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Public hearing 30 - Guardianship, substituted and supported decision-making - Day 2

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CHAIR: Good morning, everybody. As you will observe, or at least those in the hearing room will observe, I am not in the hearing room today. I am participating in the hearing from the Sydney hearing room. There are circumstances that require me to participate remotely. I welcome everybody to who is following this, the second day of the 30th Public hearing of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. This hearing is concerned with guardianship, substituted and supported decision making. 

We commence with an Acknowledgment of Country. The Royal Commission and the Commissioners acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land upon which the hearing at Homebush is taking place today, the Wangal people, and we pay respects to their elders past, present and emerging. We also pay our respects to the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation on whose lands I am participating this hearing. We acknowledge and pay our respects that their elders past, present and emerging. We also acknowledge all First Nations people giving evidence at this hearing, as well as those First Nations people who are following the hearing either in the hearing room or via the webcast. Yes, Ms Eastman. 

MS EASTMAN: Good morning, Commissioners, and good morning to everyone following the broadcast and here in the room. I want to start just by outlining what to expect with the evidence today and the way in which the hearing will be conducted this morning. The first witnesses to appear this morning will do so by way of pre recorded evidence. And I will introduce the evidence shortly. They will then be followed by Suzanne Nunn, who will be here with us in the hearing room, and then she will give her evidence here in person. 

After that, we will adjourn for morning tea. And when we resume, we have pre recorded some further evidence from Julie Bury, so we will play her recording. After that, we will hear from a panel of witnesses from QAI, an advocacy group based in Queensland. The hearing this afternoon will also be an opportunity for the Commissioners to hear from the Queensland Public Trustee and the Queensland Public Guardian. All being well, it will be a long day and I hope that we will be able to finish the evidence around 4.30 this afternoon. 

So, Commissioners, can I start by way of introducing the Namok family. Commissioners and Chair, at Public hearing 25 conducted in Alice Springs earlier this year, you heard evidence from the Namok family about their experiences accessing the NDIS in the Torres Strait. Later this year, between 1 and 4 November, Counsel Assisting, Avelina Tarrago, travelled to meet members of the Namok family in Thursday Island and in Cairns to talk about their experience navigating the guardianship and administration systems in Queensland.

Their evidence at Public hearing 25 highlighted the challenges of accessible travel and accommodation in the Torres Strait, which the Royal Commission staff were able to observe firsthand on their recent trip. The travel to Thursday Island from Cairns involves a flight from Cairns to Horn Island in a small propeller plane, then a connecting bus to the jetty, and then a ferry over to Thursday Island. And you can see from the photos on the screen that the ferry is not wheelchair accessible and nor are the houses on Thursday Island, which are traditionally built on stilts. I will just check that you can see those photographs on the screen now. We have also shown you a photograph of one of the family members' house on Thursday island. I understand this is typical of the houses on Thursday Island, built on stilts. 

The pre recorded evidence that we will play for you shortly this morning comprises of videos filmed with Bakoi Namok and Bernard Namok Jr on Thursday Island on 2 November. It also includes a video filmed on 4 November in Cairns, with Bakoi, Bernard and Simeon Namok. In these videos, you will hear Ms Tarrago refer to Bakoi as Mumma Bakoi and to Simeon by his nickname Boyzie. You will also hear Bakoi refer to her late husband as Bernard Sr, and he passed away when Bakoi's four children were young, leaving her as a sole parent. In January this year, Bakoi was appointed as the guardian and administrator of Simeon, or Boyzie, her youngest son. 

Simeon or Boyzie suffered a stroke last year and now lives with cognitive disability and mobility challenges. He currently lives in shared disability accommodation in Cairns, but he has expressed his wish to come tomorrow who Thursday Island. After a period of being non verbal, Simeon is slowly regaining speech and is able to communicate his basic needs to family members who he trusts and who understand his body language and facial expressions. 

Simeon is particularly close to his sister Kernisha, who was unfortunately unable to join the family for the Royal Commission's visit due to flight cancellations from Mabuiag Island in the Torres Strait where she currently lives. Ms Tarrago spoke to Kernisha over the Zoom call on 3 November, and the audio recording and transcript of that conversation is included in the tender bundle. 

The recording of evidence on Thursday Island did pose some technical issues for us, and you will hear that the sound quality is poor in some sections, particularly with the opening minute of the video, so please bear with us. You will also hear some background noise, passing motor boats and fishing boats at the beginning of the video, the sounds of the waves hitting the shore, and a very Australian soundscape of very large cicadas and bird calls. Can I also say that English is not the first language of Bakoi, Bernard or Simeon, and there is parts of the recording where Bernard assists with communication. 

The video that we will play in a moment begins with the discussion between Ms Tarrago, Bakoi and Bernard Jr, and you will see Bakoi sit on the left in a beautiful island red dress. In the middle is her son Bernard Jr. He's wearing a cap, and on the left is Counsel Assisting, Ms Tarrago, also wearing a beautiful blue island dress, which I'm told she purchased on Thursday Island. The last segment of the video is taken in Cairns, where the Royal Commission was able to meet Simeon along with Bakoi and Bernard, and Simeon is seated between Ms Tarrago on the right and Bakoi on the left. So, Commissioners, I will just put up the warning. There is a lot of personal information and, for First Nations people following the hearing, discussions that may cause people to want to reach out and seek some support and assistance. Thank you, Commissioners. 

(Video plays) 

AVELINA TARRAGO: So Mumma Bakoi, we’re here at – where are we today?

BAKOI NAMOK: We be here at this place where we grow up called Tamwoy town. Yeah.

AVELINA TARRAGO: And what’s this island that we’re on?

BAKOI NAMOK: Island - 

AVELINA TARRAGO: What’s the name of this island?

BAKOI NAMOK: Yeah. Tamwoy Town.


BAKOI NAMOK: Thursday Island, but this is at the back of the island. It’s called Tamwoy Town, like, suburb at the back of the island.

AVELINA TARRAGO: And today I wanted to talk about your journey with the guardianship and remember earlier this year we sat down and we were talking about Boyzie for the NDIS and we had that hearing when I was in Alice Springs and you were in Cairns. But now we’re going to sit down and talk a bit about the guardianship. Can you tell me when did you first hear of that word, “Guardianship”? Was that last year or did you know about guardianship before that?

BAKOI NAMOK: Well, coming down to that word, “Guardianship” and we just talk to like, my family and where I grow up -

When Bernard he - he was nine, Betty was eight, Kernisha was two and Simeon was five months when Bernard passed away. So from that time onwards, like I have to make the decision for my family as a sole parent with the help of my family; brothers and sisters, aunties, uncle. Like, when it come to anything, cultural thing the family come together and make a decision. 

Family that’s it, boils down to. 

All – all of them till today and they – when they want to do something they ask me and I always tell them to, like – you know, it’s – it’s good that white men like, that law and our law, customary law. But it’s the same thing, but, you know, it’s different again when you come – when you trying to talk for – on your behalf of your rights and what you been – grow up with, you know, that island lifestyle and things. And sometimes like them things now guardianship and what I went through with Boyzie now, like, I didn’t have that understanding.

AVELINA TARRAGO: Yeah. Because in island culture guardianship it – there are a lot of protocols on who can speak for who and that some things that you already had in the family and you were that – 

BAKOI NAMOK: Yeah. Spokesperson.

AVELINA TARRAGO: - that person. Yeah.


AVELINA TARRAGO: So culturally there’s certain things that have to be done, but then you’ve got this different western way – 


AVELINA TARRAGO: - as well that you had to understand how that worked.


AVELINA TARRAGO: Yeah. And did you find that the western way was a little bit confusing sometimes? 

BAKOI NAMOK: Yes, yeah.

AVELINA TARRAGO: And did you have someone who helped you understand that western way of – 



BAKOI NAMOK: It’s a limited knowledge. Yeah.

AVELINA TARRAGO: And so when Boyzie was in hospital around – it was November last year in Cairns – 

BAKOI NAMOK: Mm. We flew up from Townsville, 4th of November to – Townsville to Cairns. That’s when everything, like, hit me around that time.

AVELINA TARRAGO: Yeah. Yeah. So it was a very stressful time, because Boyzie had been taken from the island - 


AVELINA TARRAGO: - to Townsville -


AVELINA TARRAGO: - and then had surgery.

BAKOI NAMOK: Yeah. For six weeks he had to wear that helmet, like, emotional and, like, to sit there and watch. Try to put on a brave face when you, like, and the doctors and put up with all them appointment and the doctor coming, you know, them things. You didn’t get that support of, like, “Come and tell us what’s going on” really, like, difficult coming from that time, that stroke, yeah.

AVELINA TARRAGO: And he was in a coma?


AVELINA TARRAGO: Yeah. And so then from Townsville on the 4th of November you came up to Cairns.

BAKOI NAMOK: Cairns. Yeah.

AVELINA TARRAGO: And so you’ve gone to this meeting that you thought was to tell you about Boyzie and how he was going to go with his condition? But there were a lot of other people that come?

BAKOI NAMOK: And so they joined us.



AVELINA TARRAGO: And lots of information?


AVELINA TARRAGO: Was that easy for you to understand with – 


AVELINA TARRAGO: - with lots of different things?


BERNARD NAMOK: It was like it was rushed.

BAKOI NAMOK: It was rushed and we didn’t – and we had that conference asked Boyzie – I forget the name of the lady from - because they asked video conference that – disability I think -- she asked Boyzie if Boyzie loved to stay with family and he said, “Yes”. He wanted to be with – live with – live with family, they can- find a place in Cairns for him. But everything was really rushed up in there. Yeah. That’s the time when [redacted] stepped in now and all them forms. Yeah. He mentioned about the guardianship and I tried to tell him, like, I – we don’t do that thing. Like, in our culture we only go, like – we go to, like, Centrelink, talk on their behalf and we don’t need a - like a power of attorney, because I’m the – I’m the mother. I’m still alive and I talk and on behalf of my children. So it’s – 

AVELINA TARRAGO: So you didn’t need a paper to tell you - 


AVELINA TARRAGO: - you could talk for family.


AVELINA TARRAGO: For culturally – 

BAKOI NAMOK: Culturally.

AVELINA TARRAGO: - you don’t need a piece of paper.

BAKOI NAMOK: Yes. Culture’s – culture’s – 

AVELINA TARRAGO: Yeah. And so, [redacted] you mentioned – 


AVELINA TARRAGO: - was the social worker?


AVELINA TARRAGO: And do you remember when you first spoke to her about the paperwork for the western guardianship?

BAKOI NAMOK: - they come in and ask me and rush me to hurry up and get all the things done, paper, you get this and yeah and she ask me, yeah, if I could get them - everything done.

AVELINA TARRAGO: Did anyone explain what you had to do?


AVELINA TARRAGO: So did you feel when you were given those papers that first time that you could sign it or did you feel worried about signing it?

BAKOI NAMOK: I feel worried about it, because I want to know why I’m going to sign it for, like, it’s to give the ownership authority to [redacted] to move, like -- like I’m okay with it, but really, I’m not okay with it.

AVELINA TARRAGO: So you needed someone to explain it better?


AVELINA TARRAGO: And give you more time – 

BAKOI NAMOK: More, yeah - 

AVELINA TARRAGO: - so you could think?

BAKOI NAMOK: - to understand where I’m coming from, from a cultural aspect, cultural side of things, tradition. Yeah.


BAKOI NAMOK: I just – yeah.

AVELINA TARRAGO: Sorry. Is – is that social worker – is she Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander?


AVELINA TARRAGO: So did you feel that she understood culturally what you were talking about?


AVELINA TARRAGO: And that’s really important to you for someone to understand culture?


AVELINA TARRAGO: And when you sat down that time, that first time with the papers, was there a liaison officer?

BAKOI NAMOK: No. They keep on telling me, like, “You come, because it’s your job. You – you come with all them things for us, but you have to respect where I’m coming from where my – I stand in my culture and my tradition”. Yeah, is like – yeah. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And even with the language though if she was explaining things to you are they – those western words for that document, is that easy to understand all the time or do you sometimes need a bit more time to read through?

BAKOI NAMOK: Yeah. A bit more time to read through. Yeah.

AVELINA TARRAGO: And maybe sit down with family to explain sometimes.


AVELINA TARRAGO: And this also was important for you to talk with Boyzie – 


AVELINA TARRAGO: - about what he wants.

BAKOI NAMOK: Because at that time he couldn’t understand, like, what, like – because of the sick he had and yeah. That time.

AVELINA TARRAGO: So that was that first meeting and then Bernard mentioned there was another meeting in a courtyard?

BAKOI NAMOK: Yeah. That’s the last one I think, when she was –[redacted] -- was - the last day of – she’s working on our case. Yeah. She was told, like, “My last day. I’m on like a- ” – she give it to 3 o’clock, sign this paper. That’s the time when Bernard, yeah, start come in, yeah.

AVELINA TARRAGO: How did that make you feel?

BERNARD NAMOK: Angry, because trying to force mum to sign a form that mum didn’t understand. And I told mum, like, “You don’t have to sign if you don’t understand”. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And no lawyers? You didn’t have any independent – 

BERNARD NAMOK: It wasn’t in our – it wasn’t in a private setting. It was in public, in front of the – 




BERNARD NAMOK: There was people sitting around us and people walking next to us. But there was a pathway that goes in and out of the hospital and we were sitting there.

AVELINA TARRAGO: So talking about very private things in the public space.

BAKOI NAMOK: Signing the form on the bench – yeah. The setting.

AVELINA TARRAGO: And in – in the last hearing, Mumma Namok, you mentioned about how Torres Strait Island people are very quiet. Culturally having those conversations in the open cafe area, how does that make you feel? And do you feel safe?


BERNARD NAMOK: Exposed, because – 

BAKOI NAMOK: Exposed. Yes.

BERNARD NAMOK: - people were wondering what we were talking about - 


BERNARD NAMOK: - and there was – there was people that we knew that was around.


BERNARD NAMOK: So we wasn’t really comfortable in that area. Like, could have taken us to a different room. Yeah. Like, felt exposed.

AVELINA TARRAGO: So after signing the application for guardian, you went to the Tribunal on   and there was a telephone conversation with the QCAT, and you and Kernisha were on the QCAT call? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And do you remember being told what you had to do? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: Did you understand all of those things that the Tribunal was saying, or was it sometimes a little bit difficult to understand? 

BAKOI NAMOK: Like, yeah, it's difficult like, or like, could talk fast, yeah. Yeah, really, yeah, understand, like what you talked too fast, yeah. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And do you think the Tribunal understood that you might have needed an interpreter, or not so much interpreter but someone to explain it the way you needed it to be explained? Like slower or to have family there with you to take time to understand? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: Do you think he understood that? 

BAKOI NAMOK: No, I don't think so. He would just talk about everything else. 

BERNARD NAMOK: Mmm. because if he would have, then there would have been somebody there - 


BERNARD NAMOK: - with mum and Kernisha. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And very hard on the telephone? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: Is it important culturally that you sit down like we’re here today? 

BAKOI NAMOK: Yeah, I like to do things face to face, yeah. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: So you know who you're talking   


BERNARD NAMOK: Get their vibe. 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And a lot of people in community are the same, that it's important to be face to face.


AVELINA TARRAGO: And with the Tribunal, did you have a legal representative with you? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And did you have an Indigenous liaison officer? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And for Indigenous liaison officer, you said earlier it's important to have them. Should the Tribunal have one too? 

BAKOI NAMOK: They should – no got? 


BAKOI NAMOK: Yeah well, they should have one when they're dealing, like, with our people, yeah. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And that’s because there's an understanding about culture? 

BAKOI NAMOK: Yes. Yeah. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And also give you time to understand things and involve family the right way? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: So if there were important things that the Tribunal needed from you, you might need some support to understand what those things are? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And maybe have someone sit down with you or if they can refer you to someone? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: Yes. Is there anything that you were able to read beforehand, any pamphlet or online about the Tribunal? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: So access is not very easy for you up here? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And there's no Tribunal up here? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: No. So you can't go into the office and ask? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And while Boyzie's in Cairns and you're up here, if you have to make decisions about his Centrelink or things like that, or Boyzie's accommodation, is it harder when you're up here, or is it easier in Cairns? 

BAKOI NAMOK: It's easy up here, because you only have one Centrelink everybody deal with and, yeah, I can go in and they know   like, they know me, everybody here and – like, I feel comfortable talking to them. And in Cairns, like, they do expect like a letter from doctors and everything proof for them to give them to, yeah. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: Okay. And what happens when Boyzie wants something and a decision has to be made and your   how do you talk with Boyzie about what he might want, what decisions he might want to be a part of? Is it just a telephone conversation or do you have to go to Cairns to sit down with him? 

BAKOI NAMOK: Telephone, yeah, but only can   

BERNARD NAMOK: Sometimes you go down, like for appointments too. Like Mum flies down to Cairns for that and for a couple of days go to the appointment with Boyzie. If it's a big appointment in hospital or it's important appointment - 


BERNARD NAMOK: - Mum goes down for that. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And so you’re talking with him about his life and the things he likes and to make sure that you understand, when you're making decisions, what he might want as well; yeah? 


BERNARD NAMOK: I go buy stuff for Boyzie.

BAKOI NAMOK: And they gave it and    

AVELINA TARRAGO: To make sure you get him what he wants? 

BERNARD NAMOK: Mmm. And also family too.

BAKOI NAMOK: Family members. 

BERNARD NAMOK: They ring mum and asks what Boyzie wants and what kind of food he likes and then they buy food and drop it at Boyzie. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: So everyone helps - 


AVELINA TARRAGO: - and that's all part of the cultural protocol? 

BAKOI NAMOK: Cultural protocol, yeah. 

BERNARD NAMOK: It's like guardianship too, like it's not only mum, it's the whole family for mum that kind of supports Boyzie and what he wants to do. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And that western way doesn't understand   


AVELINA TARRAGO:   those cultural   

BAKOI NAMOK: No, conflict, like they try to tell them, yeah. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And is that frustrating? 


BERNARD NAMOK: Because the western way only comes down to mum. But the cultural way, it involves the immediate family and also the extended too that close to mum that can make, for their support too for mum and Boyzie.

BAKOI NAMOK: And then like they know, like in our culture, if he have to wait for your 21st, that's the time when he hand the key over, it's in, like, decision your have to make, you have to choose, ,the right pathway to go. But as one parents we still, like, override, like, I tell them when I’m down under there six feet, then he can make ownership, everything for himself but at the moment if I'm right here, I'm still here to give advice, yes. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And that's everyone in community, that's the protocol through all the islands -


AVELINA TARRAGO: - and expectation culturally, it's part of who you are, you know those rules.


AVELINA TARRAGO: Do you think that the western way could learn something   


AVELINA TARRAGO:   from how the things are done on the islands? 

BAKOI NAMOK: Yes. Run together the law. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: So the proper way.

BAKOI NAMOK: Yeah, the proper way and understanding, come down for, yeah, sacred,, yeah, what's    

AVELINA TARRAGO: And is it the case that Boyzie will come back to you or come back to Bernard or come back to Nisha to ask for things because he doesn't feel comfortable in the western way? 

BERNARD NAMOK: He'll probably ask Kernisha.

BAKOI NAMOK: Probably Nisha, he get along Nisha. 

BERNARD NAMOK: And Nisha will ring mum, and mum will ring me in Cairns.


AVELINA TARRAGO: And something in that you talked about in the last hearing when we were talking NDIS was that Boyzie's a very shy person and more likely to just talk to family - 


AVELINA TARRAGO: - and might just agree with other people.

BAKOI NAMOK: Yes. Kernisha. I think if he feels comfortable with Nisha, yeah. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: So when outside people come in and ask him questions, has it   when you've been there and those other people asking things of Simeon, does he talk to them or does he come through family to talk to them? 

BAKOI NAMOK: Come to me, yeah. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: So when he's there on his own, is he more likely to make those decisions or is he more likely to wait for family to talk? 

BERNARD NAMOK: Like when we're   when we were there, like, they would ask him question but he would look at them, but then he would look at mum or Nisha and then Nisha will kind of have to break it down - 

BAKOI NAMOK: Break it down for him. 

BERNARD NAMOK: - to Boyzie what they're talking about but   


BERNARD NAMOK:   what if he think that when you or Nisha not there with him, like, how would he? 

BAKOI NAMOK: Yeah, he'll just go with the flow. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: So he's more likely just to say yes.

BAKOI NAMOK: Yes, just to get the thing over and done with, yes, just go ahead and do it. 

BERNARD NAMOK: Otherwise if Nisha was there with him, he'd look at Nisha and then Nisha would break it down to   

BAKOI NAMOK: Body language. 

BERNARD NAMOK: - yeah. Kernisha can tell his body language and then Nisha would break it down to Boyzie and then Boyzie would be comfortable in answering what they want, and if they're not there, then he'll probably say yes. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And that is something that he would do even from small boy, look   


AVELINA TARRAGO:   for family first, to see how he should respond and that's part of that community as a family, you make decisions, that’s all the way he is - 


AVELINA TARRAGO: - and the way he makes decisions. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: Is there anything that you want to talk about for that guardianship, you know, to tell the big bosses that will be listening what needs to change? 

BAKOI NAMOK: Just give them that – their rights to    

BERNARD NAMOK:    like from the   from the experience of the guardianship, like, for them big bosses, like, what do you want to seek for them    for any changes, that you be experience, like any changes that them fella would do to fix that issues and problems you can go through? 

BAKOI NAMOK: Like the support local, Indigenous owned, like. 

BERNARD NAMOK: Have a support worker.

BAKOI NAMOK: Yeah. One of the things, social worker, something. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And the liaison officer? 

BERNARD NAMOK: Liaison officer.

BAKOI NAMOK: That's the word, yes, liaison officer to work in that area, guardianship, so they understand. 

BERNARD NAMOK: So have more understanding about   

BAKOI NAMOK: Understanding about the cultural protocol and practices of our Indigenous people here. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: So to have that as part of that hospital experience as well as the QCAT? 

BAKOI NAMOK: As well as the   yes. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: So that they have someone that has cultural understanding? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And can help guide you? 

BERNARD NAMOK: Also explain to   explain what forms they give to family to sign, explain properly what they   what they would   what forms, what they would was gonna sign. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And what about for   


AVELINA TARRAGO:   the other people in community that might just speak Yumplatok, the language, and might not speak English very well or might have trouble understanding, should there be interpreters that can speak Yumplatok? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: Well thank you mama and Bernard. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: So thank you, Namok family, for coming today, and I'm here with Boyzie and Mama Bakoi and Bernard. It's good to meet you in person. 


AVELINA TARRAGO: We got to yarn earlier this year for the hearing. And this time, instead of talking about the NDIS, we're talking about guardianship. And mum is your guardian at the moment. So when the guardianship process happened, I spoke with mum and Bernard and Kernisha about helping you with decision making, and that started at hospital? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And so mum, [redacted] and Kernisha sat down with the social worker and fill out some paperwork to help you with your decision making for   


AVELINA TARRAGO:   health or for finances, or for paying bills, buy credit, food, rent, things like that, until you're ready. But one thing that we were talking about yesterday, mama and Bernard, was about cultural protocol and that for Torres Strait Islander people, mum makes decisions for family. Is that right? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And that's something that everyone in community understands for each family; yeah? And that's something that you want too? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: Now, back when you were at hospital, before you went to hospital, mum helped you with decisions as well? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: About your health and things like that? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: Yes. So it's something that has happened for a long time -


AVELINA TARRAGO: - not just now. And now, since hospital, she's helping you with your accommodation. When mum and Bernard and Kernisha are not at the accommodation, do you feel comfortable talking to the people there and that they listen? Sometimes? 

BERNARD NAMOK: Like when you talk with them for like, oh listen, when you want to   when you want them or something? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And what about when they don't listen? Do you have to ask for family to help you? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And that's because family know you -


AVELINA TARRAGO: - and know the things you like? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: Yes. And you're very close with Kernisha? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And when I spoke with her yesterday she said that when she sees you she can tell, by your face, how you're feeling.


AVELINA TARRAGO: Is that right? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: Yeah. And so she knows   


AVELINA TARRAGO:   to maybe ask in a different way to help you get the things that you need? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: Do you think that places like accommodation or in community it's important to have   for you to have - family to support you to get the things you want? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: Yes. So if you would like   if someone was listening and you weren't with Boyzie, what you would like to happen if he couldn't communicate what he wanted? Should they contact you? Should they contact Kernisha and Bernard to help support Boyzie? Or should they make decisions without family? 

BAKOI NAMOK: No. Still want them to contact me. Just like today he was refused to take his tablet, then I   lucky I was there and just encourage him to, yeah. Yeah. Still contact us so we can have that communication with them, yeah, communicate with them, yeah. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: And it's very important in Island culture? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And for you as mum, that that communication is open? 


AVELINA TARRAGO: And we got to see where you grew up as well this week, which was nice. 



BAKOI NAMOK: We go there, my place. On my landing. 

AVELINA TARRAGO: We were sitting down. 

BAKOI NAMOK: Looked them dinghy. 

BERNARD NAMOK: We been at   we come from TI yesterday. 




BAKOI NAMOK: Stop here, Wongai hotel.


AVELINA TARRAGO: Good to see your old school, the school and   

BERNARD NAMOK: We do go house, Tamwoy town. 


BAKOI NAMOK: Pub meals, you miss out. Grand.


AVELINA TARRAGO: So it was nice to see, you know, what you call home.


(Video stopped)

MS EASTMAN: Thank you, Commissioners, for watching that video and a very significant thank you to the Namok family for working with the Royal Commission over a number of days. Commissioners, may I tender that material into evidence. There are a number of documents and videos that accompany this evidence. If you could mark them Exhibit 30-032 through to 30-041. And that will include various documents and the photographs that we showed earlier. Commissioners, I would   

CHAIR: Yes. Those documents together with the video can be admitted into evidence and given the markings that you have indicated. 


MS EASTMAN: Commissioner, our next witness is Suzanne Nunn, and just   with the Commissioners’ indulgence just take a very short adjournment of five minutes so I can make sure that the room is reconstituted and Ms Nunn is ready. 

CHAIR: Yes, alright. We will take a short adjournment. Thank you.


 <RESUMED 10:50 AM 

CHAIR: Yes, thank you, Ms Eastman. 

MS EASTMAN: I will just wait for the other Commissioners to come in. They are here now. So, Commissioners, the next witness is Suzanne Nunn. 

CHAIR: Ms Nunn, thank you very much for coming to the Royal Commission. I'm sorry I'm not in that room personally, but I'm in the Sydney hearing room, and as you will be aware, Commissioner McEwin and Commissioner Ryan are in the hearing room with you. We are grateful to you for providing a statement to the Royal Commission and for being prepared to come to the Royal Commission today to give evidence. If you would be good enough to follow the instructions of a member of the Office of Solicitor Assisting, they will administer the affirmation to you, and I think they are located just on your right. Thank you. 

ASSOCIATE: I will read you the affirmation. At the end, please say yes or I do. Do you solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm which the evidence which you shall give shall be the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth? 

MS NUNN: I do.


CHAIR: Thank you very much, Ms Nunn. I will ask Ms Eastman to ask you some questions. Thank you. 


MS EASTMAN: Thank you. Can I confirm you are Suzanne Nunn? 

MS NUNN: I am. 

MS EASTMAN: You prefer to be known as Sue rather than Suzanne; is that right? 

MS NUNN: Yes, please. 

MS EASTMAN: You prepared a statement for the Royal Commission dated 18 November this year? 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And you have had a chance to read over that statement? 

MS NUNN: I have. 

MS EASTMAN: Are there any amendments or corrections you wish to make? 


MS EASTMAN: And are the contents of the statement otherwise true and correct? 

MS NUNN: They are. 

MS EASTMAN: Thank you for your statement. Now, you want to talk to the Royal Commission about some of the experiences in your family and, in particular, your two brothers. You come from a very large family. Your dad was a police officer, and your mum was, as we might sort of say these days, a stay at home mum. And you were one of six kids. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: It is. The only girl. 

MS EASTMAN: And the only girl. 

MS NUNN: It says a lot about my personality. 

MS EASTMAN: We need to add that to your statement. That might shed some light. 

MS NUNN: It does. It does. 

MS EASTMAN: Okay. And in terms of reflecting back on your family life and your time as a family, as a very close family, you had parents who were very dedicated to all of your brothers and to yourself. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: That is true, yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And that family tradition has passed down to you, and you are fiercely protective of your brothers. 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: That protection is driven by a very strong bent on social justice? And you are not a person who takes well to bullying. You have a deep dislike of bullying. 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: If you feel that something is unfair or unjust, then that drives your determination to defend and also to seek justice for others. 

MS NUNN: Particularly in relation to my family and my brothers. 

MS EASTMAN: Can I ask you to introduce us to your family members, who are not here for reasons that will become apparent. So, should we start with your little brother, your youngest brother and the youngest member of the family. And he's Johno. 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: Tell us about him? 

MS NUNN: I always say my little brother, but Johnno is 55. He is delightful. He is a happy go lucky man. He loves to be the centre of attention. He likes to make jokes. He likes to pull faces and make people laugh. He has been living in supported accommodation in Queensland now for probably close to 21 years in the same house. 

MS EASTMAN: He lives with disability? 

MS NUNN: I'm sorry. He has Down syndrome. He was born with Down syndrome. So, for many years he lived with mum and dad at home, and then in his early 30s, they decided that   they knew they weren't going to be around forever and they had to make alternate arrangements whilst there was still time. 

MS EASTMAN: I want to ask you some questions about that in a moment. 

MS NUNN: Sure.

MS EASTMAN: But just in terms of Johnno's life, he lived with your parents for a long time. 

MS NUNN: Until his early 30s. 

MS EASTMAN: And during that time that he lived with your parents, was his life one where he was able to make choices and have control over his day to day activities, what he did, where he went? 

MS NUNN: Yes. Yes. So, that was all obviously coordinated with mum and dad and driven by mum and dad. Johnno's predominantly non verbal. He does   he can speak, but he chooses not to most of the time. He indicates his choices. He will pick something, if he's presented with pictures, or he will say words or indicate what he wants to do, but he does, I guess, need some support in that regard. 

MS EASTMAN: When you reflect back on the time that he lived with your parents, would you describe the relationship between your parents and Johnno as one where your parents supported him to make decisions and think through problems? 

MS NUNN: Absolutely. They acted in his best interests. They acted in everybody's best interests. They just wanted Johno to live a full, happy, enjoyable life. They were obviously also very protective of him, but they always acted in   with his happiness in mind. 

MS EASTMAN: So as your parents became older they started to think to the future. And they were concerned about what would be the arrangements for Johnno, if they were no longer around. So, when Johno was about 33, your parents as part of this planning made some arrangements for him. What did they do? 

MS NUNN: They decided that it would be best if he was in a supported accommodation situation. It was a really, really difficult decision for them. They agonised over that for years. And I know that they really suffered a lot of guilt and a lot of grief in that process. Handing over their son to somebody else and letting that go was terribly difficult for them. But I can   the accommodation where John is now   so it's a supported   SIL. It's a SIL arrangement. He's with one other resident. It's very stable and we are lucky in that it is such a small house. He has carers who have been with him for   one carer has been with him for 18 years, another two have been with him for 15 years. So, very stable, calm, happy. 

MS EASTMAN: He has never had a guardian appointed for him? 

MS NUNN: No, he hasn't. 

MS EASTMAN: But he has had an administrator appointed in relation to his financial affairs. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: That is right. 

MS EASTMAN: And how did the administrator come to be appointed? Were you involved in that or is that something your parents attended to? 

MS NUNN: That's something my parents attended to. At the time, I was living in Sydney. I lived in Sydney for 16 years. And they decided to do that   and we will come to that part of the story, because my other brother, Terry, had also been placed under administration. And up to that point in time, they had had a fairly positive experience. They felt that   I was living in Sydney. I was away. My brothers all had young families. We all had demanding jobs. So, realistically, they felt that that was the best option and, like I said, they had had positive experiences. 

MS EASTMAN: So, your parents applied to the Tribunal at the time for the Public Trustee to be Johno's administrator and that occurred in 2003 when he was 36 years old. 

MS NUNN: Correct. 

MS EASTMAN: Now, just   and I know we will jump around time wise, but fast forwarding a little bit, it's the case, isn't it, if we move to November 2020, that one of your brothers and you applied to the Queensland tribunal for the two of you to become Johnno's financial administrators. 

MS NUNN: It was July, actually. 


MS NUNN: Yes, it was the case. So, we are jointly or severally acting as administrators. 

MS EASTMAN: So, that involved you going to the Tribunal? 

MS NUNN: Correct, yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And the Tribunal agreed to effectively revoke the Public Trustee's arrangement and appoint you and your brother to be Johnno's financial administrators. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And you have set out in the statement the way in which you discharge that duty in terms of addressing Johno's best interests, but also consulting and talking to him about big decisions. You are also John's NDIS plan nominee? 

MS NUNN: Correct. 

MS EASTMAN: Did you need to be the financial administrator to take on that role of being the NDIS nominee? 

MS NUNN: No, I did not. 

MS EASTMAN: Alright. Now, can I talk about your other brother, who was your eldest brother, and I know it's been a bit of time now, but we express our condolences for your loss. And is it okay if I ask you some questions about Terry? 

MS NUNN: Absolutely. 

MS EASTMAN: So, he was your eldest brother. And what happened to him when he was about 29 years old? 

MS NUNN: Terry was involved in a car accident. They were coming back from a long weekend away. He was in a car with his girlfriend, sitting in the back seat, and a couple they knew in the front, and they were hit by a drunk driver. Terry was the only one to survive the accident. His girlfriend was killed instantly. Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: That meant that he lived the rest of his life with an acquired brain injury. 

MS NUNN: It did. 

MS EASTMAN: And that had a very profound impact, both on his quality of life - 

MS NUNN: It did. So, he hit his head in the front there. It affected   it didn't affect his cognition, but it affected his ability to plan and organise. It affected his short term memory. It affected some other aspects of his life, and also as he aged, he started having absent seizures. He started having TIAs. So, it did profoundly affect his health. 

MS EASTMAN: And you have described in the statement Terry's life before his injury, with glowing school reports, being a very sort of avid debater, the dux of high school, and having that real sense of a very bright future for him. 

MS NUNN: Mmm. 

MS EASTMAN: In terms of his life after the injury, he had a lot of quality in his life. He inherited your father's green thumb, was very devoted to his garden, and really continued his passion about music and developed, as you say, some even more eclectic tastes. So, in terms of the quality of his life, even though he lived with a brain injury and he had a range of other health conditions, he had a tremendous quality of life. Maybe not quite what was expected before his brain injury, but one that still gave him that ability to contribute to family and to the community. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: It did. He lived   with his compensation money, he bought his own house and he drove for a period of time. He lived independently for a long period of time. Terry became very involved in volunteering for the Brain Injury Association in Queensland. So, he was very active, very independent. He still needed support, but he was very independent and very determined to be independent. 

MS EASTMAN: So, I want to ask you about how the Public Trustee came into his life. So, are we right in understanding that following the car accident, there was a claim for compensation. That claim was successful, and he received an award of around $650,000. And are we right in understanding that around   so we are talking 1990, that a limited administration order was made for the Public Trustee to manage Terry's finances following the accident and following the award of compensation. Is that your understanding of what occurred? 

MS NUNN: That is my understanding. 

MS EASTMAN: And it's your understanding that the family were not consulted or advised in relation to the Public Trustee receiving such an appointment? Is that your understanding? 

MS NUNN: I don't know if that's the case. I don't think we were given the option. We weren't   my understanding is there was no other option available. 

MS EASTMAN: So, you may have been told about why the trustee would be appointed, but no one, to your recollection, suggested that a family member could take on that role? 

MS NUNN: Not to my recollection or knowledge, no.

MS EASTMAN: And, to your recollection, was there any discussion as to why Terry couldn't continue to make decisions about how his finances might be managed? 

MS NUNN: Not to my knowledge. 

MS EASTMAN: Do you think there   at the time   and I know it's a long time ago   reflecting back on it, it was just an assumption that because Terry had the   a brain injury that it followed that he couldn't manage his finances? 

MS NUNN: I think there was a lot of that, not just then but also throughout the years where he   yeah, and that goes exactly to it. If he has a brain injury, then he won't have capacity to be able to do that. 

MS EASTMAN: Given the - 

CHAIR: Ms Nunn, can I ask this question, please? Who brought the compensation claim on behalf of Terry? 

MS NUNN: It was an insurance - I think it would have been Terry's insurer but I'm fuzzy on that, to be honest. So, I think it would have been   yes, it was insurance. 

CHAIR: Yes. Well, I'm just wondering whether the appointment of the Public Trustee was a consequence of the order made by the court for compensation. It's not unusual for that to happen in order to manage the lump sum compensation which was the result of damages claims, at least in those days.

MS NUNN: Sure. 

MS EASTMAN: Reflecting on Terry's life and your knowledge of the way in which he made decisions for his life, do you have a view as to whether he would have been able to have made decisions about managing his finances? 

MS NUNN: Terry still had his own bank account. So   and he still had his own key card, and for many years when he was living independently, he did manage his finances. Now, mum was still very actively involved. So, mum would help him menu plan and she would help him do his grocery lists, so he knew exactly what he needed to buy. She would help him just, you know, budget, I guess. But he still had his own key card and managed his finances. So, I think he could have managed to pay his bills if he was supported to do that. 

MS EASTMAN: You recall in the early days that when the Public Trustee was his administrator, that the Public Trustee was, at times, really good. You say that in your statement. 

MS NUNN: Mmm. 

MS EASTMAN: And are we right in understanding that one of the reasons for that is that Terry had the same person administering his funds for almost 20 years? 

MS NUNN: I don't know if it was for 20 years. I know that there was the same case officer involved for quite some time. He spoke with Terry. He had been out to Terry's house and visited Terry face to face. That case officer rang mum and dad routinely to talk about budgets. So, he was very actively involved with Terry. 

MS EASTMAN: And it was in the early 2000s   Terry's now in his late 40s   that he started to experience some seizures. 

MS NUNN: Correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And as his health and personal condition started to require more support, did that mean there were sort of changes in the way in how Terry lived or where he lived or even decisions that were being made about his finances? Do you know? 

MS NUNN: There was certainly a change in where he lived and how he lived because his seizures became quite frequent and he was living on his own. So, he would collapse in the bedroom or, on one occasion, on the driveway of the house   yes, on driveway of the house when he was taking the bins out. He ended up being there all night because he couldn't get up. Mum and dad organised a   like medic alert for him, but sometimes he didn't think to press it. 

So, we   we tried to keep him in his own residence for as long as he could, but it just became unsafe. So, he began spending more and more time with mum and dad. Financially, it became, I guess, an issue when we had to start spending money on his care. So, he was living with mum and dad for a period of time, but they just weren't able to manage. And, to be perfectly honest, it wasn't fair on Terry either, having them do some things for him that   he was a proud man. Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: So, did that mean a change in his living arrangements? 

MS NUNN: It did. 

MS EASTMAN: Did he have to sell his property and find new accommodation? 

MS NUNN: He didn't sell his property initially. So, I had been looking around, and I found a local provider who had availability for respite, who seemed like it might be a good fit for Terry. So, we talked with Terry at the time about trying it out and he did that, and after a period of a few months we talked to him about maybe making that a more permanent option and he agreed. Yes. Sorry. 

MS EASTMAN: So, in terms of the Public Trustee's role and any decisions made around this time, just to be clear, the Public Trustee didn't have authority to make decisions about where Terry lived but did have authority to make decisions about how Terry used his finances and money. When it came to changing the living arrangements, those two things came together a little bit. So, what did that mean in terms of control over Terry's decision making around finances and how that influenced   or impacted on decisions about where he was living? 

MS NUNN: So, it became an issue because 24/7 supported accommodation and care is very expensive. Terry had, obviously, his assets, his house, but he also had a sum of money that was invested by the Public Trustee on his behalf. Initially   very shortly after he went into care, I had a Public Trustee case officer ring me one day and say, essentially, "You're spending too much money on Terry's care. He cannot afford that. You should think about putting had him in an aged care facility.” And he was 55 at the time. 

MS EASTMAN: And was it your understanding that that was in the scope of the Public Trustee's duties and functions? 

MS NUNN: I don't believe so. I understand their concern about spending money. We were concerned about that too. But my understanding was   and actually this is what I was told by an executive from the Public Trustee himself   was that it was not within their scope of responsibilities to advise on where he should live. 

MS EASTMAN: So, did that cause any tension between the family or Terry and the Public Trustee? 

MS NUNN: I believe it did, yes. 

MS EASTMAN: I want to now move to a little further forward and to a three year period that were extremely difficult for the family. That's between 2015 and 2018. This is a difficult time because in August 2015, your mum passed away and almost two years to the day, your dad passed away in August 2017. And Terry passed away in December 2018. And he was 63 years old at the time. So, for a family that was extremely close, the unravelling of those family bonds by the death of your parents and your eldest brother really were very significant in terms of the impact on you and the rest of your family. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: This period of time was not a period of time that you also thought that you might be spending quite a bit of time with lawyers and involved in disputes. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: Yes, you can say that. Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: The issues arose this way, and jump in and tell me if I'm not doing justice to what you have said in the statement. Part of your parents' approach to thinking about the future was also thinking about the importance of making wills in relation to what should happen to their respective estates. It's the case, isn't it, that both of your parents went to the Public Trustee to have their wills made? 

MS NUNN: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And your parents were aware that one of the services offered by a Public Trustee is to make wills for people. 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: Were you involved in any of the steps that your parents took to make arrangements with the Public Trustee to prepare wills for both your mother and your father? 

MS NUNN: No, I wasn't. 

MS EASTMAN: Were you aware that they had made wills with respect to your parents? 

MS NUNN: I was aware that my parents had made wills because they left us a list of where everything was in case they popped off the perch. 

MS EASTMAN: So, after your mother passed away in August 2015, what do you remember about what happened to her estate? 

MS NUNN: The very first contact that we had was not too long after mum died. I want to say it was a month, but   a month or two after mum died, and a Public Trustee case officer rang dad one day and advised him that they were considering a family provisions challenge against mum's estate and, during that conversation, advised him not to sell any of his wife's jewellery. 

MS EASTMAN: Your father was quite distressed about that? 

MS NUNN: He was absolutely distraught. 

MS EASTMAN: For him, that caused him to lose some trust and confidence in the Public Trustee. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: That's correct. Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And in terms of his own situation, it caused him to worry what might happen when he passed away? 

MS NUNN: He was extremely distressed, and he actually was even having the conversation with me whilst he was palliative in hospital, and he turned to me at one stage and said, "I hope they leave you alone, darl." So, he was still worried about it, even as he was dying. 

MS EASTMAN: But he had   

CHAIR: Sorry, can I ask this, please. Ms Nunn, who was the executor of your mother's estate? 

MS NUNN: I believe   

CHAIR: Because when a Public Trustee makes a will, it's not uncommon for the Public Trustee to appoint itself as the executor. 

MS NUNN: No, the family were. I believe it was dad and I want to say my brothers as well. But I actually can't recall. But it was the family. 

CHAIR: Yes, thank you. That's what I was interested in, because it would hardly be, I imagine, possible for the Public Trustee as executor to be the subject of a claim by the Public Trustee as guardian on behalf of your brothers. So, I assume the claim was made against your father as executor of your mother's estate. 

MS NUNN: Correct. 

MS EASTMAN: So, he   your father had a new will prepared. 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: By a separate lawyer. 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: Because he didn't want to have the experience for the family that he experienced. 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: When your father passed away in August 2017, what do you remember about the arrangements in relation to his estate? What did he do with his will? Did he leave his estate to the surviving family? 

MS NUNN: Yes. So, dad's will was written in exactly the same way that mum's will was written. They were both adamant that the estate be split evenly six ways between all six children. 

MS EASTMAN: After your father passed away, the Public Trustee commenced a proceeding in the Queensland District Court for what you understood to be a challenge to your father's will to make extra provision for your youngest brother John. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: Your recollection is that the Public Trustee's claim was made on John's behalf, was for John to receive $200,000 from your father's estate instead of the $110,000 that he was bequeathed in the estate. That's your understanding. 

MS NUNN: That is correct. 

MS EASTMAN: When you became aware of the proceedings   because you and your other brothers were named as parties. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: We were the executors. Myself and two other brother, yes. Executors. 

MS EASTMAN: Your understanding is that if John received 200,000 from your father's estate, that that may have an impact on his eligibility for public housing. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And at the time your understanding was that there was an asset threshold of 95,000 for public housing. 

MS NUNN: Correct. 

MS EASTMAN: So, one of the immediate concerns for you was whether the Public Trustee had turned its mind to what might be the broader implications for your youngest brother, John, to receive from the estate $200,000 and whether that would jeopardise his housing arrangements immediately and, in particular, into the future. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: Is it fair to say that your family is not one that spent a lot of time in court or in litigation? 

MS NUNN: I don't ever recall being in court prior to that. 

MS EASTMAN: And you found the process of defending these proceedings in court very stressful. 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: Very confronting? 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And very difficult at times to understand what on earth was going on. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: The proceedings were ultimately settled. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: So, rather than taking the case all of the way through to court where a judge decided what would happen, you all got together and worked out what should happen. Is that right? I will not ask you to disclose anything confidential that might have occurred in a mediation. 

MS NUNN: No. We were given some options and we agreed to settle. 

MS EASTMAN: So, the outcome was that John would receive $150,000 and that arrangement was agreed? 

MS NUNN: It was. 

MS EASTMAN: And after the settlement of the matter, you discovered a few other things then in relation to the Public Trustee's role as John's financial administrator. That concerned issues around increased fees and also legal costs associated with the Public Trustee's application. What do you want to tell the Royal Commission about that? 

MS NUNN: The legal costs, we were made aware of throughout the proceedings, I have to say. So, we did know that there would be legal costs associated with that, and I believe that was part of the settlement. So   and it was spelt out how much John would pay versus how much we would pay for John. So, we kind of halved his costs. So, that was   we were well aware of that. 

What   so, our entire concern right throughout that period of about 18 months was how is this going to effect John's home? Because he needs his home. And to change that arrangement and have him maybe moved somewhere else in a worst case scenario or to have his expenses go up considerably because he was now over the threshold, was not a good situation for him. What we were never told, and what we didn't understand, was that once we had settled and John had received his   I lost the word   

MS EASTMAN: The sum. 

MS NUNN: Yes, once he had received his money, that he then was no longer eligible for the community rebates that were paid for him when he was previously   before he received his inheritance. 

MS EASTMAN: Now, out of this scenario, it's really caused you to reflect on whether or not there was a conflict of interest for the Public Trustee. On one hand, the Public Trustee has drafted the will reflecting your parents' respective wishes to divide their estates between their family members equally. Then on the other hand, having drafted that will, Public Trustee, who's the same entity, then challenges that will. So, at the time you found that a little confusing, and over time you have reflected on what you consider to be a fairly significant conflict of interest. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And what's your view about whether the Public Trustee can discharge that important function of providing support to the community, particularly drafting wills, but equally, supporting the individuals for whom they may have financial administration orders to protect that person's interests as well? How do you think that conflict should be resolved? 

MS NUNN: I still remain of the view very strongly that I believe it's a direct conflict of interest. I do understand the community service, like you said, of free wills and that it's a very valuable function for some people. But I don't believe it should remain under the Public Trustee. I think it should be done by somebody else. And the fact that I   I   I don't believe my parents understood that that is what would happen when they died. Obviously, dad found out, and he was very distressed about that. But the fact that the Public Trustee effectively, in my view, weaponised my parents' life savings to fight their children in court and put their   I felt, our youngest brother in a very risky situation, I just   I just don't comprehend. 

MS EASTMAN: The whole process of resolving this has caused you great distress, but it's also made you fairly angry hasn't it? 

MS NUNN: Very. 

MS EASTMAN: And what have you done in terms of seeking reform in this area? I know you have made some suggestions to the Royal Commission. What steps have you taken? 

MS NUNN: Throughout the court proceedings, I escalated my concerns to a number of different bodies. I won't name them here unless you want me to, but - 

MS EASTMAN: Go ahead. 

MS NUNN: I escalated initially to the CCC. I went to the Queensland Ombudsman. I went to the Queensland Health Ombudsman, who referred me to APRA. Who referred me to the occupational therapy needs board   Occupational Therapy Review Board of Australia. I went to Human Rights. Queensland Human Rights. I went to my state Member of Parliament. I went to the Shadow Attorney General. The Attorney General. I even escalated to the Premier at one stage. I went to multiple state MPs. 

So, that was throughout the court proceedings. People acknowledged what was happening but indicated that they either didn't have jurisdiction or that they were unable to assist because it was an active court proceeding. After the court proceeding, I decided to pursue a formal complaint against the Public Trustee. I sought legal advice and initially submitted a   I submitted a maladministration complaint because I thought that was the correct thing to do. But that declined and instead accepted as a public interest disclosure complaint. That went through various machinations, wasn't resolved effectively, and then I escalated that to the Queensland Ombudsman. 

MS EASTMAN: Have you got any resolution from any of these agencies that you have contacted? 

MS NUNN: I got resolution in that all of the legal fees that we incurred   so, initially, whilst the complaint was a public interest disclosure with Public Trustee and the discussion was between myself and them, they initially reimbursed   acknowledged some shortcomings, I guess, and initially refunded John's   what he had paid in legal fees, which was $20,000. Further down the track, they reimbursed us another $20,000 for our legal fees towards John. 

The Queensland Ombudsman became engaged. That process took a year. But at the end of that, the Public Trustee agreed to reimburse us our legal   personal legal fees. We were also reimbursed the fees for the occupation   the three occupational therapy needs reports that were done for John, and we were reimbursed   John was reimbursed, I should say, the   some financial advice fees. So   

MS EASTMAN: And does all of this explain the circumstances which we started with as to why you and your brother then made that application to become the financial administrators? 

MS NUNN: We were pretty unhappy when   after mum died, really, we were pretty unhappy with the Public Trustee. We didn't actually realise that we could make a challenge for administration, and it was only in some of the communications that we received during the legal proceedings, we were going back and forth about whether the Public Trustee would allow my brothers and I to seek financial statements for John, and they were declining at the time and indicated that if we didn't like it, we could apply for administration. And that was basically our light bulb moment. We went what? We can apply? We didn't realise   as crazy as that sounds, we didn't realise we could do it. 

MS EASTMAN: So, in your statement, you have identified a number of challenges that you have had with the Public Trustee in different parts of the trustee's administration of both Johno and also for Terry, and the litigation is really the one that's been the straw that's broken the camel's back, if I can use that expression. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: But some   when you reflect back of 30 years of the Public Trustee being in your life, there’s some other aspects of the relationship with the Public Trustee that you felt could have been better in terms of supporting the family but also supporting your respective brothers. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And one is what you consider to be a lack of communication and information. 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And the example that you have just given, about not knowing what the options might be for an alternative to the Public Trustee, is one of them. Is the issue in terms of communication the importance of communication based on mutual trust and confidence between the family, most importantly the represented person, and the trustee? 

MS NUNN: It's trust and confidence, absolutely. And integrity. But it's also   this is a real person. This is my little brother. And to put him at risk and to do something that is not in his best interests is just unconscionable to be me. I don't understand it. 

MS EASTMAN: And you still don't understand it. 


MS EASTMAN: Because part of the communication is, if you reflect back on the District Court proceedings, if you had been able to sit down and have a discussion earlier before the process even started, that that may have given you an opportunity to have a better understanding of what the Public Trustee's responsibilities and functions are. But also an opportunity to be involved in what decisions needed to be made? 

MS NUNN: Yes. I will give you an example. So, unknown to us, after our mother died, there was an occupational therapy needs assessment report commissioned by the Public Trustee about   for both John and Terry, actually. And we were never   that was commissioned in early 2016. We were never made aware of the existence of that report. It only became knowledge to us once we were served papers from the District Court proceeding. 

So, from 2016, early 2016   dad died in August 2017 - he was alive. The Public Trustee could have gone to dad and said, "Mr  Nunn, we have concerns about your sons, both John and Terry", because they investigated a claim for Terry as well. "We have concerns about their long term financial   how they are going to manage, and the reason why we have these concerns is based on this report that we've had commissioned. We think they are going to   it's going to cost more money than they are going to have. Can we sit down and talk about that?"

And dad could have made an informed decision. He could have had a conversation. We could have all had a conversation as a family in that time, and he could have decided for himself if he wanted to change his will then or not. Even after the court proceeding   well, even after dad died, there is a period of nine months between when somebody dies and the estate can be challenged or will can be challenged. Nobody talked to us in that nine month period. Nobody. 

We would have been willing to talk. We didn't understand what was going on. We had been asked for a lot of information. We hadn't been given any information, and then on the last business day of that nine month period our solicitor received some advice to say that the Public Trustee was filing in the District Court. 

MS EASTMAN: So, communication is one thing. The other is support. And you have told the Royal Commission that you had no idea where to turn for help and even when you made contact with these various organisations to raise complaints and to understand what was going on, you felt that there were a lot of dead ends. Where have you had support, if any? 

MS NUNN: I did get support from my local Member of Parliament, and she tried as much as she could to help us. But there's   there's a plethora of information out there that is completely overwhelming to me. I was reading sections of the Act and legislation and my eyes were rolling around. I didn't have a clue what I was reading. I went to   the only place I found support was when I found AASGAA, which is the advocacy group. 

MS EASTMAN: So, AASGAA is the Australian Association to Stop Guardianship and Administration Abuse. 

MS NUNN: Correct. 

MS EASTMAN: How did AASGAA assist you? 

MS NUNN: Just in providing advice about what to expect, provided a lot of assistance and support around making the application for QCAT, and just moral support and advice. And similar lived experience. 

MS EASTMAN: How did it feel to sort of find people who had had a similar experience to you and your family? 

MS NUNN: Safe. 

MS EASTMAN: Safe because there were people who understood what you had experienced? 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: There were people who didn't bring judgment to the way in which you had made decisions and decided to stand up for your family member? 

MS NUNN: Yes. People who understood, actually understood what we were going through and had the same experiences, and it was like, "We are not crazy. This is real. This is   this is happening.” 

MS EASTMAN: One of the things that you sort of discovered in this process is that it is difficult to find some of these networks. Because talking about   or talking publicly about what happens in proceedings of this kind is not permitted. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: Correct. 

MS EASTMAN: Now, you have taken an approach where you are at that point where you are going to say what you need to say. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And you have recorded in your witness statement at paragraph 53 about an interview that you did with the ABC that was published on the ABC Online in October last year. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And you were very happy that you were able to speak publicly in that way. 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: But you found out this morning that the ABC has taken that article offline. 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And that itself has caused you enormous distress in being able to tell your story today at the Royal Commission? 

MS NUNN: Yes. Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: Alright. I want to just, before the Commissioners might ask you some questions, to just go through the six points that you have identified at the end of your statement which are your suggestions for change. So, you are, based on your experience, very much committed to seeing some reform in guardianship and administration systems. And the number one point that you identify and you have told us in preparing for the hearing is accountability. And you say in the absence of accountability there's no incentive to change. 

MS NUNN: Correct. 

MS EASTMAN: What does accountability mean for you and what would it look like in any reform? 

MS NUNN: Accountability means that our leaders must show us by their actions that they take the abuse and exploitation of disabled people seriously and that there will be consequences for unethical behaviour, in my opinion, and misconduct, in my opinion. I worked for a very regulated corporate business for many, many years, and if I had behaved towards my clients the way that we were treated, I would have been walked out the door. And when I asked a senior executive from the Public Trustee what the consequences would be for employees in their organisation, he said that they would be counselled as to the expectations of their role. That doesn't seem to be enough for me. 

MS EASTMAN: You didn't feel that was that sufficient accountability. 

MS NUNN: No, there needs to be consequences for this, because there will be no incentive otherwise. 

MS EASTMAN: The second point you raise is the system needs to be understood by those who use it. 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And so, as you've said, theres a plethora of information, but there needs to be some pathway by which families and ordinary people can understand what their rights are, where they can go for support, and to find information in an accessible form. And you think that the information explaining the process should be more person centred in nature. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: It should. 

MS EASTMAN: You also acknowledge that the officers of Public Trustee are under considerable pressure and workload, and you raise the concern as to whether they can discharge their function with respect to having more personalised contact and dialogue with their clients. In that respect, you are reflecting back on those times that worked well for Terry. 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: But also those times that were difficult. 

MS NUNN: Correct. 

MS EASTMAN: The third is transparency, and we partly touched on that. But you would like to see some modifications of the non publication provisions. You think that that would be a positive first step on accountability and transparency. But you also recognise the reasons why these secrecy or confidentiality provisions may have been introduced at the start, but you think there might be an opportunity for review and revision. Is that right? 

MS NUNN: Yes, that's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And also, part of transparency is avoiding conflicts of interest, and we have touched on that in relation to giving people information if the Public Trustee is preparing or involved in somebody's will. So, that the issue of avoiding conflicts of interest is also an important point you wanted to raise. The next is having clear and transparent complaint processes. You think they are necessary and I will read your words: 

"My experience of the complaints systems was and is a farce.” 

So you don't hold back on describing the complaint system. Can I ask you, in an ideal world, what would a complaint system look like for you and what would have worked for you at the time? 

MS NUNN: What would have worked for me at the time would have been consistency in communication. So, we had an investigator assigned to us, and she was   she seemed very nice. She was very empathetic. She spent a lot of time with myself and my brother on the phone. I followed up with some information, and then we proceeded into a bit of a black hole. So, I would send follow up communications. Nothing would be forthcoming in return. 

The Public Trustee at the time   and I believe these guidelines have been modified   were obliged to resolve a public interest disclosure or that kind of complaint within 28 business days. That timeline came and went and nothing happened. We escalated repeatedly. Those escalations were not responded to or replied to, even acknowledged. My solicitor escalated, not responded to. So, I think there has to be this demonstrated commitment that this is really serious and really important to us, and that engagement. When I'm reaching out asking what's happening, tell me. Like, engage with me. Assign the resources that are needed to appropriately manage expectations throughout the process. 

MS EASTMAN: So, that's a better complaints system. And your final point is this, and I will just read your final paragraph: 

"A truly human rights based approach to supported decision making. While a person's financial position must be prioritised, and protected, it is never more important than their human rights, their ability to choose what they want and what makes them happy. It's a balance.” 

MS NUNN: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: Ms Nunn, thank you very much for your evidence. The Commissioners may have some questions for you. 

MS NUNN: Thank you. 

CHAIR: Ms Nunn, before I ask my colleagues if they have any questions, I have got a couple, and I apologise advance if I haven't understood what I should have understood from the evidence. You referred to you having had refunded some costs by the Public Trustee. You seem to have been involved in two separate proceedings. One was the claim brought by the Public Trustee in the name of your brother for provision out of the estate of your mother and then your father. The second was your application to be appointed as the guardian for your brother. Now, my understanding is that was resisted by the Public Trustee. Have I understood that correctly? 

MS NUNN: No. No. So, we applied for administration, not for guardianship. 

CHAIR: Sorry, for administration, yes. 

MS NUNN: Yes. And, no - 

CHAIR: Was that resisted? 

MS NUNN: No, it was not resisted. So, the other   the other thing that I have been involved in was quite a protracted public interest disclosure process. 

CHAIR: Right. And the moneys or the costs that you ultimately recovered from the Public Trustee, that was in respect of costs incurred for which of these various proceedings? 

MS NUNN: That was in respect of costs incurred for the legal proceedings on John's behalf for extra provisions out of dad's estate. They - 

CHAIR: So that was   sorry, go ahead. 

MS NUNN: Yes. So, they were the legal costs incurred by John. So, the costs charged by the official solicitors for his legal representation during the District Court proceedings. 

CHAIR: I see. 

MS NUNN: And then the personal costs incurred by us for our own solicitor. 

CHAIR: I see. Thank you. That clarifies it. I'm sorry I didn't understand that fully from the material.

MS NUNN: That's okay. It is complicated. 

CHAIR: You have said and I understand   I think what you are saying, that you considered that the Public Trustee was in a conflict of interest situation. Can you just tell me   because I've got a tentative view from the conflict of interest from a lawyer's perspective. I'm just interested in your own words as to what you think the conflict of interest was that so concerned you? 

MS NUNN: The thing that bothers me, one of the things that bothers me the most about this situation is that the Public Trustee is an entirely self funded organisation. So, they make their money from fees and from legal costs. Well, the official solicitors makes the money from the legal costs. So, it seems to me to be a conflict of interest where you are managing the financial situation for a client and it's entirely self funded and then you are bringing legal action on behalf of that client and using not their money but the money from the estate. Does that make sense? 

CHAIR: So, you saw the conflict of interest as the potential financial advantage to the Public Trustee in commencing proceedings to obtain moneys on behalf of John out of the estate, that the Public Trustee would gain financially from that. 

MS NUNN: Correct. 

CHAIR: Alright. Well I'm going to say something technical, and it's a tentative view. The conflict of interest or a conflict of interest that appears to a lawyer, or at least to this lawyer, is potentially to be pretty obvious. Is that if a   someone, in this case the Public Trustee, prepares a will, in order to do that you must take instructions from the person who is making the will, the testator. When a claim is made under what used to be called family provision and is now often   I don't know the name in Queensland   Succession Act claims against an estate, the issue is, or at least one of the issues is what would a wise testator do in making provision for the person on whose behalf the claim is brought. 

So the Public Trustee, apparently, and subject to any contrary information, was in the position of having drafted a will on instructions and then having   making a claim on the basis of the seeking to set aside the terms of the will and, in the course of that, it would be necessary to determine what the attitude of the testator was and the reasons for the testator in making the will in the first place. So, that's what I see as potentially, without making a final judgment about it, is a fairly   what seems to be a fairly obvious conflict of interest in the proceedings themselves. 

But I was interested in what your perception of the conflict was, and I understand that, I thank you for it. They are the only questions that I had. And I will ask now if Commissioner McEwin has any questions for. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: Thank you, Chair, and thank you for your evidence. I have one question in relation to paragraph 4 of your statement, where you talk about John's NDIS plan. And you say that it includes supported independent living, community access and support. Does that include support for supported decision making? 

MS NUNN: No, I don't believe so. No. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: Okay. Thank you. 

CHAIR: Commissioner Ryan, do have you any questions? 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: There are a couple of little details I don't quite understand. It relates to, first of all, John's accommodation arrangements. I take it John was living in what might be called a group home, was it? 

MS NUNN: Correct. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Now, the group home would have been owned by a disability organisation for which John would have paid rent is that right? 

MS NUNN: The   it is a public housing home and the lease is actually held by his housemate and he is an approved tenant. So, he pays rent to the Department of Housing. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: And the rent is somehow or other calculated on the basis of any income he received, I take it? 

MS NUNN: There is   I don't understand the ins and outs, but there is a threshold   and at the time, it was $95,000   above which if the person has more than that in assets or funds, then they can be charged additional rent all the way up to being disqualified from, you know, having access to that house. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: I think it might be a market   they can even charge a market rent, I think because it - 

MS NUNN: I don't   yes. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: You referred to community rebates. What did you mean by that? Was that the thing called the Commonwealth rent assistance, which is something given to people as part of their Disability Support Pension? 

MS NUNN: No. So, when you look at the Public Trustee financial statements, he would be charged administration fees, asset management fees, other miscellaneous fees every month, equating to about $600. Then you would see a reversal and a credit of about $500, and I think it's called the Commonwealth Government Rebate Scheme or something like that. So, for people who do not have a huge amount of money   Johnno only had probably about $30,000 in the bank at the time   that was rebated to them to subsidise their costs of administration. So, when he received his inheritance, that rebate went away. So, he went from paying net $100, $150 a month, to all of a sudden paying around $600 a month, which was a huge hit on his disability pension. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: The other thing I was just   I approached this not with the wisdom and knowledge of my esteemed colleague the Chair, but I imagine that - 

CHAIR: You can stop right there, Commissioner Ryan. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: But, look, I imagine if you go and make a will with the Public Trustee, one of the other things that happens is that the Public Trustee knows a lot more about your business than you otherwise would. They are able to use the will as a means that they would have found out when the time of death had occurred. They had access to what the assets were in a way in which they would not have done if they had simply   if your father, for example, had made a will with another solicitor. Is that the case? 

MS NUNN: That's the way I see it, yes. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: That's all, Mr Chair. 

CHAIR: Thank you very much. Ms Nunn, thank you very much for your evidence today, for the statement you have provided and for the insights you have given us about your own experiences and those of your family. We thank you very much indeed for your willingness to share that with the Commission. We appreciate it very much. 

MS NUNN: Thank you. 

CHAIR: Thank you. 


MS EASTMAN: Thank you, Chair. I just deal with the tender of Ms Nunn's statement and the article that she refers to from the ABC. Could they be marked Exhibit 30.042 and 30.043. 

CHAIR: Those two documents will be admitted into evidence with the exhibit markings indicated by Ms Eastman. 



MS EASTMAN: If we could then adjourn for 15 minutes for morning tea. Thank you. 

CHAIR: Yes. Thank you. It's now just before 11.55 am Sydney time. We will adjourn until 12.10 pm thank you. 


<RESUMED 12:13 PM 

CHAIR: Yes, Ms Eastman. 

MS EASTMAN: Thank you, Chair. The next witness is Julie Bury. Part of the OSA team, so the Office of Solicitor Assisting the Royal Commission, and our counselling team travelled with me to Kangaroo Island a few weeks ago to take Julie's evidence. Julie Bury really wanted to be here at the Royal Commission in person. Her advocate is here and her legal representative is here. But we all agreed that it was probably best, because of Julie's current health, to pre record her story, which we did on Kangaroo Island. So, I would like to share her evidence with you now, and we will play the recording of the evidence that we took from Ms Bury a few weeks ago. Thank you, Chair. 

CHAIR: Ms Eastman, is it necessary to take an appearance from Ms Bury's representative?

MS EASTMAN: I don't think so. She's not presently in the   she is. Do you want to make an appearance? 

MS LEONG: Certainly. Leong, L e o n g, initials DL, solicitor with Your Story Disability Legal Support. I do appear for Ms Bury.

CHAIR: Thank you very much.

MS LEONG: Thank you. 

MS EASTMAN: Ms Leong also appeared for Ms Nunn when she gave her evidence earlier today. 

CHAIR: Yes, thank you. 

MS EASTMAN: Alright. So if we could turn to the video.

(Video plays)

MS EASTMAN: So, Julie, thank you for joining the Royal Commission. 

MS BURY: That's okay. 

MS EASTMAN: And you've done your affirmation. 

MS BURY: I have. 

MS EASTMAN: And I want to start by asking you about where you live. 

MS BURY: M'hmm.

MS EASTMAN: We've joined you here in Kangaroo Island. Tell us about where you live and what your life is like now. 

MS BURY: Yeah. I live on Baudin Beach. This is called Baudin Beach, and I'm in a rental house at the moment. I have - I lived here in my own house in - about 14 months ago and I've just recently returned, and it's - Kangaroo Island is a wonderful place. I've always loved it, but my family have always been in Queensland. 

MS EASTMAN: What do you love about living here on Kangaroo Island? 

MS BURY: I love that it's so remote and I love the peace more than anything, and it is a beautiful place with a very unique light and feel about it. 

MS EASTMAN: And how does that make you feel to live here on Kangaroo Island. 

MS BURY: Well, I feel it's easier to cope with a lot of my challenges. It's not easy to cope with my challenges usually, but here at least I can look out the window and see the light, and even the gale-force winds, you know, there's something positive or negative happening, that I can feel it and I'm part of it. 

MS EASTMAN: So you know this part of the Royal Commission's work is a hearing looking at the issues around guardianship - 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - and supported decision-making and I want to ask you some questions in a moment about some of the issues you've confronted in those systems. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: But before we do that, can I ask you about living with disability and what your disability is. 

MS BURY: I was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 19 - in - well, when I was 45, so that - I'm 61 this year, so it's been a long time dealing - coming to terms with Parkinson's. 

MS EASTMAN: What is it like to live with Parkinson's? 

MS BURY: Well, for me - it just can be very different from everybody else. It's like being - like, given a label which you're constantly fighting. 

MS EASTMAN: What sort of label? 

MS BURY: The label says you will be cognitively declining any time soon - 


MS BURY: - or maybe now and you look like - so I'm constantly feeling the need to justify that I'm not. 

MS EASTMAN: So let's go back to the beginning. When you were first diagnosed with Parkinson you were a young woman. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And those first few years you were taking the medication and did you think well, everything seems to be fine? 

MS BURY: Well, initially they don't give you any medication because the only reason they give you the medication is to prove or not prove that you do have Parkinson's disease. 


MS BURY: There's no definitive test for Parkinson's disease at the moment. 

MS BURY: There's observations -- rigidity in your joints, the way you walk, your tremor is only a very small part of it really and things like loss of smell. I never lost my sense of smell. What I do think it's more - is that it's a neurodegenerative disease and for me that's more important than any label -that I share a degenerative disease with people with MS, with- MND. There are a lot of people. And the real thing about it is why my particular - there's certain neurons in my brain I'm sure that are degenerating, nothing to do with the cognitive area. Everybody has a different area of the brain that's degenerating, but we all get lumped together with different labels -and I don't think that is accurate. 

MS EASTMAN: When you were first diagnosed, did you give any thought to what might happen in the future and, in particular, starting to think about how you'd make decisions about your life into the future. 

MS BURY: Well, when I was diagnosed was the week after I came - returned to Australia from Singapore. I was is in an expat marriage for 25 years, so I hadn't really given a lot of thought to what I would do with Parkinson's disease. I had only just - so, seven days, in that seven days I left my husband and a home and I brought my three children back to Australia and then I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. 

MS EASTMAN: So you were sort of basically living in the moment, I would imagine at that time; is that right? 

MS BURY: Well, it was pretty difficult. But I had an aunt with Parkinson's disease, so I had a fairly decent idea of what it was going to be like, but I - you know, when you're 45 or any age really - I had always had a strong body. I had never had a broken bone. I sort of - in my head, I thought I will conquer this. I had always conquered everything else -


MS BURY: - and I'd left - you know, that I'd been able to leave my husband when things were going very, very badly and come back to Australia and survive. I thought well, I can - I will be okay. 

MS EASTMAN: And you've worked in your life, haven't you? 

MS BURY: Yes. I was - 

MS EASTMAN: You've had different jobs. Tell me about what you've done in your life. 

MS BURY: I grew up in Central Queensland, so - I did very well at school but I wasn't able to - I wanted to do other things, but I became what usually women do, nursing or doctoring - nursing or teaching, sorry, and eventually I became a teacher. 

MS EASTMAN: And what sort of teaching were you doing? 

MS BURY: Special needs. 

MS EASTMAN: And how did you find that work? 

MS BURY: At the time it was okay. It suited me as a wife, and that part of my life did help me be the mother that I wanted to be. I don't think I would choose it again -

MS EASTMAN: Well, there have been a lot of changes in your life since you were 45 and -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - first diagnosed. Can I ask you some questions about some of the changes that have occurred to you? 

MS BURY: Sure. 

MS EASTMAN: Before we do that, one of the topics the Royal Commission is listening to for this hearing is understanding the importance of being independent and being able to make decisions as a person with a disability. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: If reflecting on your life and the decisions that you've had to make in your life, it's a case, isn't it, that you've had to make some very difficult and complex decisions during the course of your life? 

MS BURY: Always, yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And has that - those stages of your life where you've had to make those decisions, how have you gone about doing that? 

MS BURY: Well, I think quite often I was controlled when I was married. 

MS EASTMAN: What do you mean by "controlled"? 

MS BURY: Well, I wasn't allowed to get my viewpoint across. 


MS BURY: Perhaps - and in the end I just succumbed and I just allowed a person to take over that because it was too difficult and too painful to pursue my own viewpoint.

MS EASTMAN: But then you've had to make some difficult decisions.

MS BURY: After -

MS EASTMAN: So how do you approach that? 

MS BURY: Well, in the end I suppose the diagnosis of Parkinson's pushed me. 

MS EASTMAN: Why is that? 

MS BURY: Because I thought if my life is limited, is this how I want to live the rest of my life, a limited life, and then a year later I was diagnosed with breast cancer - 


MS BURY: - and that was the full stop, I guess. It just went (clicking of fingers) and from then on I just knew my life is limited and that - how would I want to end this? And that life is pretty precious.


MS BURY: And I didn't say it gratuitously. I just really, really meant it. There's so many things I wanted to do in life that I hadn't done, and I wouldn't be controlled by another person any more. And I took great - you know, I was always joyful in life after that. If I wanted to dance I danced, and if I wanted to sing I sang, even if it was out of tune and the kids didn't like that too much but - and I just enjoyed myself. 

MS EASTMAN: What about being financially independent. Was that something that you had to address when you left your marriage and -

MS BURY: Yes, yeah. 

MS EASTMAN: - in that part of your life? How did you go about addressing becoming financially independent? 

MS BURY: Well, I enjoyed it really. I enjoy research and as much as people really dislike the topic of superannuation and making yourself financially independent, I revelled in being able to take control of that.


MS BURY: And I was always confident that I would have enough money behind me to live a really good life and do the things I wanted to do. I had already travelled most of the world, so there wasn't really many places I needed to go as recreation-wise, but I wanted to go to the Royal Parkinson's Congress in the States one year. And I set goals. I had insurance in place in my superannuation, so financially I felt at every stage I was okay. I'd covered myself. 

MS EASTMAN: Can I talk about a time that was quite difficult for you - 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - and this is where that independence started to really come against other people starting to make decisions or deciding - 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - what should be best for you. Can I ask you about that time in your life? 

MS BURY: Yes. Sure. 

MS EASTMAN: So there was a time, I think, around 2017 - 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - where you were unwell for -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - periods of time and you ended up in a hospital. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: Can you remember anything about that that you want to share, and you if you don't feel -


MS EASTMAN: - comfortable about anything, just let me know as we go along. 

MS BURY: That's all right. 


MS BURY: Hindsight is a great thing. 

MS EASTMAN: So what can you remember about having to have that time in hospital, and there was one week, wasn't it, that was a really challenging week for you. 

MS BURY: Yes, and it was a dazy week, a dozy week, because I was having morphine third hourly, and when you're on drugs you're not in - you know, I know I'm not that person. When you're having morphine - when I was having morphine third hourly, even subcutaneously, you feel like you're in another world. 


MS BURY: It's a slow moving world and it's a drug - it's a drug world, and I was in a lot of pain as well, but now I realise it was - I was in delirium from UTIs.


MS BURY: I was on a drug that they put people on for Parkinson's disease. I was on a lot of drugs. And one of those drugs in particular caused UTIs, and I'd been having multiple UTIs in hindsight. 

MS EASTMAN: And that had really affected you in terms of how you feel, but also maybe how you were thinking at the time -

MS BURY: Yeah. I think -

MS EASTMAN: - is that right? 

MS BURY: Not thinking. I felt - I remember the time. I do remember that it was difficult to keep my temper, hold my temper - - not vent, but I also know that I felt like I was a dog  - being a dog backed into a corner and no one was listening to me. And I remember the frustration, but also, I had come from being down in Kangaroo Island and working as a deckhand. And I thought back to that time, I had just spent six months working with men primarily in a different kind of language. It's almost just like a second language because they swear all the time, and I realised that my language had changed too. 

MS EASTMAN: Can I just do a pause there -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - just so people following us can know where we're going. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: So you were living in Queensland. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And then you moved to -

MS BURY: Well, no. 

MS EASTMAN: So Singapore to Queensland; is that right? 

MS BURY: I went - sorry, I was in Singapore to Queensland, then when the kids left school, finished school, I went on a holiday, then I went - and we bought up - and my husband at the time, we bought in Bundaberg -


MS BURY: - near Bundaberg. 

MS EASTMAN: In Queensland. 

MS BURY: Yes. Well, I bought a house with entirely my money. And that was in Woodgate which is very close to Bundaberg so that was about the time you mentioned in 2017. 


MS BURY: And I - it was probably my favourite house. But I bought it because it was midway between my father in Rockhampton and the kids were in Brisbane so it sort of justified it. But then there was a Parkinson's Congress happening in Adelaide.


MS BURY: And my husband at the time and I had bought a rig we were going to travel around in, so in 2015 we had started on this journey and we come to Kangaroo Island. 


MS BURY: Now, during that time he decided to leave me in 2015, my second husband. 

MS EASTMAN: I'm sorry to hear that. 

MS BURY: Well, in hindsight it was probably a good thing -


MS BURY: - I admit because I was still in - I was really in - on the journey of making my own decisions and becoming my own woman. 


MS BURY: He really - he came along for part of the ride but not very - it was only a couple of years, the marriage. 

MS EASTMAN: So did that bring you to Kangaroo Island? 

MS BURY: Well, I was already here. I had already bought land here. In 2015 - July 2015 I bought my first block of land which went on the property settlement with my second husband, and then I bought the second block of land in Western River - 


MS BURY:- and it was still - it was down here, and I - it had a shed on it a rainwater tank and I was preparing to live there, but I had also had the house up in Queensland in Woodgate that I had no loans, no mortgages, and I owned all my cars outright, so -

MS EASTMAN: Okay. So then we come back to that time in hospital. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: So at that stage you were in Queensland -

MS BURY: Yes, but it was -

MS EASTMAN: - in Bundaberg. 

MS BURY: - I had planned to spend the summers - the Queensland summers down here and the winters in Woodgate. It seemed like a good mix. And I would drive between the two places. 

MS EASTMAN: Okay. That's a fair drive. 

MS BURY: 3,000 kilometres, yes, but I did it over about a week at a time, and along the way I stayed in the same places, so at that stage I was in Bundaberg and that's why I ended up near - in [REDACTED] hospital- 

MS EASTMAN: So come back to [REDACTED] Hospital. 

MS BURY: Mmm. 

MS EASTMAN: So that difficult week. By the end of that week something happened, didn't it? 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And so what do you remember about that? What would you like to talk about. 

MS BURY: Well, it wasn't just a week in the hospital. It was more than that, I think. But once they put me on morphine it was difficult to remember the whole - what happened, but I do remember them saying - I said, "When are my family going to go visit?" because I didn't have any clothes. I had really nice pyjamas about 50 kilometres away -


MS BURY: - and I just needed someone to bring them in. They didn't have shampoo, conditioner, they didn't have toothpaste. I just felt like I was a wreck and I didn't have any clothes, no shoes, and I didn't even have small change for the vending machine. 

MS EASTMAN: So you were hoping the family members would come and bring some of your gear; is that right? 

MS BURY: Yes, and also just come and visit me. I was very, very sad because nobody was visiting me. And so this day my - they said my family were going to visit - I think it was the Tuesday, and I remember being with the psychologist and she was doing a test but she didn't say what it was. 

MS EASTMAN: Did you know what the test - you didn't know what the test was about? 

MS BURY: It was just a - she said we're just going to ask you some questions, and just with some positive things, your family are going to come and visit, and so I was really happy about that, and so during that week, though, I was on this morphine and I was getting more and more of it.


MS BURY: And I know that I was getting other medication, but it was becoming harder and harder to remember what I was getting. But I know that I was in a lot of pain and I think it was - there was some - there was never mention that I had a UTI. 

MS BURY: It was just mentioned that I was in end-stage Parkinson's, so when the neurologist would come around he would say to the young - it's a teaching hospital, you tell the young people with him that there's a woman and she's in end-stage Parkinson's. 

MS EASTMAN: You didn't feel that you were at end- stage - 

MS BURY: No, I thought - 

MS EASTMAN: Is that right? 


MS EASTMAN: And so what happened when you thought that the family were coming to see you? 

MS BURY: Well, I was very happy. 

MS EASTMAN: And do you remember what happened when that -

MS BURY: Yes, I do. 

MS EASTMAN: - when they arrived? Okay. Do you want to talk about that? 

MS BURY: Yes. Sure. Well, my sister is - my older sister lives in [REDACTED] and was living there then, and so she - and my younger sister lived in [REDACTED], so they arrived and they said hello and I was really happy, and then they disappeared. They said we'll see you down in the meeting room. So I said, "All right then." And then - so I - I said, "Did you bring some clothes?” And they said - they said, "No." My sister brought me some Opium perfume and I remember thinking how unusual, given I didn't have anything else. And then I was given my meds, my - my, you know, subcut morphine. [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] went down to the meeting room and I made my way down there by myself in my purple surgical gown with my, you know, backside hanging out, and there's no underclothes so I was wearing theatre underpants, and it was really hot and I didn't feel very well at all, and I made my way down this hallway and then [REDACTED] and  [REDACTED] were in there and I sat down and they said first of all we have to tell you that  [REDACTED] got cancer and he's - it's a very aggressive cancer. And then I said, "When did he get diagnosed?" and they said, "When you got admitted to hospital. We didn't want to tell you." And I just – I didn’t -- feel sad, but then I started getting angry. And then the next thing that happened was a whole lot of people started arriving. 

MS EASTMAN: You didn't know who they were, did you? 

MS BURY: There was a doctor that had come to see me, there was a neurologist, there was a physio that I'd seen, but the rest of them, like, there were 16 of them. And it seemed to me, in my mind - my mind's eye, that they were all on that side of the room and I was on this side of the room. 

MS EASTMAN: And you felt sort of fairly isolated and ambushed, did you, in the meeting? 

MS BURY: The - worst of all was this - the girl that was leading it was a young social worker and I'd met her during the week. I said to the psychologist if - could you be here when my family are here, and she said yes, but - except I'm away a certain day, and if that's the case you're going to have to have somebody else. So she said talk to the social worker, and I did, and when I - at the end of the meeting with the social worker before this meeting, I'd said to her, you know, [REDACTED], you're very nice, but we're not on the same page, and I don't - I wouldn't want you leading the meeting, And, anyway, so there she was, she was leading the meeting. 

MS EASTMAN: So the end result of this meeting was that everybody started to say what was best for you; is that right? 

MS BURY: Yes. And everybody - well, then I - my son stood up and he said, "What we want is for you to go to a nursing home, Mum." 

MS EASTMAN: You didn't want to do that, did you? 

MS BURY: No. And I yelled and I said - and then I just stood up and said, well, I don't know - I just said I don't want to be here anymore. I said it's up - it's me against the world.
And I took off and I just went back to my bed. 

MS EASTMAN: After that you now know that the social worker made an application -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - to a tribunal -

MS BURY: Mmm. 

MS EASTMAN: - to get some orders around how you could spend your money; is that right? 


MS EASTMAN: Do you remember that? 

MS BURY: No. About how I could spend my money? 

MS EASTMAN: Mmm. Because you ended up having a decision made -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - that you had the trustee who would then control how you could spend your money. 

MS BURY: Nobody told - nobody - 

MS EASTMAN: But you didn't know that at the time, did you?

MS BURY: Nobody came to talk to me. 

MS EASTMAN: And you found out later that this application had been made -

MS BURY: It was three months later. 

MS EASTMAN: - and a decision was made. And how did you find out that the decision had been made? 

MS BURY: Well, there's a lot in between, but I was in Kangaroo Island once again. 

MS EASTMAN: So after you left hospital you came back to Kangaroo Island. 

MS BURY: Not straightaway. 


MS BURY: Do you want to hear that now or - 

MS EASTMAN: Yes. We can do that now, for sure. 

MS BURY: So the three months in between, there was a day where I felt that they were going to move me - the hospital were going to move me, but there was whispering and nobody would give me a straight answer. It was the same as when the guy in the corner was moved to a mental health unit and I felt that I was probably going to be moved to a mental health unit, but that day I started bleeding. I'd had a suspected uterine something or other and I told them that I had had - had the bleeding at different times and this day I started bleeding a lot and they gave me a sanitary pad and I - it was very, very heavy and all of a sudden a nurse came in and she said “they've created a role called a nurse navigator and I'm going to be a nurse navigator. I'm going to take you back to Woodgate and I'll make sure it's all set up so that you can survive from home.” So off I went with her. I was discharged very suddenly and sent back with her. But - so I got there and she set me all up. She put a SIM card in my phone -


MS BURY: - made sure everything was okay and put me to bed and she made an appointment to come back in a couple of days. Well, I went down. I had some lunch and I thought I don't want to be here. I wanna be in Kangaroo Island. So I - I'd always kept some money behind - in - some cash in the house behind a wall and I go there. I went into - I caught a taxi into Bundaberg. I had a sense that all was not well, and I got a plane down to Kangaroo Island. [REDACTED] who was the skipper of the boat that I was working on picked me up at the airport and he took me. He said you can stay with me, if you like and I started working as a decky on his boat again. 

MS EASTMAN: Were you feeling better by this stage? 

MS BURY: Yeah, because I didn't have a urinary tract infection. I'd had antibiotics. And when I came back  [REDACTED] said, "You look terrible. You look like a ghost." And I said well, I don't know what's happened, but my family aren't talking to me. I can't seem to get them on the phone and - but anyway, I resumed life as normal until one Friday afternoon I went to the bank - and during this time I sold the land up in Little River - Western River and the money had gone into the bank, so there was over $110,000 at least up there - in there, or should have been, but when I went to pay the Telstra bill, there was nothing in there. 


MS BURY: There's -

MS EASTMAN: Did you know why? 

MS BURY: No. I asked the bank teller and she said it's been seized by the Public Trustee. 

MS EASTMAN: Did you know - and that was the first you heard of the - 

MS BURY: I knew it was -

MS EASTMAN: - Public Trustee; is that right? 

MS BURY: - the Public Trustee I thought did wills. I didn't know what else they did. And then I said well, how could they do that? And she said because you've been found unable to manage your affairs. 

MS EASTMAN: The bank teller told you that? 

MS BURY: Yes. And I said but how - I don't understand. What affairs? You know, I had no idea. It's hard to imagine, eh? 

MS EASTMAN: Mmm. So what did you do? 

MS BURY: Oh, I must have gone very white faced. She gave me a glass of water. I went outside and  [REDACTED] was picking me up, and I said I couldn't pay the bill, I couldn't pay Telstra because - and I told him and he said, "No, that's just not right. There must be a mistake. Ring" - so we rang the Public Trustee because they had given me the number for the Public Trustee in Bundaberg. And I rang them and they said - they told me what had happened. I said, "Who did that?" and they said we don't know, we can't tell you the details. It's just how it is. But it's Friday. What am I supposed to do? I don't have any money. And they said you took money out of the bank on - $200 on Tuesday. It was Friday then. I said yes, I know, but I have a substantial amount of money that I can access. They said well, you will just have to be a bit more careful -


MS BURY: - and we'll get back to you later. 

MS EASTMAN: Now, you were not happy with that situation. What did you do to find out more, or ultimately to have that decision set aside? 

MS BURY: Well, I didn't realise - I didn't - you imagine - as you - don't know what to say. 

MS EASTMAN: So, Julie, we're up to that stage about what steps you took to address the situation you found yourself in with the Public Trustee managing your money. Can you remember what you did and ultimately how you got to the tribunal? 

MS BURY: Yes. Well, I remember that weekend as just absolutely feeling that I had no money. My family weren't answering any phone calls. I was totally by myself. I felt so very alone and very scared. But one thing that I had learnt was that I wasn't going to die. Then I felt that nobody understood that, you know, when you think you're going to die, it's not a gift, but it is precious because then you realise everybody else lives a life as if they're going to live forever -


MS BURY: - but I knew how - how, you know, that's not true. And it's wrong that people would take my money from me because it seemed that I was being reckless. That was the reason that they had said. But that recklessness wasn't - that wasn't recklessness. I had already justified that I looked after my finances. I didn't have to prove anything to myself, but I did go - so what I did, I made a plan with [REDACTED]. He was - he's a fisherman so, you know, he had never experienced anything like what had happened to me, and he didn't believe that the government would do that without some - so he said, right, well, we'll have to get this sorted as well, so I didn't want him taking control. I needed to do it myself. I had a good friend . She was also a social worker [REDACTED] but we had agreed at the end of the counselling that that client-professional relationship was more - going to be a friendship and I wasn't going to be her client anymore -


MS BURY: - as a - you know, as a counsellor person, but I did go over and I saw  [REDACTED] and she said, right, well, I'll ring - she's decided to ring everybody she could. She said this doesn't - this is not right because if I could have done this in the past and follow this guardianship procedure, the first thing you do is allocate legal guidance to that person and they know - they know the whole process she said and even - no matter what state they're in - I explained to them what's happening. She said, "I rang the hospital." She said, "I can't get anybody at the moment." Eventually she did ring the social worker and the social worker said, "That's okay. It's just the initial stuff. It's the initial part. It's not totally finished." And she seemed to think that it was okay that I didn't have any money and I was still under the Public Trustee. And  [REDACTED] said - I remember  [REDACTED] said - she said I'm - "This girl makes me embarrassed for my profession." 

MS EASTMAN: So what did [REDACTED] end up doing? 

MS BURY: Well, she organised as much as see could. She had organised a psychiatrist to - to, you know, make sure I was okay. I had to go to the doctor and get a sanity certificate and go through all the testing. I had to - I - I - we went through all the checklist and she helped me work through this together. 

MS EASTMAN: Did you understand at that time this was about working out whether you had capacity to be able to make decisions for yourself - 


MS EASTMAN: - and this was the process of collecting a lot of information to support proving - you had to prove capacity. 

MS BURY: I didn't know the word "capacity." 

MS EASTMAN: So that hadn't come up at all? 

MS BURY: Well, capacity - I only found out this functional capacity stuff in the last - I don't know, since I've been working with you guys. I didn't realise it was an actual test. 


MS BURY: A crazy test. 

MS EASTMAN: So you ended up - you ended up being involved in a tribunal hearing, but you were on the phone here from Kangaroo Island. 

MS BURY: That was the final thing, yeah.


MS BURY: But there had already been a tribunal hearing that I wasn't invited to.


MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: But this one you were able to participate by phone. 

MS BURY: I requested it, yeah. 

MS EASTMAN: How was that experience for you? 

MS BURY: Well, very difficult. It's extremely stressful and it's stressful for [REDACTED]. I had to get the GP so he would come on the phone, and he was late, but I - it was - it was good but - except I remember the judge asked me what my property in Woodgate was worth and I said 100 and something and it's, like, 400 and something, and he asked me three times, and on the third time I said "oh sorry," and I remember thinking this would be easier if I could see his face. I - it was a slip of the tongue and I was thinking three steps ahead of me instead of concentrating on the moment. 

MS EASTMAN: Did anyone explain to you what was going to happen at that tribunal hearing? 

MS BURY: [REDACTED] tried to. 

MS EASTMAN: And did you go into that knowing what to expect and what was required of you? 

MS BURY: I knew that at the end of it that he would make a decision whether I could get my money back or not. That's all I felt, that I could get my assets back. I would do whatever had to be done to get it back and jump whatever hoops. 

MS EASTMAN: Did anyone tell you well, what was the test that the judge or the tribunal member was going to use to work that out. 

MS BURY: I didn't think there was a test. 

MS EASTMAN: So you just sort of thought, what, you would just tell him what's happening -

MS BURY: Yeah.

MS EASTMAN: - and that would be it. 

MS BURY: He would say yes or no. 

MS EASTMAN: And what was the outcome of that process? 

MS BURY: He said no. In the end he said yes, you've got - you know, I find you fiscally responsible and it will be assigned back to you. 

MS EASTMAN: And what ended up happening then in terms of the Public Trustee? Did they have anything more to do with you after of that decision? 

MS BURY: Well, no. I had to ring them and say when am I going to get my - you know, my estate back, and they said it would take a month or so, and then when I went back to Bundaberg - because before the tribunal I'd been in the process of looking at selling my house -


MS BURY: - before they put a caveat on it, so I went back to a house that had a green swimming pool. It was needing about $50,000 in repairs. 

MS EASTMAN: Who was looking after the house while you were here? 

MS BURY: The Public Trustee. 


MS BURY: Yes, Public Trustee and that. But I never got any - and I knew that they were doing things because I had got a pool guy to give me a pool compliance certificate before all of this happened because I was thinking of selling the house and I needed a pool compliance certificate, and during - when the house was under the Public Trustee I got a phone call from this pool guy and he said, Julie, six weeks ago I did this. Why am I doing another one for the Public Trustee? And I said, "I don't know, but you have to do whatever they tell you to do," and it's embarrassing, but -

MS EASTMAN: In terms of sort of getting all of your estate back or all your finances back, did everything come back to you or were some of the - some of your finances used to pay for legal costs - 

MS BURY: I don't know. 

MS EASTMAN: - or other things? No one told you about that? 

JULIE: Nobody. I know that I got a lot less back. It was very painful. I think I got - I don't know, but I'm pretty sure that I got about $300,000 less than I should have done. 

MS EASTMAN: But did you - you don't remember getting any statements -

MS BURY: I didn't get a statement, no. 

MS EASTMAN: - or anything explaining that? 


MS EASTMAN: At any time during this process do you think I need a lawyer? 

MS BURY: No. Because I couldn't afford it. 

MS EASTMAN: Did you think about whether you needed an advocate and somebody to walk with you? 

MS BURY: I didn't know what they were. 

MS EASTMAN: So you now know what an advocate is. 

MS BURY: Mmm. I should have had. 

MS EASTMAN: And so knowing what you know now and back at that time in 2017, would it have assisted you to have an advocate -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - to walk with you? 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And what have been the benefits of having an advocate -

MS BURY: Well, I would know what - 

MS EASTMAN: - when you went through that process? 

MS BURY: Well, then they could have explained what it was all about. I would know what a functional capacity test was, I would know what I had to do, and I could have been independent in working it out. I was dependent on another person. I was dependent on  [REDACTED] and the GP to explain it to me, to work out what I needed and walk me through it. 

MS EASTMAN: Since - can I move forward a little bit. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: So since that time, just that experience of having your financial independence taken away from you - 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - and people who you don't know making decisions about whether you've got capacity to -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - make decisions for yourself, has that had an impact on you about the way in which either you trust other people or institutions or how you feel about yourself? 

MS BURY: I listen - for myself, I - it's made me a very big observer. Even to the point of estranging myself from myself. I step back all the time and go I wonder how that sounds to other people. I have to - I constantly say to myself I wonder how that sounded. 

MS EASTMAN: Do you say that because you're worried that depending on what you say, somebody might take that and judge you and say I wonder if Julie knows what she's talking about or whether -

MS BURY: Well, I especially -

MS EASTMAN: - if you say something they might judge your capacity. 

MS BURY: Well, no, they don't -

MS EASTMAN: Are they the things you're worried about? 

MS BURY: Well, I'm not just worried. I know that happens, especially if I'm with someone like a psychiatrist, a neuropsychiatrist or any of the medical profession, I know for sure that they write things without my consent. And, you know, after the nothing without us - nothing about us without us, that pretty much sums it up. There is so as much written about me that I've had no consent. 

MS EASTMAN: Don't you say, "Nothing about us without us but also nothing about me without knowing me"? 


MS EASTMAN: Is that an expression I think I've -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - seen you use. 

MS BURY: And - 

MS EASTMAN: What do you mean by that? 

MS BURY: Because - well, I want to know what's written down about me. I want to know what words are written down and how it's used to explain my situation. I want to know if a new term like "mania" is used, that I want to know that that person will explain it to me. I'm quite happy to be called schizophrenic, any label, if they can say that - give me a reason why. You know, I wouldn't be happy, but I'd accept it but -most of my record is written down without any understanding or knowledge of me and without me being able to access it. 

MS EASTMAN: How does that feel about your sense of self and how you think about yourself, but also how you think other people look at you or judge you? 

MS BURY: Well, now, that I truly am in end-stage Parkinson's, it doesn't really - I don't care anymore because - well, certainly, obviously, I've fled Brisbane because I felt that - and with rightly so, I judged that this was all going to happen again. But in the meantime, before this I have constantly tried to be on the edge or outside of this world, that world. I did not want to go to hospital. I - I - it would have to be the worst possible situation for me to go to the mainland to go to hospital because I was too scared. 

MS EASTMAN: Have things had an impact on how you feel with respect to your family and your broader circle of friends at all? 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: Do you want to talk about that at all? 

MS BURY: Yes. Sure. I don't have one relationship - well, I have one relationship now that I had before all this happened. The rest have imploded and my family - I can see now the power structure changed. Now every - and such is me. I work from a fact - my factory default for my family is fiscally incompetent and for most people I think -

MS EASTMAN: What do you mean by that? Like, you think your family have an assumption or a default -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - view about you that you're unable to  manage your finances so you're fiscally incompetent. 

MS BURY: That's right. 

MS EASTMAN: Is that what you mean by that? 

MS BURY: Incompetent. 


MS BURY: Yes. But also I think the medical profession do because it's written down at different times. She has a history of being found fiscally incompetent, a history. 

MS EASTMAN: And you don't know where that really comes from; is that right? 

MS BURY: Well, it comes from them knowing about what happened in Bundaberg. 

MS EASTMAN: So is that - that sort of sense of that time where you had an interim order in relation to the Public Trustee -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - and then having to go to the tribunal for the final hearing -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - that that sort of holds and defines you. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: Even though -

MS BURY: It has to. 

MS EASTMAN: - you were found to be able to manage your finances by yourself. 

MS BURY: Because there's always a chance that will happen. And that moment when you just know - I knew when my - when I found out that I had no money, I was wholly dependent on  [REDACTED]. Back to square one, like, when I was married, you know, and I had really ultimately no control and so I don't - you know, that is terrifying. 

MS EASTMAN: Mmm. I want to ask you about a topic again that the Royal Commission will be interested, very interested to hear your views. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: You've been in a situation where somebody's taken that decision-making away from you -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - and we call that substituted decision-making, But there are times in everybody's life where you need support in terms of -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - making decisions. Have you got any views about the idea of being supported to make decisions at times when you just need a bit of assistance in terms of decision-making? Is that something you've thought about? 

MS BURY: I have. I've thought is there any appropriate time for this? And there would have been quite a few times that I would have welcomed it, but I - if I didn't - been given a choice about who was with me to help me make those choices - and also I don't - I think being tested is one thing, but tests don't tell too much given by a person that doesn't -- Tests don't tell too much unless it's given by a person who knows that person because a test given by a person who's got a pretty set idea or agenda will determine in one way. I know that from being a special needs teacher, you know. And a person - another test given by another person, by my friend  [REDACTED], might have a totally different perspective at the end. 

MS EASTMAN: So if you need some support at different points in time to make decisions, is it important that the person who supports you is somebody who knows you? 

MS BURY: Yes. Well, that I appoint now. 

MS EASTMAN: So you decide who. 

MS BURY: Now. Now, yes. 


MS BURY: Because I've reached a stage - and I'm fully - I'm actually - I'm not humble and I know that I'm - I am cognitively more - I am cognitively clearer than I've ever been in my life. 


MS BURY: And that's because I've gone - I've chosen to go off the medication which was causing the lack of clarity. I've chosen to go off the medication that was causing the urinary tract infections and all of those other ones like Dopamine agonists that cause compulsivity and recklessness. I chose to go off those no matter what the motor symptoms that they helped me work, you know, to decrease, I would prefer to be - I choose clarity of mind every time. 

MS EASTMAN: So someone who knows you, someone who you decide is going to support you with decision-making, that would make a difference. 

MS BURY: Yes. And somebody - if - if I have to be told that, “Julie, we just need some explanation why you made these kind of decisions”, I want somebody that I know, an advocate that I would appoint, that I've been - you know, Kerryann, you know, she has known me through all this. 

MS EASTMAN: So Kerryann is your advocate -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - and supporting you at the moment. 

MS BURY: That's right. 

MS EASTMAN: She is here as we're recording your evidence today -

MS BURY: That's right. 

MS EASTMAN: - is that right? 

MS BURY: And she has known me through when I was cognitively, you know, far - as clear as a bell. She will know when I'm not. 


MS BURY: But I don't want somebody who's never known me in their life. 

MS EASTMAN: To do that. Could I ask you about the one thing which I think you've done in the past, is you've given a family member or a close friend -


MS EASTMAN: - something called an Enduring Power of Attorney. Do you remember that expression? 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And some people say well, an Enduring Power of Attorney is one way of having some supported decision-making. You might allow somebody to make particular decisions about you or have a timeframe for making decisions. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: When you've used the Enduring Power of Attorney, why have you taken that step and has that helped you at all? 

MS BURY: I suppose at different times a solicitor has said look, you know, we're doing your will, you need to have this. It was just a terminology. 


MS BURY: But then as the disease progressed it became a lot more real. 


MS BURY: And now - then after the Public Trustee got involved and took away my ability to control my affairs, it's become absolutely crucial that I have someone that I really trust. It's become crystal clear how important that is. And so it's always - you know, it's what you don't have that tells you what you really need. Now I have somebody that I totally trust. I wouldn't - I don't - I did trust my sister, but she led the charge to have me found fiscally incompetent unfortunately, so she was my power - Enduring Power of Attorney at the time that this all happened - and I suppose I didn't see that coming. 

MS EASTMAN: Thank you, Julie. We've been talking about what might support somebody to make decisions for themselves if they need assistance from time to time. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: We've just talked about enduring guardianship - sorry, Enduring Power of Attorneys and you wanted to say something a little bit more about Public Trustees and guardianship, so we'll come back to that -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - topic and I think you wanted to share with the Commissioners some suggestions for what would make a really big difference for people living with disability -

MS BURY: M'hmm. 

MS EASTMAN: - on the ground in their everyday life. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: What would you like to tell us about that? 

MS BURY: I think it's important that we get to choose the people that work with us and that - and then we can trust them. Trust is such a big issue. I don't have any trust in - it's taken so long to get to trust people and that should never have happened. And I think the main thing is that this - the - for everybody in the world, I think - everyone is an individual and in every moment they change. That you can be sure. And in my life it's so very important to know that a functional capacity test that they do today even in this very moment would convey something completely different in about five minutes time. So it is really a useless tool. If the Public Trustee could come up with different tools to gauge, and they should be based firmly in a person's needs. And they should include not just that person perhaps but all their family, but the family shouldn't have ultimate say in the end. 

MS EASTMAN: Is part of the tools really understanding the person? So at the moment I know you've told us that you're doing some art. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: You can speak about the tides and the moon and the weather and the changing conditions here on Kangaroo Island. 

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: Questions about those things I think would really demonstrate your deep knowledge and thinking about issues and that might be a bit different to asking you whether you know what the current interest rates might be -

MS BURY: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: - or who the Prime Minister of Australia would be. 

MS BURY: Or what teal means. 

MS EASTMAN: Or what teal means, okay, if that was a question. So can you tell us at a very practical level what sorts of tools do you think would assist people who may need support from time to time with their decision-making to help them, but also how do you work out these tests that help people to really have their best opportunity if they're in a tribunal and somebody is going to have to decide whether they have capacity and then their decision-making might go from them altogether. What would be good tools to use? 

MS BURY: It sounds like that - when  [REDACTED] works with me she said - she told me how it should work and how it should work seemed to be just the way it should work. You see, the way that I was handled wasn't the way that it was set down to be. Everything that was done, [REDACTED] said nothing that happened with you is supposed to happen. She said I've only - [REDACTED] said to me, "I've only seen this guardianship enacted twice in my 50-year career" - and she works [REDACTED] with countless people and she's well respected. Perhaps that’s the key -- She knows everybody. Makes sure that the person - so I guess the thing is, make sure the people that the Public Trustee give the power to make these judgments are worth - worthy of that role - that they know how to get to know a person, that their value - if it's a community, that they are part of that community. It's more important I think to know the person who is assessing that person than a person - rather than the person being assessed -because that's key to it. 

MS EASTMAN: Julie, is there anything else you would like to share with the Royal Commissioners? And I thank you for the time that you've given us today to talk about these very important issues in your life and I know you wanted to share them with the Royal Commission. 

MS BURY: Well, even though I talk about this - it seems - lightly, I want them to know that what has happened to me, this Public Trustee, has actually changed my life completely. I don't have a family member in my life which is a tragedy. You can't - and because I don't have a family member in my life, I have no one to family advocate for me. It's left me like, you know, a wolf pack or a sheep, a flock a sheep. When a sheep gets separated from its flock, and they're vulnerable, they're torn apart. That's what's happened to me. People say - and the more that I'm isolated from the pack, the more that I become isolated from my family, the more of a target I become. And I'm constantly looking behind me waiting for the next attack, the next stab in the back, and sometimes it may not be the way it should be, but I've learned that quite often I have to trust my instinct and I know when it's coming. And that shouldn't be the way a person moves. That's the way an animal lives. And I've mixed with enough - I've been put in places on the whim of so many people because they just go, "Oh, she can't be trusted," but I've never had a right of reply, and it is really important to have a right of reply, and so I thank you for that. 

MS EASTMAN: Thank you, Julie. Thank you. 

(Video stopped)

MS EASTMAN: Commissioners, thank you for Julie's evidence, and I acknowledge Kerryann's presence in the hearing room today and thank her for her assistance in walking with Julie and supporting her and also working with us in the preparation of that evidence. So, Commissioners, I think we have also got up on the screen some artwork that Julie has asked us to share. This is a painting that she's done. She can no longer paint with her hands but   well, she paints with a brush but she paints with her hands now. And this is a painting that hangs in her little house at Kangaroo Island, and she wanted to share her artwork with you as her way of expressing that connection that she has to the beautiful place in which she lives. 

So, Commissioners, could I ask you to receive into evidence the video recording, the transcript, the photograph of Julie which you saw at the commencement of her evidence, and the artwork and mark them as Exhibit 30.044 to 30.047. 

CHAIR: Yes, the artwork and the other documents can be admitted into evidence with the markings that Ms Eastman has identified. 


CHAIR: I would add on behalf of the Commissioners our thanks to Julie and to the support she's received in order to present her evidence to the Commission. We are very grateful for her willingness to do that and for all of the arrangements that no doubt had to be made for that to occur. So, thank you to everybody who has been involved. 

MS EASTMAN: Thank you, Chair. Could we adjourn until 2 o'clock? 

CHAIR: You wish to take lunch now?


CHAIR: Yes. Alright. We will adjourn until 2:00 pm Thank you. 



CHAIR: Ms Eastman, just before we commence, I would just like to make sure I have understood something correctly that I infer from the video that we just saw. I take it that the order that was made in relation to Julie at which she spoke was an interim order under the Queensland Act. Is my understanding correct? 

MS EASTMAN: That is correct. 

CHAIR: Thank you. And under that Act, and I know there's other material that deals with this, the tribunal, if satisfied of a couple of matters, including that the person may have impaired capacity and there's an immediate risk of harm to health, welfare or property, can make the order and can do so without a hearing and without notifying the person who is subject to the order. Have I got that   

MS EASTMAN: That's correct. 

CHAIR: Yes. Okay. Thank you. I wanted to understand that. 

MS EASTMAN: And we have a panel of advocates now who can tell you a lot about the use of interim orders. That may be an issue we will address. 

CHAIR: Yes. Thank you. I have read their statements so I know they will tell us something. Yes, Ms Eastman 

MS EASTMAN: So, our next witnesses are Matilda Alexander and Dayne Kingsford, and I understand they are taking an affirmation. 

CHAIR: Yes, thank you very much to each of you for coming to the Royal Commission to give evidence. And thank you, Ms Alexander, for your statement which we have and we have read. If you would be good enough to follow the instructions of a member of the OSA team who is to your right, that person will administer the affirmation to you. 

ASSOCIATE: I will read you the affirmation. At the end, please say yes or I do. Do you solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that the evidence which you shall give will be the true, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 





CHAIR: Thank you. I will ask Ms Eastman to ask you some questions. 


MS EASTMAN: I might start with an introduction. So, Ms Alexander, may I start with you? 

MS ALEXANDER: Good afternoon. My name is Matilda Alexander. I would like to acknowledge the Wangal people of the land which we are today, and the Turrbal and Jagera people in our office back in Queensland. 

MS EASTMAN: Thank you. And with you is Dayne Kingsford. 

MR KINGSFORD: Yes. Good afternoon. And I also would like to extend my acknowledgment and pay my respects to the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today. 

MS EASTMAN: Thank you both for joining the Royal Commission. You are both here to speak on behalf of Queensland Advocacy for Inclusion. Can I use the shorthand QAI? 

MS ALEXANDER: Absolutely.

MS EASTMAN: I think that might be a little - sort of - easier. Ms Alexander, you have prepared a statement from the Royal Commission dated 18 November. 

MS ALEXANDER: Yes, that's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: Have you had a chance to read through the statement? 

MS ALEXANDER: Yes, I have. 

MS EASTMAN: Are there any corrections that you wish to make? 

MS ALEXANDER: No, that's all correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And the contents are otherwise true; is that right? 

MS ALEXANDER: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: Right. So, thank you very much for the statement. And you have also provided to the Royal Commission your respective resumes and CVs, which I must say are very impressive. Ms Alexander, may I start with you? You hold a range of degrees, including a law degree from Griffith University, and many of your studies at a postgraduate level have involved issues around human rights and inclusion. Is that right? 

MS ALEXANDER: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And this year you also participated as a civil society delegate for the United Nations Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. 

MS ALEXANDER: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And much of your career has involved advocacy work, including the work that you do now as the Chief Executive Officer of QAI, and that's a position that you have held since March 2021. Is that right? 

MS ALEXANDER: Yes, that's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: Okay. Now, Mr Kingsford, you also have a very impressive CV. Thank you for sharing that with us. You also hold a Bachelor of Communications and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Technology in Queensland. I think it is Queensland University of Technology; is that right? In relation to your law degree. And you also have a Masters of Law from the University of Melbourne. 

MR KINGSFORD: I'm completing that. 

MS EASTMAN: Ongoing. Alright. Close to finishing. And your role at QAI is the Principal Solicitor. 

MR KINGSFORD: That's correct, one of the Principal Solicitors at QAI. I'm the Principal Solicitor of the Human Rights Advocacy Practice. 

MS EASTMAN: Alright. Now, in the statement, Ms Alexander   we talked about this a little earlier   is that you have identified sort of nine key issues that you wish to discuss. But before we launch into that, could you tell the Royal Commission about QAI, its role and then the particular functions and work that it does in the area of guardianship and administration? Do you want to start and then I'm going to open up the issues and we will work through them. 

MS ALEXANDER: Thank you very much. So, QAI is a independent community based advocacy organisation and community legal service for individual and systems advocacy for people with disability. We have existed for over 30 years, and we are inspired and driven by the work of our management committee, which is a majority of people with disability. 

MS EASTMAN: Can I ask you to slow down a little bit? 

MS ALEXANDER: Yes. So, we have been engaged in systems advocacy, including in relation to guardianship matters, for - over this 30 year period, including participating in the original Guardianship Act in Queensland and in many of the reforms of this Act over the years since. And in particular we have a - Human Rights Advocacy where we employ lawyers and other supports such as social workers and to assist people with disability with guardianship and administration matters that they may be facing. And the purpose of our advocacy there is to ensure the protection of their human rights in particular under the Convention on the Rights of People with Disability. 

MS EASTMAN: Can I pause there. As you are aware the Terms of Reference for this Royal Commission speak very strongly to and require the Royal Commission to have regard and apply the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. When we talk about those rights, what does that actually mean, either from a values based approach to your work or a very sort of practical approach to the work that you do? 

MS ALEXANDER: Well, that Convention is enshrined in our constitution, and QAI was involved in the UN processes around drafting that. So, we have a very long and committed history to that Convention. For us, in particular, in relation to guardianship, Article 12 is very pertinent, and the right to legal personhood, to legal personality for all of us, including for people with disability, is a really grounding inspiration for the work that we do and a reminder to us of how we should be conducting our business. 

MS EASTMAN: So does the reference to human rights and the approach to human rights shape the way in which you deliver your services or conduct your advocacy? 

MS ALEXANDER: Absolutely. It's a strong part of every submission that we make to the tribunal in these matters. It's a strong part of every systems advocacy piece that we hold forth. So, it really forms the basis for both the practical one on one work we do with people and the broader systemic advocacy. 

MS EASTMAN: Alright. Now, what you have said to the Royal Commission in your statement is that QAI are seeing an upward trend in demands for your advice and services. And this is paragraph 12. And some of this has been relevant to the rollout of the NDIS in Queensland. And is it your sort of sense that the beginning of the NDIS and now the NDIS are well in to Queensland, has been the direct result of the increase in the supports that you are asked to provide? I'm trying to understand these trends. 

MS ALEXANDER: Yes, certainly, the trends do speak to an increase in the demand for our services, so we see a consistent increase in the advice - legal advice - that we are giving. You can't see a commensurate increase in the amount of representation we are providing, and that's simply because we don't have an increase in resourcing for delivering those services, despite many funding applications to the government asking for additional resources. So, you can see the increase in demand through those increase in advices from 25 in the 2015 16 year to what we anticipate will be 174 in this financial year. 

MS EASTMAN: Can I just ask you while we're on the question of fundings, and I think you made the point that the upward trend hasn't been met with an increase in funding or resources for QAI, what's the primary source of funding for the service? 

MS ALEXANDER: For our guardianship program, it is Justice funding, Justice and Attorney General funding through the Community Legal Centre program. So, the National Legal Assistance   the NLAF program. 

MS EASTMAN: Alright. So, I wanted to turn to some of the issues that you have raised, and what we might do is I will summarise what they all are and let's go back and talk about some of the issues, and we will do our best in the time available. So, the issue you have raised   and, Commissioners, there are nine issues   is the complexity of decision making support, legal representation, applications made without the knowledge of a person, the impact of the NDIS, interim orders, capacity and determining capacity, the lack of public information, confidentiality, and in relation to the Public Trustee, transparency and fees in particular. 

And you have also made some recommendations for the Royal Commissioners to consider at paragraph 74 and following in relation to a shift towards supported decision making away from the substitute decision making. So, capturing all of those issues, let's start with the complexity of decision making and support. Commissioners, if you are following along with the statement, this starts at paragraph 19 and following. 

The way you describe how we approach decision making, and why decision making can be very complex at times, is a really important first step, isn't it, if we're going to talk about substitute or supported decision making. Do we not have to be very clear about what we are talking about when we understand the concept of decision making? And you have addressed this in your statement. So, again, whoever would like to start off on that issue, what would you like to tell us about how QAI has addressed decision making and the nuance in the complexity of decision making? 

MS ALEXANDER: We have provided a case study in here, the case study of Tracey, which is a example of how much work does need to go into good supported decision making. This is not a process that's necessarily efficient. It's not a process that will lead to the quickest outcomes or the easiest outcomes, the way substitute decision making sometimes can be seen to. But it is a process that supports a person's inherent personhood and human rights. So, we can see here the   this case study demonstrates how much work needs to go in - 

MS EASTMAN: Can I jump in. If the Commissioners are following, your statement for each of the topics has a particular case study that's based on a client who you have de identified by name and also in any other way that might disclose the identity of the person, and then set out the issues relevant to that topic. So, Tracey's case study starts at paragraph 25. Is that right? 

MS ALEXANDER: Yes. That's correct. Would you like me to talk through the case study? 


MS ALEXANDER: Yes. So, Tracey came to us through a federally funded program that we operate. We have got over 10 different programs at QAI. Some of those are disability advocacy programs. So, this is not a legal representative. This is a disability advocate who has been assisting Tracey to prepare for and then actualise her NDIS plan. So, working with Tracey in the lead up to her plan to prepare a document to give to the local area coordinator. Tracey had multiple psychosocial disabilities, as well as regular migraines. And they really affected her ability to function, and she was unable to make even basic decisions about her day to day, and especially more complex matters, but that only happened about one week per month. 

So, it takes time. You have to talk to her at the right time. You have to   and we had to have face to face meetings for those to   for that relationship to develop, for that trust to develop. And over that time, we were able to talk to her about some of the individual choices that she made and that   and the values that were important to her as an individual, that might or might not be the same values that that advocate holds. 

MS EASTMAN: Is that different to coming in and saying, "This is what's in your best interests?" Or what's the difference to that approach to the approach you are describing? 

MS ALEXANDER: Absolutely. So, it's an approach that is grounded in the will and preferences of, in this case study, Tracey. So, what is her particular unique characteristics, what is important to her. So, in her instance, alternative medicines were a   alternative healing was an important thing for her, and also privacy was very, very much a very important primary consideration, and one of her greatest fears of going into the NDIS was because she had in the past been involved with the disability sector and she was very worried about her privacy. And those concerns and those values are legitimate aspects of her legal personhood. 

So, it may have been easy for somebody to come in and say, don't worry about those things. There is federal privacy protections. There is   you know, alternative medicine doesn't work. But that doesn't accord with who she is as a person. So, to work with her around those concerns over a long period of time, face to face, and in order to develop that trust, in order to provide her with current guidelines and information about privacy, what is she protected by, what complaints mechanisms. But, ultimately, to then support her to make the decisions that she   that are still what she desires and to give effect to her designs around her NDIS plan. 

MS EASTMAN: Can I ask you, so if you think about the complexity of the decision making, for some people, they may need life long support in sorting out problems and making decisions. For other people, there might be a very acute period of time where require support. One of the acute periods of time might be if somebody has an admission to hospital. There may be a period of mental illness. When we are thinking about support for decision making, how   what's been your experience for people who are in that acute situation, they may be in hospital, and decisions about what might happen to them after they leave hospital? What's involved in supporting people with decision making at that point in time? 

MS ALEXANDER: Yes. Certainly, we see   guardianship and administration orders can be seen as this efficient pathway to deinstitutionalisation or getting people out of hospital, institutional environments, but it is, in our view, an unacceptable trade off of rights, to gain your - 

MS EASTMAN: Why is that? 

MS ALEXANDER: To gain your liberty at the expense of your legal personhood. 

MS EASTMAN: What do you mean by that? What are you trading off? 

MS ALEXANDER: So if you were to   we have had guardianship applications where they say, "This is being made to assist with discharge planning" or, "Appointing a third party such as the Office of the Public Guardian rather than a family member or giving the person their own autonomy will simplify the process." So, it's no doubt that often a guardianship order will get somebody out of hospital quicker. But what they are sacrificing is those rights that are protected under Article 12 of the Convention in that respect. Their legal personhood. 

And we think that is an unacceptable   that is an unacceptable trade off. That doesn't need to happen. And if you provide a level of adequate supported decision making in a hospital framework, you can still have outcomes that result in that person being able to return home but in a way that they retain their own legal personhood. And we have examples as well where, in Queensland, you can be charged - to stay in hospital after 30 days, you can be charged a rent, and guardianship applications being brought or administration applications in order to effectively collect that rent. 

So, these kind of things are about efficiency rather than human rights and we do not see that as being an appropriate way to deal with the problems. 

MS EASTMAN: Can I turn to the second issue, which is a lack of advice   a lack of access to legal advice or legal representation. And these issues arise in terms of whether an application may be made for guardianship or financial administration. It may arise in circumstances where these applications may be brought by a family member, if there is a dispute between family members, or in circumstances where there is no person who can step into that role the appointment of a Public Guardian or the Public Trustee. 

You've said in your statement that you're aware that there's an unmet demand in the community for ongoing legal support and legal representation in relation to guardianship and administration issues. And QAI is only able to provide some services. What happens if you're not able to provide services and there's no other legal support available? What do you see as the problems arising for people with disability? Who wants to take that question? 

MS ALEXANDER: QAI and other organisations that provide this limited representation are really just the tip of a very large iceberg. So, that very large majority of people facing these proceedings are doing so unrepresented by a lawyer, usually without a disability advocate or another qualified support person. And these are incredibly complicated matters for somebody   for a lay person to be dealing with. They are a complex, legal and medico legal framework where there is a legal test that is very relevant, but there is also medical evidence to be unpacked and critically analysed. 

MS EASTMAN: So, some might say in the tribunal, the rules of evidence don't apply, it is not as formal as the way in which court proceedings might be conducted, and is there really a need for lawyers in that process. What do you say to that? 

MR KINGSFORD: I think we would say certainly there is, in relation to our clients the adults that are subject to the applications or the orders, we see it as an unfair power imbalance where the applicants or the other parties to those orders or applications are often government entities, well versed in the sector and with unlimited resources to support that person at the hearing, whereas the person subject to the order or the application might go in not having representation   sorry, not having access to legal advice to know how the process might work. It might be their first time. They might not know the material that's before the tribunal because they might not know how to access that, and they might not know the legal tests that's to be applied. 

MS EASTMAN: They might not know the legal language used in a forum like that. Would that be right? 

MR KINGSFORD: That would be right. 

MS EASTMAN: Okay. Can I ask you about the next topic, which is applications being lodged without a person's knowledge and consent. And I don't know if you were in the hearing room earlier, and you may have heard Julie's evidence about not knowing about an application that had been made. That was an interim application that had been made. And you say some of the QAI's clients have reported instances of applications being made and orders being made without their knowledge and consent. And you have given the case study example of Wendy. Do you want to speak to that example and the implications for a person if the orders are made when they have no knowledge of it? 

MS ALEXANDER: Certainly, we have heard of things of comments such as, "We are applying for something to help get you out of hospital" or even less information than that being given to clients. Clients who, as Julie described, had no idea that the matter was being made. And there is, I think, a procedural deficit in the notification process compared to some other legal proceedings where there is required to be, say, an affidavit of service. 

There is a tick a box saying you have informed the person, but no description of where that took place, how that took place, whether or not you just said, "We are going to try to help get you out of hospital" and that was considered sufficient. So, in our case study of Wendy, she wasn't consulted. She went to hospital after she became unwell and was put in a mental health unit after the death of her life long partner. And in that time, her brothers made applications for interim and substantive orders that she was unaware of until after the interim order. 

So   and I would add as well, Wendy has no guardianship orders or administration orders over her now. But in that instance, her brothers were becoming increasingly controlling, so an order was put giving them power over her, power over her legal personhood that she was not advised of, had no   and so consequently had no ability to dispute. And she noticed that money was disappearing from her bank accounts without any communication or justification. So, with our assistance, she was able to have those   her brothers removed from that position, and she currently has no orders. 

MS EASTMAN: What can a person do if they discover that there is orders made about them   and we have heard the language of being under orders and the like. What steps can people take to challenge those orders? Is there any process in Queensland that allow you to get back into the tribunal as quickly as the interim orders might have been made? What happens then? 

MR KINGSFORD: That's a really great question. Oftentimes, the interim orders are made for a period of three months. They can be renewed for a further three if a certain criteria’s met. However, ordinarily, after that three month period, there is a substantive hearing where an order   where an application to the substantive order will be determined and an order potentially made with a maximum period potentially of up to five years, except   unless it's the appointment of the Public Trustee as the administrator, where there is no statutory maximum period. 

MS EASTMAN: What does that mean? It can continue forever? 

MR KINGSFORD: It can continue forever until further order by the tribunal, potentially, which would then place the onus on the adult subject to that order to make an application for review or an application for a declaration about capacity. 

MS EASTMAN: In your experience in the ordinary course, when orders are made, are the people to whom the orders apply routinely advised as to what their appeal rights may be or options to challenge the order, or options to make an application to revoke the order? 

MR KINGSFORD: In   when the decision is handed out and sent in the mail, there's a   like, a pamphlet that comes with it that outlines the adult's rights to appeal. However, that's an increasing   it's, I guess, a tremendous feat that we don't often do assistance in because it is very resource intensive. But there is no information about applying for a review, for example, and if there's no change in circumstances, that might not allow for a review to occur. 

MS ALEXANDER: That's why we have developed our fact sheets on those exact topics, because there was a lack of publicly available information in easy   in plain English to help people to know how to challenge those reviews. And it's not just about how to fill in the form 10. It's not just about a form. It's about getting the relevant medical evidence as well. 

MS EASTMAN: And that might   if I can touch on the interim order point that you have raised, because have you drawn the Royal Commission's attention to a provision in the legislation that allows QCAT to make interim orders without a contested hearing and without otherwise complying with the requirements of the Act. And interim orders are usually made on the papers, unless an advocate is involved. And interim orders are not subject to review in the three month period that they may be in place. In what circumstances have you seen your clients be subject to interim order? Is there a particular sort of trigger for an interim order to be made as opposed to waiting a little bit more time and then seeking a substantive or longer term order? Mr Kingsford, do you want to speak to that? 

MR KINGSFORD: Potentially, I might be able to give some thoughts. It might be where there is a perceived risk from maybe, like, a service provider or some sort or a family member for the adult if they are potentially going to, you know, terminate their service agreement or change providers, for example, or look for an accommodation, or their lease might be running up, and rather than supporting the adult to make decisions, to   that they might see necessary, they will make an application for an interim order as a sort of, I guess, a bandaid measure to keep things as the status quo until the issues can be sorted out. 

MS EASTMAN: Is it generally that the interim orders are always made for a three month period? Or have you in your experience seen interim orders for shorter periods of time? Like 24 hours, if that's what's necessary? 

MR KINGSFORD: No, I believe I've only seen them for   it's described in a way that it will be current until further order or sort of three months. Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: So coming back to the human beings who are the subject of these orders, three months for lawyers might not sound like a long time, but three months for human beings might be a fairly long period of time. And we heard Julie's story earlier today of trying to pay a Telstra bill and the bank teller telling her, by the way, you are under orders because you are not capable of managing your finances. Julie's story of one of what does she do if she feels she has got no financial control in her life? If a person is in that situation, and the clock is sort of on for three months, what options are open to people like Julie in those circumstances? 

MR KINGSFORD: In terms of, I guess, carrying on with their life, is that what you   


MR KINGSFORD: Yes. I guess, it makes it quite challenging. Well, so their legal personhood has been removed, often in times where they are not   they might not be aware that that's occurred. So they might just receive the interim order in the mail, for example. And there they might stuck in a situation where they don't want to be and they might not feel safe necessarily to be. 

MS ALEXANDER: So, one of our case studies talked about an NDIS provider who brought the application and the email documents that say that they were worried about losing their $90,000 client. So, three months is enough time that you can lose your accommodation, or be forced to stay in accommodation where have you made a complaint about the service provider, where you are not feeling safe, where   it's not where you want to be living. 

Three months with somebody having control over, you know, all the important things of your life, where you live, who is providing your day to day services. You know, whether you can buy a Christmas present for your mother. Like, it really comes down to really essential parts of who we are as people. And we find that  

CHAIR: Could I ask this question, if Julie had come to you two days after the interim order was made, is there anything you could have done about that order? 

MS ALEXANDER: Without exceptional circumstances? Because the interim order is only subject to review in exceptional circumstances by a legal member. 

CHAIR: Why couldn't you apply for a stay under 128 of the Act? 

MR KINGSFORD: I might have to take that on notice, if that's okay, and    back  

CHAIR: It's a very unusual situation. I understand completely the difficulties of an interim order without notice. I understand that it will be made for a maximum of three months. But it would be a rather unusual situation for there to be no opportunity for someone properly advised and with appropriate representation, and I understand the difficulties about that. But it would be an extraordinary situation if they couldn't challenge the order in some way. And I would have thought section 128 provides you   provides someone wanting to challenge it with the opportunity to say "Can we have a stay, please? This was made in ill advised circumstances.”

MS ALEXANDER: Can we take that on notice?

CHAIR: Anyway, if you need to take that on notice, please do. 

MS EASTMAN: So, related to that question, I wanted to ask you about some other consequences, in any, about an interim order. So, ordinarily, the orders are made because the tribunal has to be satisfied that an adult has impaired capacity for the matter and there is a need for a decision in relation to the matter or the adult is likely to do something in relation to the matter that involves or is likely to involve unreasonable risk to the adult's health, welfare or property. And without an appointment the adult's needs will not be adequately met or the adult's interests will not be adequately protected. And then the tribunal can make an appointment on terms that the tribunal considers appropriate. 

The definition of impaired capacity is "for a person for a matter" means a person who does not have capacity for the matter. Slightly circular when it comes to capacity. And then capacity is defined as "for a person for a matter, means a person capable of understanding the nature and effect of the decisions about the matter and freely and voluntarily making decisions about the matter and communicating the decisions in some way.” 

If an interim order is made and what sits behind the interim order is an assumption that a person has impaired capacity, when it comes to say final orders being made or substantive orders being made, does the person have to prove they have capacity? Or does the assumption or the presumption that they have capacity continue even if the interim order has been made? So I know that is sort of quite a big thing to ask you, but the essence of it is onus of proof on capacity, and the impact of an interim order on dealing with capacity further down the track. Who wants to take that one? 

MS ALEXANDER: There is a difference between what it says in the law and the reality of how - 

MS EASTMAN: Surely not. 

MS ALEXANDER:   it works. Because, of course, the law does state that, as you said, decision making is domain and time specific and that somebody retains their capacity. It's up to the person bringing the application to show, legally speaking, that that person has lost their capacity and that they still have lost their capacity after the interim order. However, the practical effect of having that order in place means that our clients generally have to go and obtain, say, medical evidence. We have got a case study in here of a man who had to pay $2,500 to get medical evidence to prove his capacity after an interim order. 

MS EASTMAN: So, just pausing there, that's Bart's case study, and Bart's an NDIS participant? 

MS ALEXANDER: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And I assume Bart may be in receipt of some form of Disability Support Pension; is that right? 


MS EASTMAN: So, he had to bare the cost of getting a medical report to prove he had capacity. 

MS ALEXANDER: Yes. So, that's, I guess, the difference between in practice and what's written in the law. When you don't adequately provide further supports that people need to realise their rights through the legislation. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Can I get a clarification. The fact he was an NDIS participant suggests this a reasonably recent matter, within, say, five years or so, is that right. I'm not talking about ancient history. 

MR KINGSFORD: Yes, that's right. I couldn't give you an exact date, but, yes, within the last five years. 


MS EASTMAN: So, I think the next topic I wanted to ask you about was the lack of public information. And you have provided in your statement references to a wide range of publications that QIA have developed. So, a handbook in terms of using the system and also various fact sheets and the like. The Royal Commission has heard that people find it difficult to understand these systems, and you may have heard Suzanne Nunn's evidence earlier today saying there's a plethora of information out there, but it's really confusing to know where to go, what to do and what your rights are, in effect. 

You have identified the lack of publicly available information in your statement, and one issue you've raised was this. You've said in May 2020, the QCAT's Guardianship Benchbook was launched, but the Benchbook is not publicly available. Why would it be important to have the opportunity to see the Benchbook? 

MS ALEXANDER: I guess so that there is that level of broader scale procedural fairness, if the bench   if the members are operating off one set of criteria, and we are not able to view that criteria and people facing that kind of criteria   those proceedings are not able to view it, there is certainly a deficit in understanding the process, understanding the relevant criterias and making sure we are just all on the page, an open and transparent process. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Can I ask what is a Benchbook?

MS EASTMAN: I can't give evidence. 

MS ALEXANDER: There are a number of different Benchbooks that guide judicial and tribunal decision makers in how to do particular aspects of their work. There's a Domestic Violence Benchbook. There's one to do with an Equal Treatment Benchbook that says how to treat, say, witnesses with disability. So, we haven't seen a copy of this one because it's not publicly available, but that's   generally speaking, it's a kind of how to guide for the judiciary. 

MS EASTMAN: So, could I put this to you. If we are talking about benchbooks, we are talking about some publications that may be prepared by a Judicial Commission or some other relevant body to bring together the relevant case law, the relevant principles, and be a guide for judges having to make decisions in particular areas. The benchbook particularly for a tribunal, for example, might assist in consistency of decision making if there are tribunal members who serve on a part time or a casual basis. 

And a benchbook might be a way of building transparency into the process so that people who may be in court would have the opportunity to see, well, this is what the judge is reading when she or he thinks about making their decision, and it helps me to look at the same time of information to know what I might be going into. Would that be the way in which you would think about the use of a benchbook? 

MS ALEXANDER: Yes, absolutely. And usually they are publicly available because it lends a level of accountability. You can say, look, you haven't complied with a certain sense of the benchbook or you can make certain submissions that the benchbook supports a certain approach. And we do see that, in these matters, there's is a wide variety of approaches that members can take. There's a very few number of published decisions in these areas. A very   and, yeah, and we do get very different approaches. 

So, for example, if our clients have tried to raise complaints about the way that the Public Trustee or the Public Guardian have handled their matters in the past, sometimes we are told this   we are not going to entertain any discussion about that, and then other times they are asked questions or there seems to be little information, little understanding of what those roles are from the members. So, there can be   I think a benchbook would aid in consistent decision making and transparency. 

MS EASTMAN: How do you know there was a benchbook launched in May 2020? 

MR KINGSFORD: I understand and I can still check, I believe it was published in the annual report. Sorry, in QCAT's annual report. 

MS EASTMAN: Commissioners, the Royal Commission issued a notice requiring the production of the benchbook with respect to the description in paragraph 60 of the statement. That notice was returnable on Friday. There has been no production and no explanation for the production. It may be a matter that I may need to raise with Ms McMillan during the course of the afternoon. It would assist the Royal Commission to have the opportunity to see the benchbook and that the notice be answered. 

Can I turn to the topic of confidentiality and lack of transparency. This is an issue that you have raised in particular for fee structures in place for the Public Trustee in Queensland. Is that right? 


MS EASTMAN: And there has been a review, and I think a published report in relation to fees and fee structures for the Queensland Public Trustee. Is that right? 

MS ALEXANDER: That's correct. The Office of the Public Advocate produced a report detailing a number of recommendations. A few of those recommendations have been implemented, but certainly not the majority so far. They are progressively working towards that. And there has been more recently a review of fees and charges produced requested internally by the Public Trustee from a private firm. 

MS EASTMAN: And you have provided the case study of Julia to illustrate where that lack of transparency has an impact on people's rights and understanding, in relation to their financial affairs, how their money might be used to service the Public Trustee that steps into make decisions for them. Is that right? 

MS ALEXANDER: Yes. Certainly, we are very concerned that vulnerable Queenslanders who don't have a choice of having their matters run by the Public Trustee are ending up paying for this broader service. So, we do believe that that should be a publicly funded service rather than something that the Public Trustee has to self generate fees for. 

MS EASTMAN: And another aspect of transparency is confidentiality, and you have identified in the Queensland legislation that there is a section that prohibits the publication of information about a guardianship proceeding to the tribunal. And also some limitations on what documents can be accessed with respect to hearings. It might be said that the confidentiality proceedings have been included in legislation of this kind to protect vulnerable people. 

If the disclosure of details around somebody being subject to an application and then orders in relation to guardianship or administration might cause that person's privacy to be interfered with, then don't these provisions in the legislation strike the balance between protecting privacy and that's a compromise that has to be made? 

MS ALEXANDER: Certainly. Many terrible things have been done in the name of protecting vulnerable people over the years in Australia's history. And this one is one that I think needs to be consigned to the history bins. This is a provision that the Office of the Public Advocate in Queensland has recently recommended the repeal of, and it provides an instance where publication is prohibited about guardianship proceedings, and that includes where the actual guardianship proceeding was an unmeritorious or frivolous complaint. 

So, somebody that has been put through all of the things we are hearing from the witnesses this morning, all of these things we are hearing from our clients, and found they do have capacity, then is deprived of their right to tell their story, to talk about what's happened. And we   and there are some ways that you can apply, either to the Supreme Court or to QCAT to have that story told, and I think that the case study that   the information we have provided in there in relation to the case that we have detailed at paragraph 67 shows why this is absolutely not a sufficient balance of somebody's rights. 

So, it took us a year for   so our client wanted to tell his story. He wanted to tell it to the media. We applied for an order from QCAT for him to do so. A year later, QCAT come back with a decision saying that he can tell his story, but that story cannot be published. So, then the media outlet would need to make another application to publish it. So, it's a very lengthy process that took a lot of legal time and ended up with a very insufficient result. 

So, the repeal of this section coupled with the recommendations from the Office of the Public Advocate in their recent report for protections such as the member could still consider whether or not a confidentiality provision is appropriate at the time of making their individual decision. That would still be retained under the repeal, but it would become   rather than an automatic process, it would become a discretionary process that was reasonably adapted to the  least restrictive approach on a person's human rights, including their right to freedom of exception. 

MS EASTMAN: Would that mean in practice that perhaps the person who is the subject of the order may be able to indicate what their views are in relation to the confidentiality or privacy arrangements around them? Would that be a way of factoring in striking the balance between privacy and rights? 

MR KINGSFORD: Yes, I think that that is correct, and I think it   the position that all material   we must do everything to protect the person sort of removes the person's dignity of risk in   I can appreciate that some material before the tribunal in these matters is quite personal, of course. But it tends to suggest that the person is not in control of making the decision as to what they deem appropriate as public knowledge, and I think inconsistent with what I understand the Public Advocate's new recommendation are, is that it will allow the adult at that point in time, if they are concerned with a particular piece of material that's before the tribunal, to apply for a confidentiality order, for example, over that document. 

MS EASTMAN: Right. Now   

CHAIR: Do you know if anybody or any institution has applied to a court in proceedings that would seek to interpret section 114A, subsection (2) of the Act? I ask because your paragraph 63 doesn't actually reproduce the entirety of section 114A(2) which includes the words "without reasonable excuse". Now, without providing legal advice, I would have thought that if a person subject to an order wanted to make public her concern at what had happened by reason of an injustice that she says is being caused, there would at least be an arguable case to say that person, by revealing her own identity, is acting with a reasonable excuse. Has anybody ever tested that? 

MR KINGSFORD: There is a case, thank you, Chair, that I can provide to the tribunal   sorry to the Commission after this where they do discuss   there was alleged contravention of the section, where they did try to attempt to interpret it. But there is minimal case law on this and so I think there is only maybe a few tribunal decisions that discuss it. I'm not sure if there is a Queensland Supreme Court   

CHAIR: Sometimes three little words can open very large doors. Anyway. Carry on. 

MS EASTMAN: Sir, I'm just conscious of the time. I know the Commissioners may have some questions for you. From paragraph 74 and following in the statement, you set out some recommendations in terms of areas of reform or change to implement supported decision making models that are consistent with the CRPD, to improve community understanding of decision support needs with people with disability, and to reform the guardianship legal framework. 

Can I thank you for providing us with those very detailed and comprehensive recommendations. And the Commission is also aware of submissions that have been provided. But I might ask the Commissioners if they have any questions that they want to ask you, including anything arising from your recommendations. Thank you. 

CHAIR: Thank you. If it's alright with you, I will ask my colleagues if they have any questions. First I will ask Commissioner McEwin. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: Thank you, Chair. Thank you both for your evidence. I have a question. At the beginning, Ms, Alexander, you said that Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability is foundational to your work and at paragraph 74 you recommend implementation of a supported decision making model that is consistent with the CRPD. What factors do you think we should be considering in light of the Australian Government's interpretive declaration that can help us with that thinking on that? 

MS ALEXANDER: I guess QAI's position is that we are not in favour of that interpretive declaration. We feel that that does water down the CRPD Article 12 and that it's not consistent with the approach that other countries have taken to Article 12. So, we would urge that that interpretive declaration be reconsidered, that human rights do not be   we don't have a need to water down human rights here. We should really be aiming for those, as other countries do, to fully implement Article 12. 


CHAIR: Commissioner Ryan. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Thanks. Can I just clarify something. You have put a very strong case for the use of supported decision making almost exclusively. Do you take the view that guardianship is actually something that's unnecessary? Or do you think it has an appropriate role to play? 

MS ALEXANDER: So, we are in favour of the absolutist position in Article 12 that taking away somebody's legal personhood is something that deprives them   unnecessarily deprives them of their human rights. We do believe that supported decision making, if fully implemented, if fully funded, would in fact, remove the need for guardianship. That is my understanding of the international position on the Convention on the Rights of People with Disability. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: I just wanted to ask you about, you had in your section about fees, you referred   I take it you are referring to the   I looked up the website that you suggested and there's six level table for the personal administration. Is that the table you were referring to in your statement? And I was just going to ask, the one thing I wasn't able to find is what is the hardship clause and can you give us any understanding of what that is and how it's applied. 

MR KINGSFORD: Sorry, Commissioner, which paragraph was that what you were referring to? 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: I had a finger on it a moment, but I moved it. 

MR KINGSFORD: If it's too much hassle, we can go back over the statement in more detail and provide   

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Here it is. It is 71. It's a case study of Julia. 

MR KINGSFORD: Yes, Commissioner, that's correct. I believe we are talking about the same table with the six cells, yes. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Yes. But so what's the hardship clause? 

MR KINGSFORD: I understand that that is the   there's a rebate that's applied to certain clients that are subject to administration orders, if they meet a certain - criteria where the full amount of the fee that is charged is reduced or given back. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Would that standard be applied to someone on a Disability Support Pension, for example? Because some of those fees go up to nearly 25 per cent of the DSP. 

MS ALEXANDER: Or even higher in some instances. Yes, so it is important to have the rebate provisions. I guess we can't say whether it's a standard that it is always applied. We're aware of instances where it hasn't been, whether or not that's an administrative error or a policy or whether it's probably something that you would need to address a question to the Public Trustee about.

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Right. Thanks, Mr Chair. 

CHAIR: Yes. Thank you very much, and thank you very much for coming to the Commission and giving evidence and for the statement that has been the subject of questioning and evidence today. We appreciate the assistance you have provided to the Royal Commission. Thank you very much. 

MS EASTMAN: Thank you, Chair. Just before we conclude, Ms McMillan is on her feet, and I'm not sure what she wants to raise.

MS McMILLAN: I just have one question. It's probably quick   more expeditious   

CHAIR: Yes. If you have just one question, please go ahead. 


MS McMILLAN: I do just have one question. Thank you. Mr Kingsford, is it the case that you're currently appealing a decision of QCAT in relation to section 114A? 

MR KINGSFORD: That's correct. 

MS McMILLAN: And it's a matter of BJ [2022] QCAT 326. Is that the decision? 

MR KINGSFORD: I understand that that's the citation. 

MS McMILLAN: And you are involved in that matter. 

MR KINGSFORD: That's correct. 

MS McMILLAN: And you are also aware, are you not, of a decision of Justice Dalton's in ABC v Pearson? 

MR KINGSFORD: I'm not sure I could answer that question. 

MS McMILLAN: Thank you. 

CHAIR: Thank you very much. I shall read whatever is available with great interest. Thank you. Ms Eastman, do we now take a break or do we continue?

MS EASTMAN: Can I first of all thank Mr Kingsford and Ms Alexander for their evidence today. And could you receive into evidence the statement and accompanying documents and mark them Exhibit 30.048 through to 30.051. 

CHAIR: Right. So, those documents will be admitted into evidence with the markings Exhibit 30.048 to 30.051. Thank you. 


MS EASTMAN: Thank you. And, Chair, if we have a short adjournment of 10 minutes, and with the agreement of the Public Guardian and the Public Trustee, we are going to   well I will take their evidence together. So, they are both separate entities. They are both separate statutory appointees. But I was concerned about the time this afternoon, and they have kindly agreed that they are happy to take their evidence together. There's a few common themes that might be helpful for their evidence to be heard at the same time. 

CHAIR: Alright. Well, thank you very much. It's just after 3 pm Sydney time. Perhaps if we resume at 3.15. 

MS EASTMAN: Thank you. 

CHAIR: Thank you.




CHAIR: Yes, Ms Eastman. 

MS EASTMAN: Thank you, Commissioners. With the agreement of the Queensland Public Trustee and the Queensland Public Guardian, I will take the evidence together. So, we have Mr  Samay Zhouand, the Queensland Public Trustee and Ms Shayna Smith, the Queensland Public Guardian. I think were you both taking an oath; is that right?

CHAIR: Ms Smith and Ms Zhouand, I hope that's the correct pronunciation of your name.

MR ZHOUAND: Yes, that's correct.

CHAIR: Yes. Thank you for coming to the Commission to give evidence and thank you both for the very detailed statements have you made in response to questions asked on behalf of the Royal Commission. We appreciate your attendance. If you would be good enough to follow the instructions of the associate to your right, who will administer the oath to you, or affirmation.

ASSOCIATE: I will read the affirmation. At the end, please say yes or I do. Do you solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that the evidence which you shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 




CHAIR: Yes. Thank you.

MS EASTMAN: I thought we were doing oaths, but on affirmation, but I think we're fine now.

CHAIR: We are. So, thank you, Ms Eastman. Ms Eastman will now ask you some questions. Thank you.


MS EASTMAN: Mr Zhouand, may I start with you. You are the Public Trustee of Queensland and the Chief Executive Officer, Public Trustee; is that right? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: You provided a statement to the Royal Commission dated 10 November of this year; is that right? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: Are there any corrections or amendments to the statement? 


MS EASTMAN: Are the statements otherwise true and correct? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's correct.

MS EASTMAN: Ms Smith, welcome back to the Royal Commission. 

MS SMITH: Thank you.

MS EASTMAN: You last gave evidence, I understand, at Public hearing 6, when the Royal Commission was conducting its inquiry in relation to psychotropic medication. 


MS EASTMAN: You have prepared a statement dated 11 November 2022. 

MS SMITH: Yes, correct. 

MS EASTMAN: You have got one correction to paragraph 77.  And you want to change the number 336, and the correct number should be 251. 

MS SMITH: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: Other than that correction, are the contents of the statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief? 


MS EASTMAN: Now, both of you, I think, have been in the hearing room today or have watched the evidence over the course of the day. Is that right? 


MR ZHOUAND: I wasn't able to. 

MS EASTMAN: Okay. So, have you been appraised of what's occurred in terms of the evidence during the course of the day? 

MR ZHOUAND: In broad terms. 

MS EASTMAN: Okay. And have you had an opportunity to look at any of the statements at all in relation to the witnesses, either by the transcript, video recording or their written statements? 

MR ZHOUAND: I have reviewed the original statements, but I have been advised that due to confidentiality and privacy considerations, I'm unable to speak about them. 

MS EASTMAN: About the content of the statements? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's right. 

MS EASTMAN: For the purpose of your evidence this afternoon, I'm not going to ask you to comment on any of the particular individual circumstances that were raised in the evidence that the Royal Commission has heard this morning. But there are a number of systemic issues that arise, and that will be the focus of the evidence and the questions that I want to ask you this afternoon. So, can I start with you Mr Zhouand. You have held role as the Acting Public Trustee of Queensland and the Chief Executive Officer since June 2019, and you were appointed permanently to the role in May 2021. Is that right? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And you hold a statutory office by way of an appointment from the Governor in Council pursuant to section 9 of the Public Trustee Act of Queensland; is that right? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And with respect to your functions, you've got functions as a public officer under financial accountability obligations. Is that right? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And the Financial Accountability Act. And the Public Trustee Act together with the Guardianship and Administration Act set out some of your powers. Is that right? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And also describes some of your functions. In terms of your functions, you have told the Royal Commission at paragraph 9 and following that there are a number of functions, but I want to just ask you about paragraph 13. This describes the Public Trustee's main services to customers and it's provided through what is called "Customer Experience and Delivery". Is that a term that's used in any legislation? 

MR ZHOUAND: No, it isn't. 

MS EASTMAN: And what's the genesis or origin of this? 

MR ZHOUAND: It is   we have got multiple divisions within the Public Trustee, and it is our Customer Operations division which was created two years ago as part of our reforms, moving from substitute to a more supported decision making model. 

MS EASTMAN: Right. So, in terms of looking at the Customer Experience and Delivery program, there is five aspects to that. The first is the preparation of wills and enduring powers of attorney. The second is administering deceased estates where the Public Trustee is appointed as an executor under a will or as an administrator on intestacy. Is that right? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: The third is acting as trustee, and that might be for a range of particular trusts. The fourth is acting as administrator, and that is where the Public Trustee may be appointed as an administrator under the Guardianship and Administration Act for an adult with impaired capacity for a matter. And that's the topic that we are mostly going to focus on today. And also acting as attorney for a principal's financial matter when appointed under an enduring power of attorneys under the Powers of Attorneys Act. So, that's the sort of broad areas where the Public Trustee provides service and each of these functions are supported by particular provisions in statute. Is that right? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's right. 

MS EASTMAN: And in terms of the delivery of these services, it's done pursuant to some internal policies and practices that you expect those holding the relevant functions to comply with. Is that right? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: Thank you for dealing with that so quickly with me. Ms Smith, can I turn to you. You have given evidence before in relation to your functions and I think last time we spoke to you, you were   you told us that you had joined the Office of the Public Guardian in 2015 as the Deputy Public Guardian. 

MS SMITH: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And then you commenced as Acting as the Public Guardian in March 2020. 


MS EASTMAN: And then the Governor in Council appointed you to that role in June 2021. 

MS SMITH: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And you are also a statutory office holder. 


MS EASTMAN: In terms of your particular functions, they are set out in legislation called the Public Guardian Act 2014? 


MS EASTMAN: And some of those functions you have described in paragraph 6 of your statement. 


MS EASTMAN: And that's by reference to section 12 of the Public Guardian Act, and can I describe the functions this way   if I do it in too much of paraphrase or a shorthand tell me. Your functions are primarily concerned with adults with impaired decision making capacity in a range of matters. 


MS EASTMAN: It is protecting the adult from neglect, exploitation or abuse; providing a program called the Community Visitor program; investigating complaints and allegations by an attorney, a guardian, or administrator or another person acting or purporting to act under a power of attorney, advance health directive or an order of the tribunal made in relation to guardianship or administration. Is that right? 

MS SMITH: Correct. 

MS EASTMAN: You may also have a role mediating and conciliating between attorneys, guardians and administrators. Is that right? 

MS SMITH: Correct. 

MS EASTMAN: When we are talking administrators, we are not talking Mr Zhouand, who is sitting next to you as the Public Trustee, are we? 


MS EASTMAN: We are talking about administrators who may be family members or other individuals for whom an order is made by the tribunal. 


MS EASTMAN: You may also act as attorney in some circumstances and the topics that we want to talk about today is the role of acting as a guardian if appointed by QCAT; is that right? 


MS EASTMAN: You also have a range of functions in relation to children, and that's set out in section 13 of the Act. Is that right? 

MS SMITH: Correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And I think last time we spoke to you our focus was on children for the most part. 

MS SMITH: No, I believe it was adults. 

MS EASTMAN: I thought we asked you some questions about children. 

MS SMITH: We did touch on children, but particularly adults. 

MS EASTMAN: Alright. So, in terms of the various functions and powers that you exercise, are we right in understanding that for both offices, the legislation is really the key and critical starting point for identifying both your functions and the exercise of particular powers. 


MS EASTMAN: And on the topics that this Royal Commission is concerned with, essentially, these are functions that you both exercise in relation to a person who may have impaired capacity. And that's an expression used in the Guardianship and Administration Act. Do you agree with that? 


MS EASTMAN: Now, we spoke a little earlier to QAI about the concept of impaired capacity, and I wanted to ask each of you in relation to your particular responsibilities, is   do you have an internal working definition or guideline about how you identify if an adult has impaired capacity. Mr Zhouand, can I start with you first? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, we don't have a specific definition within our policies and procedures. We generally follow the decisions of QCAT, and one of the things we have done as part of our reforms in recent times is establish the financial independence pathway where we work with customers   if they feel they have capacity, we work with them to develop their skills in terms of financial administration and   

MS EASTMAN: Sorry to interrupt you there. I do want to ask you some questions about that further down the track, but I want to start to make sure that the Royal Commissioners know how you, in discharging the statutory functions that you have, understand the meaning of impaired capacity. And how that's defined or dealt with internally. 

MR ZHOUAND: Sure. So, our understanding or my understanding of impaired capacity is that there is a lack of understanding in terms of certain financial matters, that there is an inability to appropriately communicate their understanding regarding financial matters and that there are risks, from a safeguard perspective, in terms of undue influence as part of that. So, if those key elements are present it does impact capacity. 

MS EASTMAN: And, Ms Smith, in terms of your office, have you approached identifying what impaired capacity means? 

MS SMITH: We would act upon the tribunal's decision on capacity, if the Public Guardian becomes appointed. Section 11 of the Guardianship and Administration Act does state that we are not required to presume they have capacity if the court or tribunal has appointed a guardian and also states that, in the exercise of the functions and powers, we are able to rely on that declaration by the tribunal to presume that the adult does not have capacity. So, we don't   once we are appointed, we are not frequently revisiting capacity for particular individuals. 

MS EASTMAN: Section 250 of the Guardianship and Administration Act provides that: 

"The Minister is to prepare guidelines to assist persons required to make assessments about the capacity of adults to make decisions about matters to make assessments."

And are we right in understanding that, in 2020, the Queensland Attorney General and Minister for Justice developed something called the Queensland Capacity Assessment Guidelines. Are you aware of them? 


MS EASTMAN: Mr Zhouand?

MR ZHOUAND: No, I wasn't. 

MS EASTMAN: You weren't aware of them? 


MS EASTMAN: I suppose the answer to my next question will be no, and that is, if you are not aware of them, they don't have any application in the discharge of your functions? 

MR ZHOUAND: My staff would be aware of them, and they would deal with some of those matters, but it doesn't come immediately to my attention. 

MS EASTMAN: Ms Smith, you said you are aware of them. 

MS SMITH: I am aware of them. 

MS EASTMAN: To what extent are they relevant to the work that you do? 

MS SMITH: As I outlined, as the tribunal has already considered capacity, the guardians would not consider that once an appointment has been made for the Public Guardian. 

MS EASTMAN: So, when it comes to the test in the Guardianship Act as to whether or not an adult has impaired capacity for the matter and the matter is a particular area of decision making, is it the case that for both the Public Trustee and the Public Guardian that that question of assessing that a person does not have capacity or impaired capacity rest entirely with QCAT? 

MS SMITH: I can probably speak to that. Our practice is that capacity is decision specific. So, obviously, a guardian would not be involved in the day to day personal decisions of the person that we may be appointed for. But in terms of the areas of appointments such as if we were appointed by QCAT for accommodation, service provision, healthcare, we would not be making an assessment of capacity each time those   a decision needed to be made. 

MS EASTMAN: And for the Public Trustee? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, we under our new structured decision making model, which we have implemented over the last two years, we operate under the proviso that there is a general presumption of capacity and then it is issue by issue specific where, effectively, we go through a process of   a seven step process which was developed by La Trobe University, and under that process, we determine whether, ultimately, working with the customer as to what their capacity is, what their preferences are and, in a sense, making a decision that's different to that under strict processes. 

MS EASTMAN: When you say "working with the customer to determine what their capacity is", does that require you to make an assessment of what the person's capacity is to make decisions, for example, around financial affairs? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, it depends on the specific issue in question. So, we do have a general presumption of capacity, but we also understand that our appointment in respect of some of those financial matters we have been appointed, there is a lack of capacity in respect of some of those specific matters. 

MS EASTMAN: Alright. 

MR ZHOUAND: But we still, under our approach, we aim to empower   under our new approach, we aim to empower the customer as much as possible, even in relation to those type of decisions. 

MS EASTMAN: So, if, in Queensland, you start with is a presumption of capacity, does that presumption mean that, regardless of what the decision is, be it small or be it significant, the assumption always is that the person   an adult person with disability can make decisions affecting their own life, to exercise dignity of risk and to have choice and control? Is that the starting point in Queensland for both your respective jurisdictions? 

MS SMITH: We would follow   sorry, Samay. We would follow the general principles under the legislation, which does take you through a process which is how you just outlined that. So, yes, you would commence by recognising that and speaking with the person under guardianship orders around the decision that needs to be made and, to the greatest extent possible, supporting them in making that decision. But if that's not possible, then it takes you through the process which is then being able to discuss their views and wishes, which is a path of structured decision making which finally leads, I guess, at the most extreme end, in a substitute decision. 

MS EASTMAN: Okay. Is that the same for the Public Trustee? 

MR ZHOUAND: Our one is slightly different. So, a couple of years ago, like I said before, we adopted the La Trobe University's supported decision making framework, which we call the structured decision making framework, and that involves a seven step process. And that seven step process involves knowing the customer, defining the scope of the decision, getting the customer's wishes and preferences with a presumption that they have capacity, identifying risks and issues and communicating with the support network. Then going through   at that point, we go through the structured decision making process. We make the decision, and then we action the decision. So, that's the process that we follow in Queensland. 

MS EASTMAN: Does that process speak to the principles set out in the Guardianship and Administration Act from section 11B and following? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's correct. So, we adopted it for several reasons. First of all, it aligned, obviously, to the principles under the Australian Law Reform Commission. It aligned with the Convention on the Right of People with Disabilities. And also we viewed it was opportune as the amendments to the Guardianship and Amendment Act were being introduced in Queensland around the same time that the Human Rights Act was being introduced in Queensland. 

We saw the opportunity to consolidate it all, as part of the La Trobe University's decision making model. We worked with them closely, and we adapted it and brought it into Queensland. And by adapting, I simply mean we just largely just changed some terminology to align with the Queensland legislation. But, ultimately, we adapted it, and the steps we follow through that are in alignment with the general principles. 

MS EASTMAN: So the general principles, after starting with presumption of capacity, then move to a range of principles that speak directly to human rights and fundamental freedoms. And there's various references to human rights and fundamental freedoms. Is there, in each of your organisations, a policy that sets out what human rights and fundamental freedoms mean for the purpose of exercising these principles under the Guardianship and Administration Act? Mr Zhouand? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, we   not one single document   the   we refer to various human rights in the general principles in various ways. First of all, in terms of our training materials. 

MS EASTMAN: No, just before we get to the training material, I just want to know what the understanding is of human rights and whether, internally, there is a policy or a document that explains what do human rights mean for your agency, and what human rights are you talking about? 

MR ZHOUAND: So not a specific document, per se, but it's pervasive in terms of every aspect of our training, every aspect of the recent training we have introduced, our policies, manuals and, at its core, in our decision making frameworks   structured decision making framework. It has been designed to enhance and embed those human rights considerations. 

MS EASTMAN: For you personally, what do human rights mean in the context of your job? When you use that word or that phrase human rights, what are you actually talking about? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, it is the fundamental human rights in terms of dignity, in terms of right to have one's enabled rights respected and valued in terms of making sure that there's a right to involvement in decision making, there's a right to involvement in having their property protected, a right to privacy, a right to security, a right to a number of other things which fall under the social, economic and cultural rights. And, for me, those are the rights that I'm required to ensure that I protect for my customers. 

MS EASTMAN: What's the content of those rights? Where do they come from and how do you define them? You described    

MR ZHOUAND: So, there is various human rights. So, if you are talking   in Queensland, we have got them in the human rights legislation. Some of those   many of those rights are reflected in the general principles. As well as that, we have got various rights, obviously, communicated in the Convention of People on the Right for Disabilities, which has been ratified by Australia. So, those are the core rights as it applies to Queensland. 

MS EASTMAN: Ms Smith, in terms of the Public Guardian, have you taken an approach of identifying what human rights means for the functions that you have to perform? 

MS SMITH: Yes, we published   it is publicly available on our website, a human rights decision making framework which all of our staff are trained in and expected to comply with in the carrying out of their functions. And how that would apply, I guess, in the day to day of the guardian would be in that, following the decision making process, they are required to identify if any of the process or the decision itself may infringe on a person's human rights and to consider those human rights and why that infringement may or may not be justified in the circumstances. 

MS EASTMAN: Again, when you are talking about human rights, what types of rights are you talking about or what's the source of these rights?

MS SMITH: Rights to autonomy, rights to dignity, to   I mean we have freedom of movement. The whole range of rights in the Human Rights Act in Queensland. 

MS EASTMAN: I want to move on to having an understanding about the number of customers   is that the word the Public Trustee uses? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And how do you describe, Ms Smith, the people who are subject to guardianship orders. Do you have a particular expression you use? 

MS SMITH: We use the term clients. 

MS EASTMAN: Customers. So, customers and clients. So, for the Public Trustee, you act as a financial administrator for presently   or whenever we asked you for this information, 9,635 clients. That's paragraph 21 of your statement. And, Ms Smith, yours is in paragraph 27, and you act as a guardian for 3,565 people in Queensland. Now, are we right in understanding that both with respect to financial, administration and guardianship, that there may be an appointment as a plenary, which is full powers; limited, which might be subject to the scope of the orders set by the tribunal; or there may be circumstances for interim arrangements to be made. Are they the sort of three broad classes? 

MS SMITH: Correct. 

MR ZHOUAND: That is correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And in terms of those numbers of 9,600 or 3,500   I'm just rounding them up   that that together collects both plenary, limited and interim arrangements or orders. Is that right? 

MR ZHOUAND: That's correct, for the Public Trustee. 

MS SMITH: Correct. 

MS EASTMAN: And we asked you about the average time that the orders would remain in place. And you've said, from the Public Trustee, that the average time is six and a half years. Can you just help me understand the basis of the six and a half years? Would that apply for most people who are under a plenary or limited financial administration order? 

MR ZHOUAND: In terms of providing that data we included all of our customer groups as part with that, yes. 

MS EASTMAN: Okay. And in terms of the Public Guardian, you have said at paragraph 30 that 90 per cent of the orders are continuing. Does that mean that they are sort of an ongoing   that the orders will be ongoing unless and until there is some application for a review? Is that right? 

MS SMITH: That's right, 98 per cent. I think that refers to they're not interim. 

MS EASTMAN: Not interim. And in terms of it continuing, do you have any   I don't think you were able to identify any data about what the average length or duration of these orders might be. 

MS SMITH: We weren't able to pull that data from our system, but my experience is that the average length is increasing with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. 

MS EASTMAN: That's a topic I want to ask both of you about in a moment, if you could bear with me on that one. But just getting some of the numbers. We asked you to identify what might be the disability that a person who is the subject of an order may live with to help understand perhaps why the orders were made. And, Commissioners, just in the interests of time I will give you the references. For the Public Trustee, that's set out at paragraphs 25 to 27. And for the guardians, it's at paragraph 32. In terms of the guardianship, it seems that the greatest number are people with acquired brain injury, followed by dementia. Is that right? 

MS SMITH: Intellectual. 

MS EASTMAN: And intellectual disability. 


MS EASTMAN: So those three areas would be the sort of key areas. Is that right? 

MS SMITH: Intellectual, psychiatric and acquired brain injury. 

MS EASTMAN: And in terms of the Public Trustee, you have identified a range of disability at paragraph 24, and then at paragraph 25, you have referred to age related disability, developmental disability, neurological disability, and the largest group of customers are psycho social disability, followed by other disability or no disability recorded. So, do you see that, Mr Zhouand, at paragraph 25? 

MR ZHOUAND: Yes, I do.

MS EASTMAN: In terms of psycho social disability, if we look at the table that's immediately above, that has a range of what may I describe this way as the types of conditions that might be found in DSM 5 reflecting a range of different psychiatric conditions. Is that right? 


MS EASTMAN: And in terms of the data collected within the Public Trustee, are these the categories that you use to collect the data and describe the different cohorts of people, or sorry, customers, who are subject to financial administration? 


MS EASTMAN: So, then we asked you a little bit about the cohorts by reference to age and also whether they can be identified by their heritage, be it as members of the culturally and linguistically diverse community or First Nations people. I want to ask you about First Nations people. The Public Trustee, you say at paragraph 30, that for First Nations people, there are 829 First Nations people who are customers of the Public Trustee. And for the guardian, yours indicates 571. That's paragraph 35 of your statement. 

Can I ask both of you, looking at those numbers as a proportion to the population of First Nations people in Queensland, do these numbers suggest that there's a disproportionate number of First Nations people who may be customers or clients with respect to financial administration or guardianship? Who wants to go first? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, in respect of the Public Trustee customers, in terms of our approximately 10,000 customers, it's, yes, our number is higher. 

MS EASTMAN: Is that disproportionate to the population in Queensland? 


MS EASTMAN: Is there any reason for that? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, there is obviously significant historical, cultural factors that have contributed to the disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which has led   has significant impacts in terms of   in terms of individual capacity in some matters. 

MS EASTMAN: It's one thing to talk about the historical context to it, but how does that manifest in terms of day to day practice in the circumstances in which the orders may be made and you have First Nations customers? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, in terms of   if I understand your question correctly, in terms of   in terms of how, from a Public Trustee perspective, where someone   where an Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander person is placed under an administration order, that's often, in our experience, as a result of, obviously, factors relating to social and other disadvantage factors, and when we become appointed as administrator, it's   what we do is with ensure that we are very cognisant of those factors in terms of how we try to support them in our day to day work. 

MS EASTMAN: Alright. Ms Smith, have you got a view on if there's a disproportionate number of First Nations people who are subject to guardianship orders as a proportion of the community generally in Queensland? 

MS SMITH: I would agree that I do think it's a disproportionate number under Public Guardianship, and as to the reasons why, I think it's probably representative across my other functions as well, which is oversight of children in Child Protection. So, in those systems, there seems to be an experience particular vulnerability and overrepresentation. 

MS EASTMAN: Has there been any research or evaluation undertaken within your office to identify why there might be a disproportionate number of First Nations people subject to guardianship orders? 

MS SMITH: Not within the Office of the Public Guardian. 

MS EASTMAN: Neither of your organisations employs an Aboriginal Liaison Officer; is that right? It's paragraph 48 of the Public Trustee's statement and paragraph 43 of the Guardian's statement; that's right? 

MS SMITH: That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN: Have you ever employed Aboriginal Liaison Officers? 

MS SMITH: Not at the Office of the Public Guardian, but we do have identified positions, and as you will see in my statement, we also bring all of our First Nations staff from across the agency together to provide practice advice in terms of our service delivery and to also provide advice on culturally appropriate language, culturally appropriate service provision and also to have a culturally safe space as an employer. 

MS EASTMAN: Mr Zhouand, in the Public Trustee? 

MR ZHOUAND: So can I just   

MS EASTMAN: Do you want to say if you have employed Aboriginal Liaison Officers in the past? 

MR ZHOUAND: No, but we are developing a workplace diversity and inclusive plan as part of our plan   action plans over the next 12 months. But we do seek to ensure that we apply very individualised approach where we have a high level of involvement with all of our First Nations customers and their support networks. So, we make decisions based on their individual cultural needs. And we place a great deal of emphasis on that under our structured decision making process. 

MS EASTMAN: Do you think both agencies would benefit from having Aboriginal Liaison Officers to work to create sort of culturally safe and culturally responsive approaches to the way in which your functions are respectively discharged? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, we are very open to that. It is one of the key things we will consider as part of our development of our diversity and inclusion action plan, but we are also thinking of other things on top of that, whether we do it all together or whether we prioritise some over others, but that's part of our action plan over the next 12 months. 

MS EASTMAN: Ms Smith? 

MS SMITH: Well, as I said, we do bring our staff together   we have 10 across the agency who are familiar with our broad range of functions and powers   to provide that advisory service. But absolutely we would be open to if there are additional benefits from a Liaison Officer. Absolutely. 

MS EASTMAN: I was   I will ask this question now. Do you have any information   and if you don't, you can take this on notice   of how many First Nations staff are employed in your respective offices? 


MR ZHOUAND: So, at the Public, Trustee, we have seven. 

MS EASTMAN: Out of? 

MR ZHOUAND: Out of 606. 

MS EASTMAN: Okay. A disproportionately low number. 

MR ZHOUAND: That's correct, and hence the reason for the action plan we are developing. 

MS EASTMAN: And Ms Smith? 

MS SMITH: 11 out of over 300 staff. 320 staff. 

MS EASTMAN: So, that's slightly higher than the trustee's proportion. What about staff who identify as people living with disability? Do you have any information in terms of the number of employees who identify as people with disability? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, at the Public Trustee, it is 37. 

MS EASTMAN: 37 out of? 


MS EASTMAN: The Office of the Public Guardian, it's 10, but it's voluntary to provide the information, and under half of our staff have elected to volunteer. 

MR ZHOUAND: And it's the same with the Public Trustee. 

MS EASTMAN: That's why I have asked you the question in terms of identification. I want to come back then to the NDIS, and both of you have addressed the way in which the NDIS rollout and the way in which the NDIS now operates in Queensland as having a bearing on the numbers of orders that may be made. For the Public Trustee, this is set out at paragraph 34, 35, and I want to ask you, Mr Zhouand, in a moment about what you said in paragraph 84 under Disability Services Officers Unit. 

And for, Ms Smith, you have also commented on the impact of the NDIS at paragraph 87 of your statement. Ms Smith, can I ask you, what have you seen in terms of trends over the time you have had the role of Deputy, Acting and now Public Guardian in relation to the NDIS changing the trends or making a difference? 

MS SMITH: Well, it's had a huge impact on the Office of the Public Guardian in terms of not only increase number of people coming under public guardianship but also the work guardians do in supporting decisions. The system, as you would well know, as the general view is, is highly complex, and there are frequent regular ongoing decisions that need to be made. Also the complexity of that work and those decisions has increased. So, we   it   our experience has been that people probably were on average orders of about two years prior to the commencement of the NDIS, but we are seeing those orders bit the tribunal now made for longer. And that's due to the ongoing need of constant plan reviews and, you know, being able to actually implement and exercise the choice and control and decisions that need to be made to support that. 

MS EASTMAN: Are these circumstances in which the guardianship orders are made for the convenience of those providing services or for the convenience of the NDIS participant? 

MS SMITH: I was would say there is a mix. Early on, when the scheme was first rolling out, we were seeing large, large bulk numbers of applications being made for the appointment of the guardian, and that   that was to make sure   there was a view that the Public Guardian would be able to assist people to enter the scheme because of the complexity. Some of our clients did have family in their lives, and just to the sheer, I guess, volume of information and needing to understand how to navigate that system that they did support the appointment of the Public Guardian for their family member. 

And I think that definitely there could be an element, early on, of convenience because we did see a cultural view from the NDIA planners early on that it was easier to deal with another government agency. But we have seen that shift over time when there's definitely been more understanding around decision making support and what guardianship is. 

MS EASTMAN: Mr Zhouand, in terms of the Public Trustee, you've also seen a trend or some changes as a result of the NDIS. And one of the matters that you have addressed in your statement, it starts at paragraph 84, is the Disability Support Officer Unit. And you have said: 

"This Unit takes a lead role in liaising with the NDIS and support coordinators, acting as a conduit between the Public Trustee, the NDIA and disability support providers.” 

What can you tell us about when and why this Disability Support Officer Unit was developed?

MR ZHOUAND: So, it was, as I understand, it was a developed approximately three years ago. And the reason was to ensure that we provided the best level of support for our customers, obviously, with disability. It was also developed because it is a complex area, and we wanted to ensure that there was some expert advice and support for our staff who deal with customers on a day to day basis. So, essentially, it's a consultancy and referral and facilitation service which assists our customers and our frontline officers in terms of making sure that, so far as possible, there is high levels of awareness about the NDIS, high levels of training and involvement in complex matters so as to ensure that customers' best outcomes are achieved. 

MS EASTMAN: Can I ask you about this issue of the duration of the orders, and we have spoken about that a little bit earlier. We also asked you about the occasions in which orders are revoked. And the Public Trustee's paragraph 42 says, I think in the financial year 2021 22   I hope that's right   that there were 166 orders revoked. But there was 56 them of were new administrators were appointed. Can I ask you this. Is there a system in place for the periodic review of any financial administration order that may be made by the tribunal? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, not necessarily by the Public Trustee. But that's what we have done as part of introducing the financial independence pathway, and more recently we have introduced and engaged with QAI and developed a partnership where we do actually assist customers through QAI to seek to revoke orders. 

MS EASTMAN: So, there is no sort of internal policy or practice within the Public Trustee to say, "We need to review on an annual basis whether the"   

MR ZHOUAND: So, that's   I apologise about interrupting you.

MS EASTMAN: No, that's okay. Go ahead.

MR ZHOUAND: So, we do that on a individual basis under our structured decision making framework. So under our structured decision making framework, we do   you know, the first principles is know your customer, and part of that process if the trust officer is able to identify that they do have capacity, options are offered   options are offered in terms of going and seeking revocation, going through the financial independence pathway, and as part of that, you know, more recently, linking them up with QAI in terms of doing that. But most of those things have been recent as part of our process and reforms over the last two years, moving from a substitute to a more supported decision making model. 

MS EASTMAN: We looked earlier at the sort of cohorts, and we looked at psycho social disability. And if we   and I'm putting a hypothetical to you. If you assume that, for some people who identify with psycho social disability, particularly those acute   those acute situations, have you addressed the issue of fluctuating capacity and built that in to a review process in the framework that you are talking about? 

MR ZHOUAND: So that framework is a holistic framework. So we adopted it based on it being recognised as best practice in terms of that approach. So our perspective is that it's a holistic approach that we consider all of the circumstances of the customer, including the issue you just mentioned. 

MS EASTMAN: So, that means it is not something separate to identify a concept of fluctuating capacity and being able to react or address fluctuating capacity. 

MR ZHOUAND: So, for us, you know, it's no separate policies, per se, or procedures in relation to those things. For us, these type of things are addressed through those three mechanisms I talked to you just before. 

MS EASTMAN: Ms Smith, I apologise if I've got this wrong. I couldn't see   and I might have missed it in your statement   whether there have been any revocations of guardianship orders? 

MS SMITH: Paragraph 39 in my statement.

MS EASTMAN: Thank you. In terms of   let us turn that up. So that was the 360   is that right? 

MS SMITH: Yes. That's correct.

MS EASTMAN: 363 the of the orders revoked. Are you able to assist us as to why orders may have been revoked? And, again, is there any process of systematic review to enable QCAT to sort of revisit whether the ongoing guardianship orders are appropriate? 

MS SMITH: Well, it is really up to individual guardians who are most familiar with the circumstances of the decisions needing to be made and the clients' circumstances. So, they would really, at the guardian level, drive that revocation process, if they believe that it's appropriate to do so. We also periodically put on extra resources to dedicate to that process, so guardians   because it is a resourcing and time intensive process, we do add on resources for the revocation   for the specific purpose of revocation, and the guardians throughout offices in Queensland can refer particular clients to them and took at their circumstances and undertake that work. And we would also do it periodically for appointments such as where we were appointed for a person's legal matters. So, if that legal matter has finished and there were no further need for the guardian to be involved in that person's life, we would seek a revocation of the order.

MS EASTMAN: So, that would be the limited orders and for what might be a litigation guardian; is that right? 

MS SMITH: No, we   it's a personal matter, so we can be appointed for a person's legal matter, not including property or finance. And that could include criminal matters where there are parent and child protection proceedings. Other Family Court matters. 

MS EASTMAN: Now, one question that I wanted to turn to now   and it arises from some of the evidence presented at this hearing so far, and a very strong theme arising out of the submissions that the Royal Commission has received. And that is that when a person may have an administrator or guardian appointed, they may have no contact with that person. And they may have no interpersonal relationship with them. And they have said to us, "How can a person make decisions about me in my best interest if they don't know me, they don't speak to me, they never come and see where I live. And they really don't in much sense about what my choices in life might be, in relation to the money that I might want to spend.” So, we asked you about that the contact that the officers in your respective offices have. For the Public Trustee, you don't keep any data on the average time of contact with customers. Is that right? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, we do have contact with a customer, on average, once every eight days, but in terms of special details, no. 

MS EASTMAN: And if an administrator is appointed. Then the policy is that within the first week of that appointment there will be contact with the customer. Is that right?

MR ZHOUAND: Yes. That's right. So we have established what we call Client Liaison Officers. So, once we are appointed, there's a contact in the first week. Then within the first two weeks, there's a meeting. That meeting can be face to face. It can be via way of video or it can be over the telephone. Often that depends on the availability, the preference of the customer. Then after that, theres a range of other activities. But for us fundamentally, one of the things we wanted to ensure as part of our reforms over the last two years is that there a lot more direct communication. 

So, that's one of the reasons for the structured decision making framework that we have, because we try to involve as part of our new process, and it's early, but the signs are encouraging of actually communicating with the customer and getting their wishes and preferences. And sometimes that means   and I apologise for going on for a bit, but sometime that means agreeing on things beforehand so you don't necessarily have to come back for some of those things. 

MS EASTMAN: So, the Public Trustee is self funded, and so is it the case that any contact of this kind, every eight days with the customer, is also the subject of some fee? Is there a fee attached to that contact?

MR ZHOUAND: So, our fee arrangements are, in terms of the legislation under the regulation, they are, in part, based on the level of contact, but they are also based on the level of service that we provide. It is not the motivation of the Public Trustee to try to increase contact with a view to increasing fees. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Could we get an answer to that actual question? Does every contact every eight days, do those contacts result in a charge?

MR ZHOUAND: No. So, what we have is a fee system. It's   outlined in the Public Service Regulation where, depending on the level of contact, there is a fee set, but that is actually set based on the service. So, for example, if a customer is living in an aged care home and the level of contact is once   more than once per week, there's a set fee. But if it's more than once per week, there's another fee. So, that's basically how the fee system is set.

MS EASTMAN: Turning to the Guardian, you have said at paragraph 61 of your statement that the data for September 2022 showed that 43 per cent of clients had been visited in person once in the last 12 months.

MS SMITH: That's correct.

MS EASTMAN: Can I just ask you to explain that a little more? Does that mean that there are  


MS EASTMAN:   a lot of people who had not been visited at all? Or is this   

MS SMITH: No, just in the last 12 months. So, that would be face to face. But, obviously, we have communication through other means much more regularly. 

MS EASTMAN: You would accept, wouldn't you, that telephone or online communication with one thing, but face to face is different. 

MS SMITH: Absolutely. 

MS EASTMAN: And I think you were here this morning when you heard the Namok family talk about from a culturally safe position now and a culturally respective   respect perspective, that face to face is the preference. 

MS SMITH: Absolutely, and it would be our preference as well. It is purely a resourcing challenge for us to be able to do it more frequently. 

MS EASTMAN: What's the nature of that resourcing challenge? Is it not having people appropriate skills in the office to discharge this or is it high caseloads where it's just not possible? 

MS SMITH: It's the high caseloads where it becomes very difficult to take time out of the office for those periods of time. Queensland is a large place, as you are aware of, and there is significant travel involved.

MS EASTMAN: That anticipates my next question. And that is, in terms of your respective offices, are you centralised in Brisbane or do you have offices across the state? 

MR ZHOUAND: So for the Public Trustee, we have a central office in Brisbane but we also have 15 regions. 

MS EASTMAN: And for the guardian? 

MS SMITH: In the Office of the Public Guardian, we have an office in Brisbane, in Ipswich, in Townsville and in Cairns. 

MS EASTMAN: Now, I am conscious of the time. So, what I'm going to do is just go to a few issues which reflect some of the systemic issues raised over the course of this hearing and what the Commission has heard. One which is an issue for the Public Trustee is the issue of conflict of interests. And you're aware of Ms Nunn's case, and I've said I don't need you to comment on it. The Chair asked some questions earlier today about whether there can be an inherent conflict if the Public Trustee has the responsibility and the functions of drafting wills but also responsibilities to act as administrator for a person with disability, and that that may cause the Public Trustee to give some consideration to what I might call, from a New South Wale's perspective, family provisions applications. There is an inherent conflict, is there not?

MR ZHOUAND: So, at the Public Trustee, under section 137 of the Public Trustee Act, there is recognition that the Public Trustee performs multiple roles. And that's not in only Queensland. That's every Public Trustee across Australia. And what we do at the Public Trustee is we ensure that there are strict information barrier approaches as part of that. It is something that is captured as part of our training. We do treat it very seriously. Our staff member, they have separate roles, but a staff member who is performing an administrator function is not, under any circumstances, authorised to access information in regard to, for example, testator functions. If that occurs, it is referred to our Integrity function and is dealt with as part of that process. 

MS EASTMAN: So, it's one thing to have that provision in the legislation, but it's another in terms of public's perception and trust and confidence in the Public Trustee. But there seems to be this conflicts of interest. It's very difficult, from the public's perspective, to say, we don't really understand this legislation, but it looks a bit odd if you are going to draft and prepare wills but also then seek to challenge those wills as well. 

MR ZHOUAND: So, we do have very strict information barrier approaches. We do   where, for example, there is a family provision application and it involves multiple people, we do have practice direction within the Public Trustee which we adhere to very strongly. It's a separate trust officer that deals with it, a separate lawyer, a separate director that they report to, often in separate regions, you know, that the files are allocated to. So, it is, as part of me coming into the organisation and looking at it, having reviewed the protocols that were put in place, I'm satisfied with it, but obviously open to further feedback in terms of any further opportunities for improvement. 


CHAIR: Is that a public document? 


CHAIR: How would any member of the public know anything about it?

MR ZHOUAND: So, that's a good question. We do this as parts of our communications, with our customers. I understand we do advise that, in terms of there are information barriers and different functions perform different roles, but in terms of access to that document, no, that's not publicly. And so   that's not publicly available. 

CHAIR: Well, if it's not publicly available, the question that Ms Eastman asked you was about perceptions. How on earth could anybody dealing with the Public Trustee in that situation have any confidence that there was not a conflict of interest? You can't on the one hand, I would have thought, claimed to be imposing these Chinese walls and expect people to accept that as a reasonable way of dealing with an inherent conflict of interest and yet not publish the rules or principles under which are operating. Sorry, I don't understand it. 

MR ZHOUAND: Sir, we are very happy to consider that. It's something that hasn't been brought to my attention or myself hadn't put my mind to, but very happy to review and consider that. 

CHAIR: Isn't it obvious? 

MR ZHOUAND: It's something I   hasn't been brought to my attention.


MR ZHOUAND: Or I hadn't personally considered it. I wasn't aware. I hadn't put my mind to that issue, but I'm very happy to review that and consider that.


MS EASTMAN: I'm mindful of the time. And the Commissioners may have some questions. I wanted ask you about an issue that Ms Nunn spoke about today, and that's accountability and the importance of our public institutions being accountable that when things go wrong, people take responsibility for the actions. And one of the issues that arises with accountability is the extent to which there are very strong confidentiality and secrecy provisions in the legislation around what happens in at a tribunal proceeding, and then that sense of confidentiality that cloaks the customer or the client. 

I'm not asking you to comment on legislation, and I accept that you may be limited in you can say in terms of legislative reform. But can I ask you both this question. Do you accept that the secrecy and confidentiality provisions operate in a way where the power disparity between the client or the customer and your respective agencies is enormous? It is a vast power disparity. Would you agree with that? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, if I can answer that. Look, I think the nature of guardianship and administration itself is an issue of power, and there are significant power discrepancies. We aim to ensure that, as part of our reforms over the last two years, that we do try to empower the customer as much as possible as part of our process. So, hence, what we've tried to do is to ensure that they have a greater voice through our structured decision making framework and also to ensure that they have pathways to challenge their order. 

And in addition, we have introduced a customer advocate, which is a first for the sector, which is designed to provide an inherent tension within the organisation, and a voice and advocacy voice for the customer so as to ensure that some of those power imbalances are addressed where there is an issue. 

MS EASTMAN: What about external accountability? Who is the watchdog over the Public Trustee? 

MR ZHOUAND: So, in terms of external watchdogs, we have got obviously the Ombudsman. We have got the ACCC. We have the Human Rights Commission. We have got the courts. Our accountability to the customers themselves. We have also got the Integrity Commissioner, Information Commissioner, and we have also got relevant regulatory bodies, depending on the functions we perform, be it in financial services, be it the Legal Profession Act. So, there is a high level of external accountability. We welcome accountability and transparency, and, from our perspective, it's really important to be responsive to those issues, and that's part of our reforms and over the last two years, trying to be responsive to those things and trying to ensure that we implement initiatives that support those things. 

We have introduced recently a Service Improvements report which highlights the range of reforms we have done in relation to transparency and governance. I think, when you consider the level of transparency externally that a Public Trustee is subject to, as opposed to a private administrator, plus the layers and layers of internal accountability we have introduced particularly over the last two years, I think there is strong governance, but I always welcome a consideration of more, because, from my perspective, I have spent 20 years in government advancing those issues, so it's something I'm not objecting to at all. 

MS EASTMAN: Are the customer advocates employees of the Public Trustee?

MR ZHOUAND: That's right. So, the reason we created the system is to ensure there is not only external systems or external pressures for improvement, there's internal pressures as well, so that there is always someone outside the normal reporting line that is raising issues and concerns regarding the voice of the customer. So, that's what the customer advocate has been doing. 

And as part of its   that function, injecting itself in the various matters, we have seen additional matters go to   before QCAT and orders get revoked. We have seen customers a bit   moving out of aged care and moving into their home. So we have that as part of our business DNA. It's in its early stages, but what we are seeing is, when you factor in the supported decision making framework, when you factor in the customer advocate, the financial independence pathway, the improvements to our complaints system, it is early in terms of reforms we are doing, but what we are seeing is some early encouraging signs. 

Our Ombudsman complaints have gone down by 40 per cent. The number of complaints requiring remedial action have reduced from 31 per cent to 6 per cent. We have established also a customer reference group where key advocacy groups represent the voices of customers, and their general feedback is they are noticing significant cultural changes at the Public Trustee, but they are also advising us, you know, more work needs to be done and we are very cognisant of that. 

So, those type of signs for us plus the cultural osmosis, I suppose, that has occurred in terms of introducing the Latrobe decision model, you know, we are seeing really some   really early encouraging signs in terms of that path. 

MS EASTMAN: Do all of these reforms pre date the ABC Four Corners report earlier this year? 

MR ZHOUAND: Many of them do.

MS EASTMAN: Has there been any additional reforms or actions taken since the Four Corners program? 

MR ZHOUAND: For example, the Advocacy Pathway Referral, which we have partnered with QAI, in terms of implementing that. So, that's been one example. There has been greater levels of transparency in terms of some of our fees and charges. But they are the immediate things that come to mind. 

MS EASTMAN: You have talked a little bit about the training earlier and there's a lot of detail. But one thing you have told us is that there is no training within the Public Trustee about the CRPD. Why is that? 

MR ZHOUAND: So our interpretation thus far has been that many of the principles, obviously not all, of the CRPD, are encapsulated into the Human Rights Act, are encapsulated in the general principles, so the structured decision making   

MS EASTMAN: Forgive me for interrupting. Are you sure about that? 

MR ZHOUAND: I think some of the main ones. I think obviously the declaration in terms of the substitute decision making, I understand that. 

MS EASTMAN: Tell me how reasonable adjustments and reasonable accommodations are included in the general. 

MR ZHOUAND: So, from our perspective, the way we apply it is that in terms of the structured decision making framework, the decision is   you know, a decision is made in accordance with the customer's wishes to the extent possible. 

MS EASTMAN: Sorry to interrupt, I'm not asking about customers wishes. I'm asking about the CRPD's requirements around a reasonable accommodation. Can you tell me how they apply to general human rights? 

MR ZHOUAND: So I can't in terms of specifics, but what can say is, as I said before, a number of them or, you know, a significant number of them and not all of them. I acknowledge that. 

MS EASTMAN: And these are the reasons why there has been no training on the CRPD, it is that right? 

MR ZHOUAND: From our perspective we have sought to   and we have relied heavily on the advice of La Trobe University in terms of their decision making framework being the large driver of what we do. So, we do provide training in regard to the general principles and the human rights. In terms of the CRPD, the Customer Advocate is developing a charter and that charter will be based on the CRPD. And the way and the forward plan is that the Customer Advocate will be holding the organisation in terms of against those standards, that charter which it will be based on the CRPD. That's our plans in terms of moving forward on that issue. 

MS EASTMAN: Is the customer advocate, assuming that's one person, a person    

MR ZHOUAND: So the office has four staff. 

MS EASTMAN: And any of those four staff, are they people who live with disability? 

MR ZHOUAND: Not that I'm aware of. 

MS EASTMAN: Ms Smith, can I come back to the question which I started with, which is that it seems that we have heard from the evidence of a very significant power disparity that is brought about by the confidentiality and secrecy provisions in the law. What's your view about that? 

MS SMITH: I think you heard earlier from QAI that the Queensland Public Advocate has recommended reform to section 114A of the Guardianship and Administration Act. Despite what's being reported in the media we did not oppose those suggested amendments. We did support a carve out or an amendment to the provisions so that people subject to those proceedings should absolutely be able to disclose their private circumstances and should be supported to do so. Where we provided caution was a wholesale repeal, because we have utilised that provision in circumstances where someone has had malicious intent about publishing that information to identify a person is a client of the Office of the Public Guardian. 

MS EASTMAN: Can I thank you both for quite a long time in the witness box, so to speak, this afternoon, but also for the detail provided in your respective statements and accompanying material. The Commissioners may have some questions. Thank you, Chair. 

CHAIR: Yes, thank you very much. I will ask first Commissioner Ryan whether he has any questions. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Thank you. Can I ask first of all a couple of questions to the Public Trustee. You have used the expression "structured decision making" quite a bit during your evidence this afternoon. I was just   in order to understand that better, could I say let us imagine that the Public Trustee was about to make a decision of discussing someone's expensive accommodation with them that they were worried that they may no longer continue to be able to live in that accommodation and they had to have some sort of a discussion with them. How would you apply the seven step structured decision model to say a decision like that? 

MR ZHOUAND: So the decision as to where to live, we don't make that decision. So, it's the customer and it's   

COMMISSIONER RYAN: But you have had discussions with people about the cost of their accommodation and asked them   even suggested that they might move. So   well, let's say a person's budget. I'm really trying   the issue, I'm trying to work out how does this structured decision making apply to something like how a person's budget works? 

MR ZHOUAND: Sure. So in terms of   so if I can perhaps give the context in regard to a First Nations customer. So, in terms of that example. So whereas before under a substitute decision making model we would largely make the decision, under this approach we might have a situation where the son of a - 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Could you show me how the steps work

MR ZHOUAND: My apologies, I was just laying the context. So the son might want to   our customer to buy them a car. So, First Nations customer. So in that situation we get to know the customer. Step one is to get to know your customer, and that includes knowing who they are, their wishes and preferences, their cultural circumstances, and their goals and aspirations. Step two is to really define the question and the issue and the need. So in this instance the son wanting to use resources of our customer to purchase a car for themselves. Step three is to get to know the wishes and preferences of the customer. And hence, you know, we do engage directly with the customer in terms of, you know, are they agreeable to that. You know, what do they want? Do they have a different view? So we get wishes and views of the customer. Then we look   so this instance, for example, the customer determined they were very comfortable with their son getting that because as   and then we then looked at the risks and issues or problems in terms of that. So, obviously there was an impact on the budget of our customer. It was a significant amount. 

But, you know, as part of that we consulted some work further with the customer, with their broader support network and family, and through that process we determined that actually the son   with our customer going into an aged home, the son is performing a leadership role in the family in terms of supporting the other children as part of that. And then that plus our customer's wishes helped us to inform the decision. And now in terms of our decision what we do have, we classify those decisions in terms of three levels. Level A is a simple decision, level B is a moderately complex decision, and level C is a complex decision. And we have templates for those types of decisions so as to ensure that the greater the complexity the more forward the consideration is put in terms of human rights and those factors. And we have got detailed templates which require   and those mattes are escalated to more senior officers as more complexity is involved, and requires them to consider all those issues of human rights, all those general principles in detail, and then as part of that process there is a structured decision making process to comply with the legislation. In that instance we supported it. Then it was   that was the decision. And then the last step was actioning the decision, and then that was communicating it, put steps in place and immediately sort of contingency plans in terms of the impact on the customer's budget, and then that was   and documenting all of it and that was, I suppose, in a step by step process how we go about it. 

CHAIR: I think, Commissioner Ryan, since that was a six minute answer to the question, we are coming to the end of questions, so one very brief question please and one that is capable of a brief answer. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: I hope so. I'm looking at the fees that you charged. There is a reference to something called a hardship clause. I do notice that among the fees that you charge it is quite possible that someone on a Disability Support Pension could wind up having to pay from 10 to 37 per cent of their income from the DSP. How frequently would that happen? 

MR ZHOUAND: So there was a report done into the Public Trustee's fees and charges by both The Public Advocate and more recently by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Both reports, even though there was some criticisms in the first one, found that the Public Trustee's fees and services were little to none for the majority of financial management customers. The PriceWaterhouseCoopers report found that in   overall we actually charge a lot less than what it costs us in terms of our fees and charges for our financial administration customers. So, generally the fees are based on the level of   or assets and   

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Can I direct you, because the chairman asked us to be quick   can I direct you to the question. Is it frequent that someone on the Disability Support Pension would be losing from 15 to 37 per cent of it? 

MR ZHOUAND: So the   it depends on what their other assets are. So, if they have high levels of assets it does have a factor on their Disability Support Pension. And for some customers, yes. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Thanks, Mr Zhouand. 

CHAIR: Commissioner McEwin? 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: Thank you, Chair. One question for each. To the Public Guardian I want to understand your response to Ms Eastman's question about the presumption of capacity. If I understood you correctly, you said you accept QCAT's decision of that person to not have capacity. Is that correct? Is that how you operate? 

MS SMITH: Well, we don't assess capacity. So, we do start with a presumption of capacity because the legislation under the general principles does require or does state that. But we aren't undertaking, I guess, assessments of capacity in terms of the ministerial guidelines or what a medical professional or other professional would be doing. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: So if QCAT make a determination that a person does not have capacity, do you work with that client to move away from that presumption? 

MS SMITH: You mean in terms of building that capacity in decision making? I would say we would be doing that through the   I guess the general decision making functions that we have at the moment. So, we don't have a specific function that   where we would in addition to working with our clients in the range of decisions that need to be made in their lives, and supported, we don't have an additional function. We wouldn't undertake additional capacity building, it would just be what we do in all of the decisions that need to be made. So, just through that natural, I know, service delivery we would be involving them in those decisions, exploring the decisions, talking about the options and the choices and the consequences. And through that hopefully capacity would be built. But we don't have a separate program to deliver that. If that answers your question. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: More or less. I'm conscious of time so we might leave it there. My question to the Public Trustee, with your Disability Support Officer Unit, you said that you provide   that unit provides expert advice to the customers. How many of the staff in that unit have a disability? 

MR ZHOUAND: My understanding is none of the staff have a disability but they are trained occupational therapists. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: So if I'm correct in understanding, none of the staff in that unit have a disability and yet you say you provide expert advice on disability. Would you not agree with the proposition that disabled people are the experts in disability? 

MR ZHOUAND: I think   excuse me   I think lived experience is enormously important in terms of guiding and providing expert advice to policy and to government, and we have a number of other mechanisms where we try to get lived experience advice. But I take the member's point. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: Thank you. Thank you, Chair. 

CHAIR: Thank you. Mr  Zhouand, when the Public Trustee is appointed pursuant to an administration order, is the Public Trustee under fiduciary obligations to the people you call customers? 

MR ZHOUAND: Yes, we are. 

CHAIR: What does that mean? 

MR ZHOUAND: So for us it means a relationship of trust where we put the interests of the customer before ourselves and avoiding conflicts of interest. 

CHAIR: Precisely. Thank you very much. Thank you for your evidence. Thank you for the detailed statements that we have received. The Royal Commission appreciates the assistance as you have provided. Thank you. 

MR ZHOUAND: Thank you, Chair. 


CHAIR: Ms Eastman, does that conclude the evidence for today?

MS EASTMAN: It does. I just need to do the tenders for that evidence this afternoon. In relation to the Public Trustee of Queensland, if you could take Mr Zhouand's statement and mark it Exhibit 30.052. 

CHAIR: Yes. 

MS EASTMAN: And for Ms Smith, and the Public Guardian of Queensland, there is a statement and a number of accompanying documents. Which I'm sorry, Ms Smith, we didn't get time to look at today. But if they could be marked Exhibit 30.053   through to Exhibit 30.061. 

CHAIR: Yes. The documents to which Ms Eastman referred, may be admitted into evidence and they will have the exhibit numbers to which Ms Eastman has referred. Thank you. 

MS EASTMAN: Thank you, Chair. That concludes the evidence and I thank the Public Trustee and Public Guardian for participating this afternoon and I hope all being well we resume at 10 am tomorrow. 



CHAIR: Yes, thank you very much. We will adjourn then until 10 am tomorrow.