The Victorian Public Advocate is empowered by law to promote and safeguard the rights and interests of people with disability.
All of the Office of the Public Advocate’s (OPA) programs, staff and volunteers advocate for the rights of people with disability.
OPA also provides direct advocacy services, including:
- advocating for people with disability who have no other advocacy options and are at risk of abuse, exploitation or neglect
- advocating for the best interests of clients under statutory guardianship
- advocacy arising in the course of an investigation for the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) where a person with disability is at risk and a guardianship order may be needed
- providing an advice service to give information, advocacy and advice on the rights of people with disability.
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OPA provides statutory advocacy that focuses on the best interests of the person with a disability. The principles of the advocacy OPA provides are supported by the Guardianship and Administration Act 1986.
As OPA has limited resources, it provides advocacy to people who have no other advocacy options, such as family, friends or local advocacy networks, or when all other advocacy options have failed.
Advocacy matters involving allegations of abuse, exploitation, neglect, at-risk behaviour or significant conflict are prioritised, as OPA is unable to accept all requests for advocacy.
OPA’s Advice Service provides information, advocacy and advice on the rights of people with disability. The Advice Service can refer matters to advocacy services if needed.
For more information or to contact the Advice Service, go to the Advice Service page in this section.
OPA’s Advice Service works with medical practitioners to ensure they uphold the rights of people with disability who cannot consent to medical procedures because of disability or incapacity. Further information can be found in the Medical consent section of the OPA website.
Disability Act Officer
The Public Advocate has a number of advocacy roles and responsibilities in relation to the Disability Act 2006
The Disability Act Officer advocates for people with disability who receive services under the Act or are subject to restrictive interventions and compulsory treatment imposed under the Act.
The Disability Act Officer provides advocacy on matters including:
- the protection of tenancy rights for group home residents
- reports made by independent persons to the Public Advocate in relation to the use of restrictive interventions within behavioural support plans
- the detention and treatment of persons with an intellectual disability who are considered to be a serious risk to the community.
The Disability Act Officer also liaises with the Community Visitor Program and may undertake other advocacy work in relation to the Act.
Guardianship is the appointment of a person to make personal and lifestyle decisions for an adult with disability if they are unable to do so themselves.
Guardians are appointed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). In some circumstances, VCAT can appoint the Public Advocate as guardian. The Public Advocate then delegates this power to an OPA Advocate Guardian or to a trained volunteer Community Guardian.
OPA guardians advocate for and make decisions in the best interests of the person they are acting as guardian for.
Support for private guardians
A private guardian is a family member or friend appointed by VCAT to make personal and lifestyle decisions for a person with disability when they are unable to do so.
OPA provides support, advice and information for private guardians through our Advice Service. If the Advice Service can not assist, they will refer the enquiry to an agency which can assist.
VCAT Duty Officer
The VCAT Duty Officer is an OPA staff member working onsite at the Guardianship List of VCAT.
The Duty Officer supports:
- OPA staff when they are working on cases that are heard before VCAT
- anyone attending a guardianship or administration hearing at VCAT hearing or who is the subject of an application for guardianship or administration.
The Duty Officer reviews some applications to VCAT, and can recommend that VCAT request an investigation before proceeding to a hearing.
The Duty Officer does not legally represent anyone at a VCAT hearing and provides advice about the process only. Most people do not need legal representation at VCAT hearings.
If there is insufficient information for VCAT to make a decision, VCAT can request that OPA investigates the circumstances of a guardianship or administration application to gather the information required. Each year OPA completes more than 300 investigations.
Investigations are guided by the Guardianship and Administration Act 1986 and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1988. The legislation requires that the least restrictive options and the expressed wishes and best interests of the person who is the subject of the application are considered.
An investigation can take up to 30 days and the findings are presented to VCAT in a detailed written report. VCAT is not bound by these findings when making its decisions.
As an investigator, OPA has the legal authority to:
- view and copy relevant documents including financial and legal papers, medical records and service provider files
- visit the person with disability and discuss the situation with all relevant professionals, family members and friends.