The Public Advocate does not need to be appointed as a guardian if there is someone else who is able and willing to take on this role.

There are many situations where a family member, carer, or friend can be appointed as a person’s guardian. They are known as private guardians.

What happens when people cannot make decisions for themselves?

South Australian law provides a number of ways for individuals to act as a substitute decision-maker for another person.

These include:

  1. Informal arrangements: If there is no Enduring Power of Attorney, Advance Care Directive, or Guardianship Order in place, appointing a decision-maker - close family and friends - may be able to make some decisions
  2. By making a legal document called an Enduring Power of Attorney (for financial and legal decisions), or an Advance Care Directive (for health, accommodation, and lifestyle decisions)
  3. By SACAT appointing someone as a guardian (guardianship order) or as an administrator (administration order)
  4. As a Person responsible under the Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act 1995 to provide Medical Consent
  5. In an emergency situation only, two doctors can give an opinion about life-saving medical treatment (Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act 1995)
  6. If a person is detained under the Mental Health Act 2009 and general medical treatment is required, a guardian, substitute decision-maker or person responsible may need to give consent.
  7. A guardian or substitute decision maker could apply to SACAT for consent for prescribed treatments (sterilisation, termination of pregnancy under the Guardianship & Administration Act 1993; electroconvulsive therapy and neurosurgery under the Mental Health Act 2009).

Helping someone with their decision-making

We all need good sources of information and advice to make good decisions for ourselves. The more complex the decision, the more likely we will need help, and generally the more time we will need to weigh up the options.

Someone may also have trouble making a decision because of:

  • a lack of knowledge
  • language and literacy barriers
  • anxiety about the decision
  • pressure to make the decision quickly
  • different advice from several people
  • the attitudes of others
  • wanting to please others.

People who have an illness or disorder which can affect decision-making may still be able to make decisions with help or support.

How to help someone to make their own decisions

When helping a person to make their own decision, consider the following things:

  • do they have enough information?
  • can they understand the information in the way it is presented (e.g. Do they need to experience it rather than just read about it)?
  • is an interpreter required?
  • do they have enough time to consider their options (e.g. Would it help if they could talk with someone about the information and the decision a few times)?
  • is the person able to make a decision without pressure from someone around them?
  • is the person more worried about what others want than what they want?
  • is the person comfortable enough in their environment to make a decision?
  • can the person show what they want through certain behaviours? Even if they can’t explain it they may be able to show their likes and dislikes
  • is there someone with special skills who could assist in working out the decision (e.g. a speech pathologist, psychologist, health worker, developmental worker)
  • is there someone who knows the person very well, understands them and could assist?


Now you are a guardian easy read version (PDF, 12.8 MB) - This information is written in an easy to read way. We use pictures to explain some ideas.

Now you are a guardian plain language (PDF, 24.5 MB) - This manual is to support private guardians appointed by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT).

Informal arrangements fact sheet (PDF, 5.7 MB)

Informal Arrangements (Easy Read) (PDF, 5.7 MB)

Guardianship order fact sheet (PDF, 386.7 KB)

Administration order fact sheet (PDF, 379.6 KB)

Consent to medical treatment fact sheet (PDF, 522.5 KB)