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What are the guardianship principles?

The guardianship principles are a set of decision-making principles that all guardians must follow. They state that a guardian must always:

  • act in the adult’s ‘best interests’, in a way that least restricts their freedom of decision and action
  • consider the adult’s current and previously stated views and wishes
  • support the adult to make their own decisions where feasible
  • use their authority in line with the Guardianship of Adults Act 2016, the guardianship order and any other order of the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Please see our fact sheet: 
PDF icon understanding the adult guardianship principles.pdf
Section 4 of the Guardianship of Adults Act 2016 for a detailed listing of the guardianship principles


What does joint guardianship mean? 

Joint guardianship is where two or more guardians are appointed to make decisions for an adult under a guardianship order.

Sometimes a guardianship order will state that all guardians must make decisions together. At other times an order will state that some decisions are to be made by one person, and other decisions by someone else.

The legal terms which say how decisions must be made are:

  • Jointly – all guardians must agree and make decisions together
  • Severally – guardians have separate decision-making responsibility for different things
  • Jointly and severally – guardians can use their decision-making authority together or on their own, but should be in agreement about decisions made.


What are my responsibilities as a guardian? 

As a guardian, you must make timely decisions for the adult you represent in the areas for which you have authority in the guardianship order.

You must always:

  • comply with the guardianship order and any other order of the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Authority
  • use the guardianship principles to guide your decisions
  • take into account the views and wishes of any interested person
  • cooperate with any other guardians or appointed decision-makers
  • act as an advocate for the adult in the areas for which you have authority
  • make timely decisions when they are needed
  • ensure that your actions and decisions are reasonable
  • know the limits of your authority and act with honesty, care, skill and diligence
  • comply with the rules in the Guardianship of Adults Act 2016.

Please see our fact sheets: 
PDF icon information for guardians.pdf


Who should I tell about my role as guardian? 

Good question! It is important that the right people know about your authority as a guardian so they can contact you if needed.

Who you need to tell will depend on the type and extent of authority given to you in the guardianship order.

But it is important that you tell family and close friends of the adult about your role as a guardian, so they know they need to speak with you about important things.

People and organisations you might need to tell about your authority as a guardian may include:

  • housing or accommodation providers
  • organisations that send bills (e.g. power and water or telephone providers)
  • financial institutions (e.g. banks, building societies or credit card providers)
  • allied health and medical providers (e.g. physiotherapists, podiatrists, doctors, dentists and medical specialists).

It may be helpful to have letters or bills for things you have authority for sent to your postal address so they are not misplaced or lost.

Because all guardianship orders reflect the individual needs and circumstances of the adult, the conditions stated in the guardianship order you have will likely be different from those for someone else you know. 

We have made a check list of people and organisations you may need to tell about your authority as a guardian which you can download and print. Your printer will need to be set to A4 paper to print it.


What records must I keep?

It is important that you keep reasonable and up-to-date records for decisions you make for the adult you represent. This includes letters you receive or write for them, and any receipts or invoices.

Only a guardian with authority for financial decisions can authorise payment of things for the adult and pay bills or buy things using the adult’s money.

Any expenses and reimbursement must be:                                                                                                 

  • authorised in writing in the guardianship order or another order by the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT)
  • approved in advance by the guardian or guardians with authority for financial decisions.

What if I have authority for financial decisions?

If you have authority for financial decisions you will need to know what you can and cannot spend and claim for the adult.

This will be stated in the guardianship order, or in another order by the NTCAT.

You must:

You may need to do a financial statement

All guardians with authority for financial decisions will be required to complete a ‘Financial Statement’ (Form AG10) for the NTCAT. A financial statement is a document which provides information about income and expenditure, assets and liabilities.

The financial statement will ask you to provide details of the adult’s income and what you spent on their behalf. It will also ask you to list the adult’s shared assets or liabilities, such as any real estate, property, investments, shares, debts or money owing.

You will need to be able to provide this statement when the NTCAT requests it.

The Financial Statement form can be downloaded from the Publications & Forms section of the NTCAT website (Form AG10).

Ask for help if you need it

You must ask for help from the NTCAT or the Office of the Public Guardian if you are unsure about what you can or should do.

Staff of the NTCAT or Office of the Public Guardian will be able to assist you with working out what records are reasonable, and tell you about any regulations.

Contact details for the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal are here.

Our contact details are on our contact page.

Please see our fact sheet:
PDF icon information for guardians.pdf

You can also download and print our record keeping check list and income and expenditure example. Please set your printer to A4 paper to print these.


What can't I do as a guardian? 

The Guardianship of Adults Act 2016 lists actions you must not do as a guardian. You cannot:

  • vote for the adult in a government election or referendum
  • make, change or revoke their will, power of attorney or advance personal plan (or anything having similar effect)
  • exercise their rights as an accused person in criminal investigations or proceedings (including those under the Mental Health and Related Services Act 1998, part 10)
  • make a decision about or consent to health care that is restricted health care

You also can’t make or give effect to decisions about:

  • the care and wellbeing of the adult’s children or the adult adopting a child
  • the adult starting or ending a relationship, or marrying or divorcing.

Please see our fact sheets: 
PDF icon information for guardians.pdf
PDF icon understanding the NT guardianship of adults act.pdf


What if I am responsible for personal decisions? 

If you are responsible for personal decisions you will need to make timely decisions for the adult you represent in the areas for which you have authority in the guardianship order.

You must always:

  • comply with the guardianship order and any other order of the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Authority
  • use the guardianship principles to guide your decisions
  • take into account the views and wishes of any interested person
  • cooperate with any other guardians or appointed decision-makers
  • act as an advocate for the adult in the areas for which you have authority
  • make timely decisions when they are needed
  • ensure that your actions and decisions are reasonable
  • know the limits of your authority and act with honesty, care, skill and diligence
  • comply with the rules in the Guardianship of Adults Act 2016.

Accessing information

You have the right to access information relating to the adult, as long as it is:

  • relevant to your role as guardian
  • limited to matters for which you have authority.

If the information you request is refused without reasonable excuse, you can apply to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) for an order that it be provided.

You must not discuss or disclose the adult’s personal and private information to anyone outside your authority as guardian.

What if the adult won’t follow my decisions?

If the adult won’t follow your decisions, you can contact the NTCAT for help. The NTCAT will consider the adult’s best interests and what might help protect them from harm, neglect, abuse or exploitation.

Their contact details are listed here.

Please see our fact sheet: 
PDF icon information for guardians.pdf


What if I am responsible for financial decisions?

If you have authority for financial decisions you will need to know what you can and cannot spend and claim for the adult.

This will be stated in the guardianship order, or in another order by the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT).

You must:

  • Please see our record keeping check list and example of what a simple income and expenditure record might look like.

You will need to do a financial statement

All guardians with authority for financial decisions will be required to complete a ‘Financial Statement’ (Form AG10) for the NTCAT. A financial statement is a document which provides information about income and expenditure, assets and liabilities.

The financial statement will ask you to provide details of the adult’s income and what you spent on their behalf. It will also ask you to list the adult’s shared assets or liabilities, such as any real estate, property, investments, shares, debts or money owing.

You will need to be able to provide this statement when the NTCAT requests it.

The Financial Statement form can be downloaded from the Publications & Forms section of the NTCAT website (Form AG10).

Accessing information

You have the right to access information relating to the adult, as long as it is:

  • relevant to your role as guardian
  • limited to matters for which you have authority.

If the information you request is refused without reasonable excuse, you can apply to the NTCAT for an order that it be provided.

You must not discuss or disclose the adult’s personal and private information to anyone outside your authority as guardian.

Dealing with property

A guardian with authority for financial matters is subject to the same duties, obligations and limitations of a trustee. You must deal with the adult’s property:

  • as if you hold it in trust for them, acting only in their interests
  • using the skill and judgement a careful, reasonable person would use in their own financial affairs.

Providing for dependants and giving gifts

You may only use the adult’s property to provide for their dependants or to give a gift if:

  • it is something the adult used to do when they had decision-making capacity, or might reasonably be expected to do
  • its value is reasonable.

The NTCAT can restrict or expand your authority to provide for dependants and will state this in the guardianship order.

Ask for help if you need it

You must ask for help from the NTCAT or the Office of the Public Guardian if you are unsure about what you can or should do in your role as guardian.

Contact details for the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal are here.

Our contact details are on our contact page.

Please see our fact sheets:
PDF icon information for guardians.pdf
You can also download and print our record keeping check list and income and expenditure example. Please set your printer to A4 paper to print this


What if I am responsible for health care decisions? 

A guardian may be given authority for a range of decisions, including health care decisions, for the adult they represent.

The Guardianship of Adults Act defines health care very broadly. Guardians with authority for health care can generally agree to treatments that:

  • involve general anaesthetic, similar sedation or giving a drug that affects the central nervous system
  • require a doctor or dentist to do or supervise
  • require prescriptions for medicine
  • are ongoing, regular or part of a treatment plan.

However, a guardian cannot consent to or make ‘restricted health care’ decisions. Only the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal can make these decisions.

What are ‘restricted health care’ decisions?

‘Restricted health care’ decisions include:

  • actions that result in sterilisation
  • termination of a pregnancy
  • removal of tissue that won’t grow back for transplanting to another person
  • health care for medical research
  • any other health care regulation restricts.

Please see our fact sheet: 
PDF icon understanding the NT guardianship of adults act.pdf
See section 8 of the Guardianship of Adults Act 2016 for ‘restricted health care decisions’, and section 4 of the Transplantation and Anatomy Act 2011 for ‘non-regenerative tissue’


What is restricted health care?

Restricted health care includes:

  • actions that result in sterilisation
  • termination of a pregnancy
  • removal of tissue that won’t grow back for transplanting to another person
  • health care for medical research
  • any other health care regulation restricts.

A guardian cannot consent to or make ‘restricted health care’ decisions. Only the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal can make these decisions.

Please see our fact sheet:
PDF icon understanding the NT guardianship of adults act.pdf or
See section 8 of the Guardianship of Adults Act 2016 for ‘restricted health care decisions’, and section 4 of the Transplantation and Anatomy Act 2011 for ‘non-regenerative tissue’


What if the adult has an advance personal plan?

An advance personal plan is a legal document that states a person’s health, financial and lifestyle preferences, for if they lose decision-making capacity in the future. It does not replace their will and is only valid in their lifetime.

An advance personal plan may include any of the following:

  • advance consent decision
  • advance care statement
  • substitute decision-maker.

Advance personal planning is governed by the Advance Personal Planning Act 2013.

Advance consent decisions

An advance consent decision allows an adult to control the extent and type of medical treatment they receive in the future, if they are not able to make a decision for themselves.

Advance consent decisions are legally binding, which means that doctors, guardians and other decision-makers must follow them.

Advance care statements

An advance care statement sets out the adult’s personal views, wishes and beliefs as the basis for how they want someone to act if they make decisions for them in the future.

Unlike an advance consent decision, an advance care statement does not dictate what actions decision-makers must take, but will give them general guidance.

However, like advance consent decisions, if the adult has decision-making capacity and are able to do so, they can:

  • instruct a guardian or other decision-maker not to action their statement
  • withdraw or amend their statement at any time.

Substitute decision-makers

A substitute decision-maker is someone appointed in an advance personal plan to make decisions in the future on an adult’s behalf, if they cannot do so themselves. This might be a partner, parent, adult child, close relative, friend or other trusted person.

An adult can appoint different decision-makers for different decisions in their advance care statement.

Enduring power of attorney and advance personal plans

Advance personal plans replaced enduring power of attorney in the Northern Territory in 2014. This means that an enduring power of attorney can no longer be created. However, existing enduring powers are still valid, as are interstate powers.

Please see our fact sheet:

PDF icon advance personal plans and adult guardianship.pdf


What if the adult has an advance care statement? 

An advance care statement sets out the adult’s personal views, wishes and beliefs as the basis for how they want someone to act if they make decisions for them in the future.

An advance care statement may be included in an advance personal plan.

Unlike an advance consent decision, an advance care statement does not dictate what actions decision-makers must take, but will give them general guidance.

However, like advance consent decisions, if the adult has decision-making capacity and are able to do so, they can:

  • instruct a guardian or other decision-maker not to action their statement
  • withdraw or amend their statement at any time.

Please see our fact sheet: 
PDF icon advance personal plans and adult guardianship.pdf


What is an advance consent decision? 

An advance consent decision allows an adult to control the extent and type of medical treatment they receive in the future, if they are not able to make a decision for themselves. Advance consent decisions are legally binding, which means that doctors, guardians and other decision-makers must follow them.

Please see our fact sheets:
PDF icon advance personal plans and adult guardianship.pdf


What is advance personal planning?

Advance personal planning allows a person to plan for a future where their health, financial and lifestyle wishes are heard and respected if they lose decision-making capacity. 

It is governed by the Advance Personal Planning Act 2013.

What is an advance personal plan?

An advance personal plan documents a person’s health, financial and lifestyle preferences, for if they lose decision-making capacity in the future. It does not replace their will and is only valid in their lifetime.

An advance personal plan may include any of the following:

  • advance consent decision
  • advance care statement
  • substitute decision-maker

Please see our fact sheet for more information.
PDF icon advance personal plans and adult guardianship.pdf


What is an advance care statement?

An advance care statement sets out an adult’s personal views, wishes and beliefs as the basis for how they want someone to act for them in the future, if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves.

An advance care statement may be included in an adult’s advance personal plan.

Unlike an advance consent decision, an advance care statement does not dictate what actions decision-makers must take, but will give them general guidance.

However, like advance consent decisions, if the adult has decision-making capacity and are able to do so, they can:

  • instruct a guardian or other decision-maker not to action their statement
  • withdraw or amend their statement at any time.

Please see our fact sheet:
PDF icon advance personal plans and adult guardianship.pdf


What is a substitute decision-maker? 

A substitute decision-maker is someone appointed in an advance personal plan to make decisions in the future on an adult’s behalf, if they cannot do so themselves. This might be a partner, parent, adult child, close relative, friend or other trusted person.

An adult can appoint different decision-makers for different decisions in an advance care statement.

Please see our fact sheets:
PDF icon advance personal plans and adult guardianship.pdf


Can a guardian look after an adult's dependants?

If the guardian has authority for financial matters they may provide for the needs of a dependant.

However, the support must be of a kind that the adult might reasonably be expected to make, or had made previously, and its value must be reasonable in the circumstances.

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal can restrict or expand a guardian’s authority to provide for dependants, and include this in the guardianship order.

Please see our fact sheet:
PDF icon information for guardians.pdf


What if the adult won't follow my decisions? 

If the adult won’t follow your decisions, you can contact the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) for help. The NTCAT will consider the adult’s best interests and what might help protect them from harm, neglect, abuse or exploitation.

Their contact details are listed here.

See our fact sheet for more information.
PDF icon information for guardians.pdf


Can I change a guardianship order?

Any person can apply to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) to make a change to a guardianship order at any time.

This includes if you:

  • are the represented adult
  • can no longer be a guardian
  • have concerns for the adult’s welfare
  • have another legitimate reason.

You are welcome to speak with us at the Office of the Public Guardian to discuss your situation.

If you are a guardian and just need a short break from your role, due to ill health or another important reason, the Public Guardian may be able to help.

You can call us on 1800 810 979 or contact us via the details on our contact page.

Contact details for the NTCAT are here.

You can download an ‘Application to vary, revoke or reassess a guardianship order’ (Form AG5) from the Publications & Forms section of the NTCAT website.


What if I can't do my role as guardian?

If you need to take a short absence from your role as guardian, due to poor health or another important reason, you must first let the Office of the Public Guardian know so that we can make arrangements for the adult.

If you are the adult’s sole guardian, the Public Guardian will act in your place until you return. But it is important that you tell us as soon as you can take up your role again.

If you can no longer continue in your role as guardian, you can resign by giving notice in writing to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Their contact details are listed here.

Contact details for the Office of the Public Guardian are on our contact page.


What if I have a complaint? 

If you have a concern about a guardianship matter or your contact with the Office of the Public Guardian, please give us a call so we can talk about it.

You can phone us on 1800 810 979 between 9am and 4pm weekdays.

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) has the power to reassess, change or cancel a guardianship order.

If you would like the NTCAT to make a change to a guardianship order, you need to fill in an ‘Application to vary, revoke or reassess a guardianship order’ (Form AG5).

You can download this form from the Publications & Forms section of the NTCAT website.

You can also phone the NTCAT on 1800 604 622 between 8:45 am and 4 pm weekdays.

Please see our fact sheet for further information:
PDF icon Resolving complaints and concerns.pdf