Far too often, we advocate for people whose lives have been turned entirely upside down by guardianship and administration systems in Tasmania. The people we work for have been subject to immense and regularly state-sanctioned abuse, violence, and neglect through these systems. Their stories are harrowing and cry out for urgent and transformational change.
“No one spoke to me, just about me. All these huge decisions were being made about my life and I wasn’t involved at all. It was so shocking how quickly I lost my independence.”
We see levels of disempowerment, detention, torture, neglect, and enforced dependence on the choices and views of others that have no place in modern Australian society. Forced interventions, deprivations of liberty, chemical and physical restraint, destruction of treasured possessions, and removal from family, culture, community and independence, cause people immense harm. These harms have, for far too long, been perpetrated against people with disability and older people under the guise of protecting them through substituted decision-making, and now need to be made right.
“I had no power, I knew I was dead. I was a lump of meat they didn’t care about. My rights were taken away completely. I had no life. Can you imagine? Everything taken off you and you’re grieving for your wife. They totally destroyed me, and I couldn’t understand why. I still don’t. I’m not angry, I’m just upset. I just can’t grasp the inhumane treatment I received … there was no consolation, no treatment, no nothing.”
Guardianship and administration systems need to be replaced as an absolute last resort by supports that seek to give effect to the will, preferences, and rights of people – in a way that accurately reflects their legal agency rather than what others believe would be best for them. These last resort supports should only be possible where supported decision-making supports have been provided and exhausted, and it is not possible for the actual will and preferences of the person to be established after all available efforts have been exhausted.
We need to name up what has happened through substituted decision-making systems as being categorically wrong. There has been a gross and long-term denial of rights, freedoms, and too often profound discrimination, torture, cruel, and inhumane conduct. It is a national shame, that must end and never occur again.
The guardianship and administration systems are a national shame, they are unworthy of Australia and must end and never occur again.
And that is what we have told the Disability Royal Commission.
You can read our full submission to the Disability Royal Commission on Guardianship and Administration here.