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What's new under the Guardianship of Adults Act?

The Guardianship of Adults Act 2016 came into effect on 28 July 2016.

The Act:

  • established an independent Office of the Public Guardian
  • established an independent statutory officer as the Public Guardian
  • introduced comprehensive guardianship principles
  • expanded guardianship to people with cognitive impairment from any cause
  • allows for interim (urgent) orders to be made
  • allows for the registration of interstate orders
  • allows for orders for young people for when they turn 18
  • transferred jurisdiction from the Local Court to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Please see our fact sheets ‘Understanding the NT Guardianship of Adults Act’ and ‘Information for guardians’ for more information: 
PDF icon Understanding the NT Guardianship of Adults Act.pdf
PDF icon Information for guardians.pdf


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


What is the NTCAT? 

‘NTCAT’ is short for Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The NTCAT is sometimes also referred to as the ‘Tribunal’.

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal is the authority that decides applications for guardianship in the Northern Territory. It can:

  • receive applications for guardianship from members of the public and the Public Guardian
  • hear evidence from people applying for guardianship
  • make guardianship orders and related orders
  • appoint guardians (‘private’ guardians, the Public Guardian and/or the Public Trustee)
  • reassess and make changes to guardianship orders
  • ask the Office of the Public Guardian to conduct an inquiry or investigation into a matter
  • cancel a guardianship order.

You can find out more about the NTCAT on their website.


What is a guardianship order?

A guardianship order is a legal document which states what decisions a guardian can make for the adult who is the subject of the order (the ‘represented adult’).

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal will give a copy of the order to each guardian and the represented adult after it is made.


What is impaired decision-making capacity? 

An adult may have impaired decision-making capacity if they have difficulty:

  • understanding and remembering information about their personal or financial matters
  • weighing up this information to make reasoned and informed decisions
  • communicating their decisions in some way.

An adult’s decision-making capacity may be considered to be impaired even if:

  • the impairment only happens sometimes or varies depending on the situation
  • the adult can make decisions about some personal or financial matters.

An adult is presumed to have decision-making capacity until the opposite is shown.

Section 5 of the Guardianship of Adults Act 2016 defines decision-making capacity.


What is a represented adult? 

The represented adult is the adult who is the subject of the guardianship order.


What is an interested person? 

An ‘interested person’ for an adult under guardianship means any of the following:

  • the adult’s relative or guardian
  • the Public Guardian
  • the Public Trustee
  • an agent for the adult, such as an advocate or legal or financial adviser
  • a person primarily responsible for providing support or care to the adult
  • anyone else with a genuine and sufficient interest in protecting the adult’s best interests.


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: 
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 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 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 sheet: 
PDF icon advance personal plans and adult guardianship.pdf


Who can be a guardian? 

A guardian may be:

  • an adult who is eligible for appointment
  • the Public Guardian
  • the Public Trustee (for financial matters only)
  • one or more of the above.

All guardians must be aged 18 or over and be appointed under a guardianship order by the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT).

Please see our fact sheet: 
PDF icon what is a guardian.pdf


What does a private guardian do?

A private guardian is a member of the community (a private citizen) who is appointed under a guardianship order to make certain decisions for an adult with impaired decision-making capacity.

We generally refer to private guardians as ‘guardians’.

The main task of a guardian is to make good decisions for the person they represent in the areas specified in the guardianship order.

These decisions may relate to:

  • personal matters – such as managing housing, health care, work, education, daily activities or types of services
  • financial matters – such as managing bills, money, assets, property or investments.

A guardian must always limit what they do to the areas and conditions set out in the guardianship order, and use the guardianship principles as a guide to good decision-making.

A guardian must always act ethically and in the ‘best interests’ of the adult they represent.

A guardian may apply to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal to change the terms of the guardianship order if they have reason to do so.

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


What does the Public Guardian do?

The Public Guardian oversees guardianship in the Northern Territory. With her staff at the Office of the Public Guardian, she:

  • provides information to guardians and people thinking about guardianship
  • helps represented adults, their families and carers to access support services
  • acts as a guardian for an adult when appointed or needed
  • promotes research and helps educate people about guardianship and related issues
  • investigates guardianship matters
  • advises the Minister for Health about relevant issues


Can a young person have a guardian? 

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal can make a guardianship order for a 17-year-old for when they turn 18. The aim is to smooth the transfer of decision-making authority from childhood to adulthood.


What if a guardian is needed urgently? 

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal can make an interim guardianship order while it decides an application if it reasonably believes the adult has impaired decision-making capacity and urgently needs a guardian.

Please see our fact sheet ‘Applying for guardianship’ for more information: 
PDF icon applying for guardianship.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 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 ‘Understanding the adult guardianship principles’ and section 4 of the Guardianship of Adults Act 2016 for a detailed listing of the guardianship principles:
PDF icon understanding_the_adult_guardianship_principles.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 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 'understanding the NT Guardianship of Adults Act': 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 if I have concerns about a guardian? 

If you have concerns about a guardian or need to speak with someone about a guardianship matter, you can contact the Office of the Public Guardian or the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT).

The Guardianship of Adults Act 2016 sets out offences and penalties for guardians who are not doing the right thing. Offences include:

  • pretending to be a guardian
  • a guardian using their authority improperly
  • a guardian inducing a decision-maker to use their authority improperly.

If you think a guardian is not following the guardianship rules, you can apply to the NTCAT to reassess the order. The NTCAT has the authority to:

  • appoint guardians and hear and decide all guardianship applications
  • change or cancel a guardianship order.


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 8:45am and 4pm weekdays.  

Please see our fact sheet on ‘Resolving complaints and concerns’: 
PDF icon complaints concerns and review.pdf