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Role of the Public Trustee: Guardianship and Administration Act 1995

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Tags: Human Rights, Elder Abuse, Public Trustee

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I have been listening to stories that have been circulating since I became a member in this place in 2015. It is very difficult when you get presented as a member of parliament with one particular slice of information about what has happened in a very complex process under an order or a situation that is established under a guardianship and administration act. There is, always, as you would expect, a lot of complexity in these situations. When I recently became aware of the conversations that Advocacy Tasmania were having in the community and the comments they were making from late last year and early this year, I was very concerned. It tweaked my attention immediately because I had been hearing stories over the years. I was confused. Increasingly, I became shocked and then when I heard Ms Groombridge, the CEO of Advocacy Tasmania, speaking on ABC I was deeply appalled.

I found what she said compelling, disturbing and slightly frightening as a person who has grey hair and who is not a lot younger than some of the people in the stories that Ms Groombridge was talking about, who have their rights fundamentally deprived in the most tragic ways. People whose possessions have been sold without their knowledge or against their will, people whose liberty has been deprived - really appalling stories.

We recently met with Ms Groombridge. We have met and spoken to other people who have made allegations of mistreatment and really appalling breaches of human rights that they allege in the way the Guardianship and Administration Act has been mismanaged by, they allege, the board but particularly in hospitals, in rehabilitation centres, and in aged care places across Tasmania. This is a breadth which really takes your breath away. What I found very compelling from Ms Groombridge's comments was that when, as the CEO of Advocacy Tasmania, she bravely went public with comments she has been talking about for years, they were not surprised but disturbed nonetheless at the avalanche of response in the community. This has touched a chord so deep and strong from people who have had their rights deprived and from family members who have had to watch powerless from the sidelines.

She has been very strong in her advocacy. She and other staff of Advocacy Tasmania met with the minister in September last year and with the Council of the Ageing Tasmania and Health Consumers Tasmania. They have tried to work with staff at the LGH and the Royal Hobart Hospital and have had almost no success there. An initial meeting was very short. They tried to have a second meeting in May this year but that was cancelled after no-one from the Royal Hobart Hospital turned up and they have not heard anything since. They wrote several letters to the LGH in September last year but did not get a response. They have had a right to information request at the LGH from October last year but have heard nothing and they have been in touch on a regular basis and are not getting anything substantial out of the Government.

It is, they are alleging, an extremely serious extent of deprivation of liberty and an abuse of human rights. They put it into four categories: the abuse of emergency orders; the unlawful detention of people in hospital and in-patient facilities; the premature entry of people into residential aged care; and the conduct of the Public Trustee and the Office of the Public Guardian themselves.

We have heard from Ms Haddad, the member for Clark, about the situation of Mr Burles. That was most distressingly reported recently. We also know that the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute in 2018 recommended wide changes to the Guardianship and Administration Act.

I heard the minister's comments, and I am sure she will get up and speak, about how the Government and she have put out media releases about this just last week, obviously responding to the community's extreme concern at what has come to light. The minister said, 'Yes, we are working on this. We have done one tranche.'.

Ms Archer - We are. Do you realise how much work goes into this?

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, every single day people are having their liberty withheld from them. There is the distressing story of a woman we might have all met in Salamanca, the woman in the chair, Jill with MS. Four months of her life have been lost. She is being held against her will because of a paternalistic, controlling approach from doctors. It is also the responsibility of the Health minister. Where is the Health minister? Why are hospitals not responding on this matter? Why is Advocacy Tasmania and lawyers asking questions of staff and being met with, as has been clearly reported by Advocacy Tasmania, fake duty of care orders that do not exist in law. Staff are saying -

Ms Ogilvie - What are you talking about?

Dr WOODRUFF - Staff nurses are telling Advocacy Tasmania that people are being held with duty of care orders that do not exist. It is an awful act and the Greens will be working on behalf of Tasmanians to get to the bottom of it.