Attorney General Joe Berinson today announced the appointment of a public guardian to represent the interests of incapable people who have no parents, next-of-kin or other suitable person willing to act as guardian.
He said Imelda Margaret Dodds, 37, a social worker with extensive experience in the field, particularly in working with intellectually disabled people, had been appointed to the position for a five-year term.
The appointment of a public guardian is part of a package of reforms by the Government, including the establishment of a Guardianship and Administration Board, chaired by a Supreme Court judge, which would make orders to appoint guardians and administrators for incapable persons.
Mr Berinson said legislation to allow these initiatives had previously passed Parliament. However, the Act had not been proclaimed, pending amendments to streamline the operation of the Bill.
He today introduced amending legislation which included provision for additional members to be appointed to the Guardianship Board to ensure greater availability of expertise and to also allow routine cases to be dealt with quickly.
It was intended that the public guardian and the Guardianship Board would commence operations on July 1, 1992.
Mr Berinson said the Western Australian legislation would protect people who, for reasons of age, mental illness or intellectual disability, were unable to make their own decisions.
He stressed that a key principle under which the board would operate was that a guardianship and administration order would not be made if the needs of the person could be met by other means less restrictive of the person's freedom of decision and action.
The appointment of a public guardian was a particularly important initiative to advance the position of people who could not make decisions for themselves, and Mr Berinson said Ms Dodds had been highly recommended for the position on the basis of both expertise and dedication and commitment to the disability field.
Ms Dodds began her career in 1976 as a social worker with the Authority for Intellectually Handicapped Persons, and has since worked her way up to become chief social worker with the HIA and then acting regional director for the South West Metropolitan Region, responsible for a staff of more than 200.
She has written a series of papers and addressed numerous seminars and workshops on issues related to intellectual disability, guardianship and care and management programs, and is president of the Australian Association of Social Workers' WA Branch.