About guardianship

When a person lacks capacity to make decisions, sometimes there is a need for a person with formal authority to make decisions on their behalf.

A guardian is someone with legal authority to make important health and lifestyle decisions on behalf of a person with a decision-making disability.

Health and lifestyle decisions are about significant personal matters like:

  • where a person lives
  • their healthcare and medical treatment
  • the support services they receive
  • who they have contact with

A guardian cannot make financial decisions. Authority to make financial decisions is known as  administration. More information on administration or applying for the appointment of an administrator is provided on the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal - administration fact sheet (PDF,90.5 KB).

Guardianship is normally considered a last resort as it is restrictive and limits a person’s right to make decisions for themselves.

Who can be a guardian?

A guardian may be:

  • A Private Guardian – a suitable family member or friend; or
  • The Public Guardian – when no other suitable person is available or when there is conflict

All guardians must be aged 18 or over and be appointed under a guardianship order by the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (TasCAT) - protective division, guardianship stream (Tribunal).

When deciding who to appoint as a guardian, the Tribunal will consider who is most suitable to act on behalf of the person with a decision-making disability.

The about guardianship section provides further information about the things the Tribunal will consider when deciding who to appoint as a guardian.

More information on the role of the Public Guardian is available from the About us section.

More information is available from the Information for private guardians section.

When a guardian may be needed

A guardian may be needed when:

  • there are significant decisions to be made and a need for legal authority to give effect to a decision
  • the person is unable to make a significant decision themselves, even with support
  • there is disagreement about the decision/s or options
  • there is no-one else involved who has formal authority to make decisions
  • there is significant risk to the well-being and safety of the person if a particular course of action is not taken
What is impaired decision making capacity?

Decision-making capacity is the ability to make decisions for yourself. We are all assumed by law to have the capacity to make our own decisions as this is a human right.

Capacity to make decisions can sometimes be impaired due to the impact of a disability or condition that affects our ability to make decisions.

A person may lack decision-making capacity when they are unable to:

  • understand information relevant to a decision
  • remember the information long enough to make a decision
  • consider the different choices and their consequences and weigh them up
  • communicate their decision by some means

Sometimes it is unclear or there is dispute about a person’s ability to make decisions.

A person’s capacity for decision-making can be formally assessed by a health professional such as a medical practitioner or psychologist.

In Tasmania, only the Tribunal can make a formal determination that an adult with a disability lacks capacity for decision-making in relation to lifestyle matters or financial matters.

More information about supported and substitute decision making is available on Information for guardians.

How is a guardian appointed?

A guardian can be appointed by the Tribunal. This requires an application form to be completed and a Health Care Professional Report to be provided to the Tribunal with the application. The Tribunal will hold a hearing before deciding if a guardianship order should be made.

An adult who has decision-making capacity can also appoint a guardian via an enduring guardianship instrument.

For more information see applying for guardianship page or the Planning Ahead webpage.

Applying for guardianship

Please see the applying for guardianship page for details.

Principles of guardianship

Guardianship is a significant responsibility. All guardians must make decisions and act in a way that reflects the principles of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1995. This means acting in a way that:

  • Assists the person with a disability to carry out their wishes as far as possible
  • Promotes the best interests of the person with a disability
  • Is the least restrictive of the person’s freedom to make their own decisions and act as independently as possible
Emergency applications

Sometimes the circumstances of a proposed represented person are such that there is an urgent need for an immediate order, usually to protect a person or their estate from harm.

Information on the process for making an emergency application is available from the Tribunal website.

Enduring guardianship

Please see the enduring guardianship page for details.

What if I think there is no longer a need for a guardian?

Anyone with a genuine interest (including a person under guardianship) can ask the Tribunal to review an existing order. The Tribunal is not obliged to review an order, but will generally do so if the application indicates that:

  • there has been a significant change in circumstances since the order was made
  • the criteria required to make an order are no longer met (e.g. the person has gained decision-making capacity or there is no longer a need for a guardian)

The relevant forms required to apply for a review can be found on the Tribunal's website.

Further information

If you have questions about the role or authority of an enduring guardian you can contact the Office of the Public Guardian for more information. Further information is also available via the links below.

Tribunal – Enduring Guardian Fact Sheet (PDF,128.9 KB)

Legal Aid Tasmania – Enduring Guardianship Fact Sheet

Tribunal – Enduring Guardianship Instrument (PDF, 90.4 KB)

Coversheet for Service Tasmania  (PDF,  82.0 KB)

Updated: 18th October 2022