Protection of Rights Services Review
In 2016 a range of changes were made to protection of rights agencies in the ACT, including expanding the ACT Human Rights Commission to include the Public Advocate, Victims of Crime Commissioner and Victim Support ACT, as well as providing the Public Trustee and Guardian with Guardianship functions. The legislation provided that there would be a review of how these changes are working.
An independent review conducted by Insight Consulting Australia commenced in June 2020.
The Terms of Reference for the review are available here.
The review considered the model of services available to protect the rights of Canberrans and whether it meets the community’s needs and expectations.
The review consulted with stakeholders and the broader community to consider the extent to which the protection of rights services reforms achieved their intended aims across the following areas:
- leadership and governance;
- complaint handling;
- service delivery;
- improving the operation of the Public Trustees and Guardian;
- visibility in the community; and
- other issues raised by stakeholders during the consultation.
The review also considered the Our Booris, Our Way recommendation to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner in the ACT.
The Review final report and the Government Response to that report was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on 22 June 2021 and are available here and here. The Government agreed, or agreed in principle to all recommendations coming out of the Protection of Rights Services Review final report.
The final report did not include recommendations that propose significant legislative reform of the Human Rights Commission or the Public Trustee and Guardian.
The Review and the Government response to the review report supports the establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner in the ACT.
The ACT Human Rights Commission promotes the human rights and welfare of all people living in the ACT. It does this through providing a wide range of oversight, advocacy, advice, awareness raising and intervention functions which have a human rights focus.
The Commission also provides services for:
- consideration and conciliation of complaints about health services; disability services; services for children and young people; services for older people; the treatment of vulnerable people, including people with a disability and elderly people who may be at risk of abuse; as well as dealing with discrimination complaints;
- victims of crime, including counselling, help navigating the criminal justice system, financial assistance, court support, specialist outreach services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the provision of intermediaries to assist children and people with disabilities to give their best evidence and advocacy to resolve victim concerns about the way they’ve been treated by justice agencies; and
- intervening on behalf of people at risk, including people with mental health conditions and forensic patients, and children and young people, particularly those involved with the child protection and/or youth justice systems. Advocates may support people in court or tribunals or intervene in other ways to address individual or systemic issues facing these groups.
The Commission has a focus on consulting and engaging with groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; children and young people; people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds; people in detention; people with a disability; and LGBTIQ people to promote their participation in decision-making.
The Human Rights Commission is made up of the following members :
- President & Human Rights Commissioner
- Discrimination, Health Services, Disability & Community Services Commissioner
- Public Advocate & Children & Young People Commissioner
- Victims of Crime Commissioner
Further information about these specific statutory roles is available by clicking on the links.
More information on the Human Rights Commission can be found here.
The role of the Public Trustee and Guardian is to provide the ACT community with permanent and secure Trustee, Guardianship and Administration services, including estate administration and will-making services.
The Guardianship function was moved from the Public Advocate to the Public Trustee and Guardian in 2016 as part of the protection of rights reforms.
A Guardian is a person appointed by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) under the Guardianship and Management of Property Act 1991. A Guardian is appointed to make a range of personal and health decisions for a person who is found by ACAT to have a decision-making disability.
When appointed as Guardian, the Public Trustee and Guardian may make decisions about -
- where and with whom the person lives;
- the education or training the person receives;
- if the person is allowed to work - and, if so, the nature of the work, place of employment and employer;
- consent for medical procedures or other treatment; or
- bringing or continuing legal proceedings for the person.
More information on the Public Trustee and Guardian can be found here.
Our Booris, Our Way recommendation to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner in the ACT
The Our Booris, Our Way review was commissioned in June 2017 to focus on systemic improvements needed to address the unacceptable overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the ACT child protection system.
Three Australian jurisdictions, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia have appointed specialist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children Commissioners. While their roles are primarily framed as review and advocacy roles, in its interim and final report, the Our Booris, Our Way Steering Committee recommend that the ACT appoint an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner with these and additional capacity to specifically intervene and engage in child protection processes.
In response to the interim report of Our Booris, Our Way, the government revised the terms of reference of the Protection of Rights Services Review, to explicitly consider and consult stakeholders and the community in relation to this recommendation.
More information on the Our Booris, Our Way review can be found here.