out-of-home care
The function of the Public Guardian is to provide oversight functions and powers for children and young people in the foster care, kinship care or residential care. Every child or young person in the child protection system or at a visitable site is entitled to a Community Visitor or Child Advocate - Legal Officer. All children on child protection orders (whether in the care of their parents or not), are entitled to our advocacy.
Visiting children and young people
Queensland’s Community Visitor Program is designed to protect the rights and interests of children and young people in foster care, kinship care or residential care across Queensland. This means visiting children or young people in a foster home, the home of a kinship carer, a residential care facility, a youth detention or adult correctional centre, disability service or mental health facility. Regardless of whether a child or young person is in the child protection system, our community visitors will attend all children and young people in a youth detention centre or mental health facility, to ensure their rights and interests are being protected.
What is a visitable site?
For children and young people in care a visitable site is a place, other than a private dwelling, where children and young people in the child protection system are living.
Visitable sites include residential facilities, authorised mental health service under the Mental Health Act 2016 which provides inpatient services, residential forensic disability services, adult corrective services facilities and youth detention centres.
All children and young people are visited in visitable sites even if they are not in the child protection system.
Child advocacy function
The OPG has special responsibilities to support and protect the rights of children and young people in the child protection system through its child advocacy function.
The child advocacy function provides children and young people within the child protection system an independent voice, ensuring their views and wishes are taken into consideration when decisions are made that affect them, which is a key element of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Charter of Rights under the Child Protection Act 1999.
How we help protect adults with impaired decision-making capacity
For adults with impaired decision-making capacity the OPG:
- makes personal, health and legal decisions (not related to property or finance) if the Public Guardian is their guardian or attorney
- investigates allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation
- advocates and mediates on behalf of adults with impaired decision-making capacity
- educates the public on the guardianship and attorney systems.
When appointed by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) as guardian, the Public Guardian routinely makes complex decisions in a number of areas including accommodation, health care and what services adults have access to. In addition, the Public Guardian advocates for clients and makes decisions in a number of legal matters including criminal, child protection, mental health law, domestic violence and family law.
The OPG’s adult community visitors independently monitor different types of accommodation called ‘visitable sites’ where vulnerable adults live. Under the Public Guardian Act 2014 a visitable site falls into the following categories:
- disability accommodation funded by the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors, or the National Disability Insurance Scheme
- authorised mental health services
- private hostels (with level 3 accreditation)
- the Forensic Disability Service
- Community Care Units
Community visitors make inquiries and lodge complaints for, or on behalf of, residents of these visitable sites who are referred to as ‘consumers’. Community visitors have the power to refer complaints to an external agency—such as the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors, Queensland Health, or the Residential Services Unit—where appropriate.
We have been given special powers under the Public Guardian Act 2014 to protect adults with impaired capacity and investigate claims of abuse, neglect or exploitation. These include:
- requiring people to produce records and accounts
- gaining access to any relevant information, such as medical files
- issuing a summons ordering a person who has been uncooperative to provide information
- applying for an entry and removal warrant if a person is at immediate risk of harm
- being able to suspend an attorney’s power.
Our investigation will gather evidence to find out whether the allegations can be substantiated on the balance of probabilities. The purpose of an investigation is to identify the level of risk for the vulnerable person and the action needed to best protect them.