Picture: Sarah Reed Source: The Advertiser
The Law Society of South Australia has complained about the practice to an inquiry on disabled rights because many disabled people cannot afford help and none is publicly available.
Law Society president Ralph Bonig said South Australia was the only state where Guardianship Board orders could be made without publicly funded help being offered to a person.
“They often have no ability to afford legal help and the consequence of any Guardianship Board order can have a drastic consequence on the individual,” he said.
“There can be very harsh consequences from an order, but these people haven’t been charged with a crime and if they had, then they would be given legal representation in the courts.”
Mr Bonig said the decisions included detention and treatment orders, financial decisions and even electroconvulsive therapy.
Mr Bonig has lodged a complaint about the lack of legal representation to an inquiry set up by Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent.
Ms Vincent said disabled people were often at a double disadvantage because they had less money and often less understanding of the process they were being subjected to.
“The fact that South Australians seem to have less access to legal representation than their interstate counterparts in the circumstances cited by the Law Society is disquieting and I am sure the Select Committee will take this into serious consideration in their deliberations,” she said.
Attorney-General John Rau confirmed the practice, but said people who appeared before the board could appeal the decision.
“This appeal is heard in the District Court and is funded by the Government through the Guardianship Board,” he said.
“A person appearing before the board is able to bring a friend or family member or other advocate with them. The board is chaired by an experienced lawyer.”
Mia’s thoughts- To those who think this is an isolated situation only happening in South Australia, I have bad news for you. This kind of opression and total elicit control of the disabled by government departments against citicizens will is rampant Australia wide and has been for over a decade. In 2009, when Ella and I decided that we would return to Australia we looked up an old friend who had been a lifesaver for me, giving me shelter, feeding me and providing dear friendship at a time when I needed it. She became like a sister, the family that should have stuck by me but didn’t. We were saddened to learn when we tracked her down that because she is transgender and also poorly educated she is on a disability pension and last time I saw her she managed it well, furnished a home, took care of her bills and dressed beautifully, but some young social worker fresh out of school (still wet behind the ears) decided her life including her finances needed to be taken over. I contacted the government department and spoke to her social worker and explained to him how dear she was to us and offered to at our own expense sponsor her immigration to the US where we would care for her. This would remove her as a burden off of their pension rolls. The very arrogant reply was that it wasn’t within his job description to let patients in need of medical supervision run off willy nilly. Even though their were two more calls where we offered draw up legal documents showing our seriousness, we were treated as though we ourselves neede supervision and hung up on. In fact, her social worker spent over an hour after our last call warning our friend of our intensions and how my friends safety could only be ensured if she stayed put. We also found out that she had first come to their attention because of outstanding debt and yet here is where this kind of government overseeing is totally wrong. A pensioner who had lived 30 something years controlling her own life, bringing herself up comes to the attention of the pension because she has outstanding debt. In the 21 century a young, new on the job social worker equates a pensioner in debt with poor soul needing mental health oversight. Fast forward to today, she is still in Queensland, Australia, still has no control of her money and is on court order mental health meds which is often tested to make sure she is on. So, is this how it works Australia… a pensioner managing their own life perfectly, takes you up on your offer of a loan against the pension (you know the program you advertise in hundreds of offices all over the country a being easy) and what does she get, a short term loan.. no. She ends up in a court room being declared a mental health ward of the state, her pension controlled, her rent paid by the government, a few bags of shopping dropped off twice a month, her passport taken away and even when family or life long friends offer to care for her… this government thinks they know best. Is this Australia or 1930’s Germany, I ask you.