Second Reading-GUARDIANSHIP AND ADMINISTRATION BILL 2018

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (15:53:16): I proudly rise today to speak on the Guardianship and Administration Bill 2018. This bill seeks to introduce an updated framework for guardians and administrators for adults with disabilities and sets out the definition for decision-making capacity, including presumption that a person has decision-making capacity unless otherwise shown and recognition that someone has a decision-making capacity if they can make decisions with some support. This bill replaces the Guardianship and Administration Act 1986, which as other members have mentioned is obviously quite outdated now, 30-odd years later. This framework update is sorely due. So to put that into perspective, unlike my colleagues the members for Bayswater and Bentleigh who do not recall 1986, I recall it quite fondly. I was doing my HSC in 1986. I had a lot more hair then, probably in a mullet; Hawthorn won the grand final; and I think Neighbours first aired on Channel 10. But it was the same time that people with disabilities or mental health issues were living in places like Kew Cottages or Larundel. The Cain government at the time passed what was then a visionary act to move to disestablish those institutions, bringing the focus on people being in our community and not shunned away from our community. I think we would all agree that there is no benefit in hiding people with a disability away and that they are as valuable as the rest of us, and this bill enshrines that again to just reinforce our common humanity. As you have said yourself, Acting Speaker Dimopoulos, or one of my other colleagues, it is how we treat those who are most vulnerable that defines us. We strive to enable those people in our community to take agency in their lives regardless of any disability or mental impairment or mental health issue, and this bill ensures that there is statutory recognition for supported decision‑making, allowing an alternative for adults living with a disability from guardianship and administration. This alternative means there is less restriction on the autonomy of those who utilise supported decision‑making through the appointment of a supportive guardian or supportive administrator. It takes into account the will and preferences of the represented person when guardians and administrators are making decisions on an adult with a disability’s behalf. It also updates the framework used by VCAT and will better improve appointments of guardians and administrators by VCAT, and thereby improving the participation of the person with a disability. These are very complicated cases, especially for those people with ageing parents. Sometimes it all works smoothly and families work it out themselves; sometimes they do not. It is quite important that we now put into law that the person involved must be considered for the abilities they do have and that we do not assume that by having a disability they have no ability, because that is obviously not true. This bill recognises the need to support those people with disabilities to be involved in the decisions that affect their lives and otherwise ensures their will and preferences are utilised when a guardian or administrator is making decisions on their behalf. Before the appointment of that guardian or administrator VCAT must consider the decision-making capacity of the person with a disability and whether the person is capable of making a decision in a supported environment with the assistance of, as I said, the support guardian or support administrator—that is one of the new parts of this law. Once appointed, this guardian or administrator must consider the person’s will and preferences but can supersede those if the person would be at risk of harm. I think that goes to the balance that this bill is aiming to provide—that their needs are to be considered. The legislation defines ‘decision-making capacity’ as well as including the acknowledgement of ‘supported decision-making capacity’. I consulted a good friend of mine who is a community leader in Mount Waverley district in the disability sector. Greg Male dedicates his time to the Wavlink neighbourhood house in our area and the local men’s shed. Wavlink is a great neighbourhood house in our area that looks after adults with disabilities and assists them not only by providing training and a place to spend their time during the day but also with independent living. As these adults get older their parents get older, and in many cases their parents have done a lot, if not all, of the caring for all of their lives. The guardianship administration will come into play for these people, and I was quite happy to see that the bill does provide for the needs of the parent carers. This bill recognises that decision-making capacity is different for every person and can fluctuate over time, as others have said. Decision-making capacity therefore needs to be assessed on an individual basis. The bill offers a range of mechanisms to assist people, depending on their decision-making capacity, involving the person with a disability in decisions that affect them. This is not to say that the role of parents and those in other relationships who are important to a person with a disability are ignored. The bill requires VCAT to consider these relationships when considering a guardianship and administration application and there are a number of ways to do this. VCAT can ensure that all people with a direct interest in the application are notified and have the opportunity to participate in the process, and it must consider how decisions are currently being made and whether they can continue to be made by informal means, such as occurs through supportive family and other relationships. I have a good friend, Ross, who looks after his son, David, who is not too much younger than me. At this stage they do not need to have any of these arrangements because it is all working fine, but it is good to know that should things change, VCAT must consider that relationship. VCAT can also determine whether a family member or friend could support the person to make their own decisions and, if a guardian or administrator is needed, determine who is suitable to be appointed to the role. In making this decision VCAT must take into account the desirability of preserving existing relationships rather than appointing a person with no such relationship, which again would give comfort to the person that they are representing. That seems to just make sense, but it is good to have it in law. I also note that the men’s shed in Mount Waverley does great work with our seniors, as all men’s sheds do, and its work in social inclusion and mental health programs delivers great outcomes to the residents of all districts, including mine. But no matter how much good they do, we all get older. I remember my grandfather towards the end of his life. His mind started to leave before his body did. It is a pretty tough time for a family, as I think others have said. It is very complicated. Luckily it worked out all right. It is not always doom and gloom. I can remember one day. He was not really himself anymore, but he did turn up in the living room—thankfully with pants on—and wanted to know where his shoes were. My nan, who had been married to him for about 60 years, said, ‘They’re in Oakleigh’, because they had lived in Oakleigh for about 60 years. His response to that was— (Time expired)