02 June 2014


The Public Guardian Bill 2014 (Qld) has reached the Second Reading stage.

The Act will
  • establishes the role of the Public Guardian, an independent statutory body, reporting to the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice; 
  • transfer "refocussed child guardian functions including child advocacy and visit functions from the Commission for Children & Young People and Child Guardian to the Public Guardian"; 
  • transfer the functions and powers of the Adult Guardian, including for the community visitor program, to the Public Guardian and consequently abolish the position of Adult Guardian; and 
  • make consequential amendments to the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld), Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Act 2000 (Qld), Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 (Qld) and other state legislation to support the above policy objectives. 
The Government indicates that
The Bill establishes the Public Guardian, as an independent statutory position. The Public Guardian has control of the office of the Public Guardian (the office) and its staff. The Public Guardian is not under Ministerial control. The Public Guardian will be required to provide an annual report to the Minister on the performance of the office, including specific information about the child and adult community visitor programs. The Minister must table the report in the Legislative Assembly to ensure accountability and transparency. 
Under the Bill, the Public Guardian is appointed by the Governor in Council for a term of up to five years, but may be reappointed for further terms. A person is eligible for appointment as the Public Guardian only if the person has demonstrated qualities of leadership, management and innovation in a senior government or a private sector role. A person may not hold office as the Public Guardian while the person holds another office having functions concerning the rights and interests of, or provision of services or facilities to adults with impaired capacity or to children. 
The Bill provides that staff of the Public Guardian will be employed under the Public Service Act 2008. In addition, the Public Guardian can appoint community visitors necessary for both the adult and child community visitor programs. Other functions may also be delegated to community visitors where necessary and where the Public Guardian considers the visitor to be appropriately qualified to undertake the function. 
The Public Guardian functions under the Bill are divided into two streams: one set of functions relate to adults with impaired capacity for a matter (adult guardian functions); and the other stream relate to children who are subject to orders, agreements or interventions under the CP Act (relevant children) and also children staying at visitable sites (child advocate functions). This delineation of functions is a safeguard against dilution of the respective programs. 
The adult guardian functions have been transferred from Chapters 8 and 10 of the GA Act, including the community visitor program to safeguard the interests of adults with impaired capacity for a matter residing at visitable sites. The Public Guardian is given child advocate functions allowing it to provide a continuum of services and support. In addition, the Public Guardian is responsible for providing a community visitor program for children. 
The Public Guardian will have the ability to delegate functions to appropriately qualified staff, and consult with, and employ medical, legal, accounting and other professionals as required. The Public Guardian will also have the ability to engage external contractors to undertake child advocate functions, with the exception of providing the community visitor program. The Bill provides the Public Guardian with the flexibility to enable services to be responsive to local needs and conditions and to allow some services to be delivered by the Public Guardian and others to be outsourced, (where cost-efficient and appropriate), to non government service providers. These arrangements in the Bill also promote clear lines of responsibility to the Public Guardian as the leader of the office, opportunities for shared management structures and policies across the office to facilitate a cohesive culture, and to maximise efficiencies, and therefore the available resources, to deliver better outcomes for clients.
The Family and Child Commission Bill 2014 (Qld), also at the Second Reading stage, reflects  recommendations by the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry. The expectation is that the Act will establish the Queensland Family & Child Commission as a new statutory body to
  • provide systemic oversight of the child protection system delivered by public sector and publicly funded non-government organisations providing child safety services or support services to families to improve the safety and well being of children and young people, including those in need of protection; 
  • "drive best practice in the provision of services to this cohort, including by developing a workforce development strategy, coordinating a research program, and by evaluating the performance at a systemic level"; 
  • promote and advocate to families and communities their responsibility for protecting and caring for their children including through education and providing information to enhance community awareness.