We exist to promote the rights and interests of people who may need assistance with decision making. We do this by offering:

  • Guardianship
  • Investigation
  • Advocacy
  • Dispute Resolution, and
  • Information.

The Public Advocate can be appointed by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) as a Guardian of Last Resort if:

  • a person is unable to make a particular decision for themselves
  • there is a lifestyle, accommodation, and/or health decision to be made
  • there is no other appropriate person to be appointed.

SACAT can direct us to investigate a person’s circumstances if:

  • SACAT have received an application,
  • the person is believed to have impaired decision-making capacity, and
  • there is risk of harm to the person.

We can advocate for:

  • the rights and interests of individuals who need assistance with decision-making
  • systemic change
  • legislative and/or operational change.

Our Dispute Resolution Service can provide preliminary assistance and mediation if:

  • a person has made an Advance Care Directive (ACD)
  • there is a dispute about consent to medical treatment
  • there is a disagreement about decisions or decision-makers.

We provide Information about:

  • Consent to Medical Treatment
  • Advance Care Directives
  • Guardianship and Administration
  • Mental Health.

Strategic Plan

Our focus is to deliver innovative and quality services that enhance service delivery and respond to new and changing policy, processes, and legislation.

Strategic Plan 2021-24 (PDF, 1.2 MB)


There are South Australian laws relevant to adults who are unable to make decisions for themselves, who are at risk of abuse or neglect and may require supported or substitute decision making.

The Guardianship and Administration Act 1993 recognises that people who are not able to make decisions for themselves may need extra support, so that they are safe, their wishes are upheld, and their freedoms are protected, as much as possible. The Act aims to protect vulnerable people from neglect, abuse or exploitation.

The Guardianship and Administration Act gives the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) the power to make certain orders in relation to a person who does not have decision-making capacity, including guardianship orders and administration orders. The Act also outlines the functions of the Public Advocate.

The Mental Health Act 2009 says that if you have a mental illness, you should receive the right services, in a reasonable time frame, to aim for the best recovery possible. It also encourages people to be involved in their own treatment and care, and limits the circumstances where you can be ordered to have treatment without your consent.

Involuntary orders are:

  • Community Treatment Orders, and
  • Inpatient Treatment Orders.

The Mental Health Act 2009 sets out the responsibilities of the government and the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist for the standard of mental health services in South Australia.

The Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act 1995 says who can consent to medical treatment for adults and children, if someone is unable to give their own consent, including in medical emergencies. It also talks about the care of the dying.

The Advance Care Directives Act 2013 says that if you are over 18 and able to make your own decisions, you can write down your wishes about your future health care, accommodation and personal affairs. It also allows the Public Advocate to give information, help substitute decision-makers to uphold the wishes in Advance Care Directives, and resolve disagreements about decision-making.

Visit the Advance Care Directives website to learn more.


The Law Handbook is a useful guide to better understand South Australian legislation.

Refer to our fact sheets for more resources.