Monday, 29 June 2015

I was once a member of

a government tribunal. After some years in the role I resigned the position because I moved to another part of the country.
I wasn't sorry because, by then, I had begun to doubt the value of some of the tribunal's decisions. They were made according to the law but I had concerns about the way in which the law sometimes had to be applied. However I have always been glad I had the experience because it taught me a great deal about law, about the way in which it can and cannot be applied, and much more.
The state government recently axed a number of tribunals - although not that one.  Instead it has axed several which probably should have been kept and one which most definitely should have been kept.
They have axed the Guardianship Tribunal. That worries me. I have first hand knowledge of how that one worked as well. I taught children who were under state guardianship. When decisions were being made I would sometimes be consulted about their capacities and what I thought might be the best option for them. I have acted as a communication facilitator for some of those subject to the board's decisions and an amicus curiae for others. 
I remember the wonderful young indigenous woman who approached me and asked if I would help her go to the tribunal for help. She had been awarded a considerable sum in compensation for an accident and, she told me, her relatives would seek to take it from her if she had charge of her own affairs. The Tribunal helped to sort it out for her so that they could not touch it. 
I went with a severely disabled man who, although unable to read or write, was aware that his parents could no longer adequately care for him. There was no other close family. His concerns were heard and, when his father died a few months later,  he was transferred to community housing relatively quickly. His mother died a year later knowing that someone was caring for him. He was one of the lucky ones.
Friends in their eighties have just managed to arrange for their profoundly disabled daughter to go into an aged care complex. She isn't yet fifty but there is nowhere else for her to go. It isn't what they want for her but they can no longer do the heavy physical work of caring for her at home. Her father is trying to ensure that there are some sort of guardianship provisions in place - something the Guardianship Tribunal would once have undertaken because there is no close family.
I know many more people like them. The expectation is that "family" will do it but sometimes there is no family. Siblings may no longer even live in the state - let alone close enough to act.
I acted as guardian for two of my former students. It was the least I could do for their remaining parent. They have all passed away now and I don't want to take the role on again.
It is not because I don't care. I do. I care deeply but I believe that I should be able to be there as a friend and that there should be a Guardianship Tribunal to provide continuity, security and certainty  in their lives.  
All the government is saying is that the new super tribunal will "save money". It won't. 

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