18 October 2023

Tasmanian Public Trustee a step closer to addressing damning independent review's recommendations

| Travis Radford
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Tasmanian attorney-general and justice minister Guy Barnett.

Tasmanian attorney-general and justice minister Guy Barnett welcomed the Public Trustee’s new framework. Photo: Guy Barnett.

A new framework by Tasmania’s Public Trustee brings it a step closer to implementing the recommendations of a damning 2021 review into the independent organisation.

The Tasmanian Government welcomed the new framework, which aims to improve how the organisation delivers its specialised wills, estate and trustee services.

Tasmanian attorney-general and justice minister Guy Barnett said the Public Trustee played an important role, including in the lives of some of the most vulnerable Tasmanians.

“The new framework … is an important step by the Public Trustee to ensure a people-centric model is at the very core of all decision-making for people under guardianship and administration orders,” he said.

“These are some of Tasmania’s most vulnerable and our government is committed to ensuring they are protected and supported to make decisions about their future.”

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The new framework follows an independent review into the Public Trustee by Damian Bugg QC in response to concerns raised by the community and clients around the handling of cases.

Mr Bugg sensationally observed in his report handed down in December 2021 that “for 26 years, the Public Trustee has genuinely misunderstood the duties of an administrator under section 57”.

Section 57 of the Guardianship and Administration Act outlines the Public Trustee’s statutory obligations to the represented person, including to “encourage and assist the represented person to become capable of administering his or her own estate” and “to act as far as possible in consultation with the represented person”. Mr Bugg found both of these duties had been “largely ignored”.

Mr Barnett said the Public Trustee’s new framework was another significant step towards addressing the recommendations made by Mr Bugg to address these and other issues.

“Twenty-six of the 28 recommendations have now been completed, with all remaining recommendations due to be completed shortly, including the Office of the Economic Regulator review into fees and charges, which is currently underway,” he said.

“We thank the Public Trustee, led by CEO Todd Kennedy, for their engagement and commitment to implement the recommendations.

“The Trustee has been building strong relationships with stakeholders, including with the Office of the Public Guardian, to develop the new supported decision-making model.”

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Tasmania has also made legislative changes to bring its guardianship and administration laws into line with recommendations by the Australian Law Reform Commission and other bodies.

“[This] represents a fundamental shift in the legal framework to a will and preference model, delivering on our commitment to further protect the rights of presented persons,” Mr Barnett said.

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