If a person is over 18 years old and is unable to make decisions for themselves, they may need a guardian to help with this.

In the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993, being unable to make decisions is referred to as 'mental incapacity'.

A guardian is a decision-maker appointed by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT).

A guardian can be:

Types of decisions

SACAT decides whether a guardian should make decisions about:

  • accommodation (someone’s living arrangements)
  • health (for example, consent to medical or dental treatment)
  • access (who a Protected Person spends time with), or
  • lifestyle (appropriate support, education, employment).

Full guardianship is where a guardian is responsible for all major personal decisions that affect someone’s health and wellbeing.

Decision-making principles

When making decisions for someone, SACAT and guardians must consider:

  • the past and present wishes of the person
  • whether there are any informal arrangements in place, and how well they are working
  • the least restrictive option
  • the person’s proper care and protection.

Making decisions

A guardian will make decisions by:

  • applying the principles of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993
  • supporting the person’s lifestyle and wishes
  • considering the person’s health and wellbeing.

If you disagree with decisions made by a delegated guardian, you can:

  • request a review of the decision by senior staff in the Office of the Public Advocate - see our OPA Complaints Policy
  • seek the assistance of an advocacy service
  • apply to SACAT for a change (known as a variation or revocation) to the Guardianship Orders
  • apply for the Guardianship Order to be reviewed by senior members of SACAT - view SACAT information about Reviews and Appeals.

The Public Advocate holds an important position in the community. As an independent statutory officer, the Public Advocate must report to the South Australian Parliament.

Our office is separate from SACAT.

Refer to help for guardians, attorneys and administrators.

More information

Guardianship and the Public Advocate (PDF, 496.0 KB)

Easy read guide national standards to public guardianship (PDF, 852.0 KB)

Quick questions about guardianship

A guardian is someone who is appointed by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) to make decisions for someone who is unable to make decisions for themselves.

This can be a public guardian (someone who works at the Office of the Public Advocate) or a private guardian.

A private guardian is a family member, carer or friend, who is appointed by SACAT to make decisions for a person who is not able to make decisions for themselves.

Someone who works as the person's professional carer or service provider cannot also be their guardian.

SACAT can also appoint more than one guardian.

Joint guardianship means that there is more than one guardian appointed to make decisions for a person.

It also means that decisions must be made together, in agreement with each other.

When guardians are appointed “severally” or “jointly and severally”, this means that the guardians can make decisions without needing to agree together.

No. Informal arrangements may be enough to make financial, accommodation and lifestyle decisions.

The Consent Act also allows for a Person Responsible to make health decisions without any formal documentation.

A guardian may be necessary when informal arrangements are not enough. This could be when:

  • there is no one to help informally (family or friends)
  • informal support/arrangements are not working
  • the person does not agree with the informal decisions being made
  • there is conflict about decisions or decision-makers.

If your concern is about the Public Advocate, we welcome your feedback. You can make a complaint to our office.

If your concern is about a private guardian, you can make an application to SACAT for an internal review or to change the Guardianship Order.

If you don't think you need a guardian, you can apply to change the Guardianship Order. You would need to provide medical evidence to support this.

A guardian must consider:

A guardian must make the decision that is:

  • least restrictive of person’s rights and personal autonomy.
  • consistent with the person’s proper care and protection.

(See Guardianship and Administration Act, Section 5)