Attorney General Joe Berinson today announced the appointment of Supreme Court Judge, Mr Justice Robert Nicholson, as chairperson of the new Guardianship and Administration Board which will have authority to appoint guardians for people unable to make their own decisions.
Mr Berinson said that, under the present system, guardianship applications must be made to the Supreme Court, normally requiring the involvement of a lawyer, and could take several months to resolve at a very substantial cost to the applicant.
The establishment of the board would simplify those procedures, and was intended to reduce both the time taken to process applications and the cost to the applicant.
He stressed that a guardian would only be appointed as a last resort, and only if there were no other options less restrictive of a person's freedom of decision and action.
The board would always be required to take into account the desirability of preserving existing family relationships.
It will spend the next two months setting its operational procedures in place, with its full powers to be invoked on September 30.
It would comprise a pool of 10 members, but would sit as a maximum of three people at any one time.
Its primary functions were to make guardianship orders, appoint administrators to manage property, and approve enduring powers of attorney.
Mr Berinson said Mr Keith Chapman, the Principal Registrar of the Supreme Court, had been appointed deputy chairperson. Three other board members were also announced today. They are:
· Reverend Canon Leslie P. Goode, who participated on the working party which recommended establishment of a Guardianship Board and has extensive experience dealing with the aged and disabled;
· Dr Alan John McCutcheon, an Associate in Geriatrics at Fremantle Hospital; and
· Ms Jo Stanton, a social worker and former Director of Operations of the Activ Foundation.
The creation of a Guardianship Board follows the appointment earlier this year of a Public Guardian, Ms Imelda Dodds, to represent the interests of incapable people who have no parents, next of kin or other suitable people willing to act as their guardian.
The Public Guardian has authority to act as a guardian, investigate complaints or allegations that a person is in need of a guardian, provide information and advice to people acting as guardians, and represent applicants before the Guardianship Board.
By acting as an advocate for people subject to guardianship applications, the Public Guardian's role would also help reduce costs for applicants.