4zzz radio program “Unfinished Business – The Public Trustee”

Ian interviews people whose lives have been at the mercy of the Queensland Public Trustee. In this exposé Theresa Creed, John Tracey, Rosslyn Mirciov and Doug Young reveal the misfortunes of vulnerable members of their families suffering at the hands of public trustee and the public guardian.

Click on link to listen to podcast –

4ZZZ “Unfinished business – The Public Trustee

HMR’s personal needs and accommodation

HMR (was) when I first encountered her an active member of my social circle. She was always extremely well presented, ‘used’ to have a regular job and lived happily in her own unit at Woodridge. Her older sister discovered HMR was running up bills without paying them.  To complicate matters, HMR had less than wonderful relationships with men and retreated at times into a fantasy world populated by ‘ideal’ people.  Anyway to cut a long story short, HMR was admitted on the sister’s instigation into the mental health unit of Logan Hospital where she was diagnosed with delusional psychosis.

Despite issues with an imaginary marriage and pretend children,  I’ve always contended that HMR could have been recovered at that time given appropriate counseling but with only one brother (now deceased), one largely dis-interested sister with her own problems, a few friends who like all of us were too busy with their own commitments and a health system that prefers to park folk with mental challenges in the looney bin instead of making an attempt to sort them out, she was abandoned to the system.

I’ve never spent much time in funny-farms and then only for the purpose of visiting an inmate, but I can assure readers its ‘interesting’.  One character was racing around with a toy spaceship yelling ‘beam me up Scotty’ and another had a toy submarine and was screaming ‘up periscope’.  I venture to say that if a person wasn’t crazy before they got committed to a place like that, they certainly would be in a short space of time. I guess the moral of the story is to never get committed because once in its highly unlikely you’ll ever get your life back.

There was no QCAT at that time but its predecessor for the purpose of the story GAAT was around, suggesting a certain individual who now appears to have the reins of  QCAT was in charge. Anyway the Guardian was appointed for who knows what but it doesn’t matter because there was never any sign of that mob and they were reportedly removed at their own instigation after a few years.  My guess is that the lack of available money to be siphoned off by sister entity the Public Trustee was the deciding factor rather than lack of need for a guardian. Needless to say the Public Trustee got its grubby paws on what little money was left after all the outstanding bills had been paid. There wasn’t much of an estate, some petty cash after the mortgage on the unit was paid out and a car (unregistered by that stage) worth possibly a thousand dollars.

Initial accommodation was one of a number of privately run share houses at Morningside for folk with mental issues but that didn’t last long due to the spate of boarding house fires that prompted the then state government to come up with stringent rules for fire safety. The old wooden houses could never be updated to conform with the new requirements so the organizers (who operate a number of similar places) rented a bunch of private dwellings in which to park their people pending demolition of the old wooden houses and re-construction of properly compliant accommodation. It seems full advantage was taken of generous government subsidies for construction of private mental health care accommodation and several loopholes were exploited in respect of the ostensibly ‘temporary’ solution.

One of the essentials for any operator is compliance with a code that details how many people can be resident in any given property and what level of assistance must be provided based on the number of residents. Any place with less than six residents conveniently fits under regulations requiring even casual on-site medical personnel and does not require any fire protection.

During the six odd years the temporary arrangement was in place, Public Trustee interest in the welfare of their victim dwindled to nothing although its interest in stripping money out of the victim’s disability pension didn’t wane. Up until then, the victim was always impeccably presented but after the accommodation provider had taken its cut and the Public Trustee grabbed everything left over, there was nothing for the victim ergo grey hair, no visits by hairdresser and no makeup.

To add insult to injury, the total lack of supervision meant that the victim was given a supply of her prescribed medication and expected to take what she needed. Only problem is that the stuff really needs to be professionally supervised because overdose results in horrendous weight gain. With nobody taking an interest, the victim’s weight ballooned to well over 200kg (she is around 160cm tall) and the alarm was only rung when a friend (actually the one who had suffered the brain bleed in October 2014) took the by now horrendously overweight one out for lunch. It was only then that the glassy-eyed demeanour, slurred speech, mental confusion, extreme obesity and lack of presentation was brought to the attention of the hitherto disinterested sister, the operator and whatever authorities could be prompted into action.

Initially the mental health care mob declined to get involved claiming the operator had told them licensing wasn’t required for premises with less than six inhabitants. We later discovered that there were only five residents, at least whenever the operator had been tipped off that an inspection was imminent. Eventually after who knows how many phone calls and emails to all and sundry, I did succeed in getting through to a higher level official who sprung an unannounced inspection and surprise surprise, discovered the shonk that had been going on for years. Needless to say, the Public Trustee case manager responsible for HMR managed to escape censure but the replacement accommodation was hurriedly finished within a couple of weeks so at least the unfortunate victims now live in a place that complies with current relevant standards.

Funnily enough, the Public Trustee case manager never thought it worth getting the Guardian involved, but since he apparently never actually visited either the earlier wooden houses or the non-compliant ‘temporary’ accommodation in which HMR was housed for more than six years, its understandable that the Public Trustee didn’t know its staff were failing to honor their responsibilities. I suggest the situation might have been different if the flow of money dried up however.
 
At this point I’m unaware of the current situation with money for personal use but plan on following up on that in the near future. The case however is indicative of the problems that arise when a for-profit accommodation provider takes the bulk of a victim’s pension and the avaricious Public Trustee seizes whatever is left over.  Quite obviously any claimed interest in the welfare of the victim goes out the window when money is at stake.
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BLC’s stroke

BLC suffered a brain bleed in October 2014. She has two sisters but has never enjoyed a particularly close relationship with them and consequently she did not share any details of her personal or financial affairs with her sisters. The victim had no Will or EPOA and no outstanding personal or financial matters. She had made provision for all her accounts to be paid well in advance of due dates and was in a stable relationship that had lasted some forty years. Her partner was quite capable of handling any unforseen matters which could potentially need attention.

A couple of days after the victim was hospitalized, the victim’s oldest sister was prompted by a social worker to apply to QCAT for guardianship and administration. Needless to say the control freak oldest sister seized the opportunity for her to acquire the control she had long craved. The social worker ignored standing rules by improperly enlisting a junior medical registrar to provide the medical report essential for a QCAT application. Subsequently the social worker has been disciplined and re-trained, and RBWH rules changed to require approval of senior management before any recommendation regarding QCAT can be made. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to discipline the junior medical officer who wrote the unauthorized and premature report as he was no longer employed by QLD Health at the time the matter was investigated.

Normal protocol with a stroke victim is to wait a minimum of thirty days before any intervention is commenced, the only exception being when there are compelling financial situations that warrant urgent attention, which was clearly not relevant here. Multiple requests to QCAT for adjournment to allow the victim some time to recover and for legitimate medical opinions to be obtained were refused by a certain senior member who interestingly has had a number of her decisions reversed by the Court of Appeal on the grounds of bias.  Advice to QCAT that the hearing scheduled only weeks after discharge would be extremely stressful for the victim, especially if she was forced to be in close proximity to estranged family members, was summarily ignored by this senior member. 

Note that members of the triune beast prefer to describe their victims as ‘clients’ however I’ll stick with the infinitely more apt ‘victim’. Its worth mentioning however that several emails from QCAT conceded that the family issue was of concern and that it was necessary to ‘arrange separation’. Needless to say this didn’t happen; the victim was seated immediately adjacent to the sister who had commenced the unwanted and unwarranted QCAT action without even notifying the victim of what was proposed.

It was later discovered that the same senior member who refused adjournment had requested a medical officer favourably disposed toward QCAT ‘review’ the victim four days before the QCAT hearing without notifying the victim that a report would be made to reinforce the earlier unauthorized one.  Obviously the victim had no way of knowing what was said in this later report and consequently she had no way to correct errors, whether in the review process or in respect of information assumed by QCAT to be factual.

  A different member was assigned to hear the actual guardianship and administration matter, presumably in an attempt to present the appearance of legitimacy although I have no doubt whatever that the aforementioned senior member had already decided on the basis of the two flawed medical reports to find the victim non compos mentis. The member who was responsible for the hearing claimed to be a qualified speech pathologist although it was blatantly obvious from her brutal interrogation of the victim that she was a dismal failure in her previous vocation. If perchance there was any recognition of human rights in Queensland I most definitely would have referred both members to relevant authorities.

The victim was (supposedly) represented at the QCAT hearing by a particularly able advocate from QADA who tendered a very well reasoned argument regarding the wishes of the victim. Despite this, the member declined to listen to the QADA advocate or for that matter, anything that didn’t support the decision that I suggest had been made well before the actual hearing.  Furthermore the member completely ignored multiple provisions of the Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 by taking no account of the victim’s wishes, the stable forty year relationship and the requirement for imposition of least intrusive solution.

As is typical of QCAT when there is any hint of ‘family conflict’ (a red herring in this case because there had never been any significant family interest in the victim before this saga), the member chose to appoint the Adult Guardian for control of visitation and the Public Trustee for total iron-fisted (actually ham-fisted would be more accurate in view of the ineptitude demonstrated by certain PT operatives) control of everything financial. The legislated requirement for the victim to be encouraged to, and to be afforded, every opportunity to administer her own financial affairs has been totally ignored by QCAT and the Public Trustee.

Whats even more concerning is the lack of any semblance of a legitimate complaints review process at QCAT, the Adult Guardian or the Public Trustee (hereinafter referred to as the triune beast).

The triune beast purports to be vitally concerned about the best interests of its victims although results suggest the exact opposite is achieved as a result of the triune beast getting its evil claws on a victim’s life. Victims are pronounced non compos mentis on the flimsiest of medical opinion, invariably the victim is stripped of any semblance of dignity and self-determination, the victim’s finances are systematically plundered by the Public Trustee with no details or explanation offered or available, and family relationships (such as they may be) are completely destroyed.

Getting a victim out of the clutches of the triune beast involves a royal performance with every opportunity provided to members of the triune beast to oppose a victim reclaiming their life and conceivable obstacle placed in the way of the victim.  In this particular case, the combined services of two social workers, two psychologists and two psychiatrists have been needed purely to address the emotional distress caused by the involvement of the triune beast in the victim’s life. All the aforementioned experts concur that some 90% of the trauma suffered by this particular victim can be attributed directly to the triune beast and I have no reason to believe the experiences of other victims and their carers have been any less traumatic.

There is reason to believe that complaints directed to the Public Trustee are immediately routed to its legal department, which then starts racking up criminally exorbitant charges at the cost of its victim. Reports from other victims corroborate our experience.

The acting director of the Public Trustee is on record stating that Public Trustee lawyers act for the Public Trustee and since the Legal Profession Act 2007 expressly prohibits legal practitioners acting for parties on both side of a dispute, that can only be interpreted to mean any Public Trustee lawyer who claims authority to represent a victim is acting well outside the law.  Furthermore, when QCAT has made previous decisions regarding an appointee to handle a victim’s legal matters it has invariably been the Adult Guardian and not the Public Trustee.  An attempt was made to bring several issues to the attention of the president of QCAT (note that official documentation identifies the president as responsible for conduct of members) however I understand from several sources including a certain senior member (a different one) that ‘the president doesn’t respond to submissions’. Go figure !!!!! How can he be responsible for the conduct of members when he doesn’t have the gumption to respond to submissions ??

During a directions hearing to do with appeal against the earlier decision, a Public Trustee lawyer stated on the record that they had already billed some $28,000 to the victim despite having done absolutely nothing for the benefit of the victim.  The senior member (the second one) would have heard this comment but chose to say nothing, indicating that QCAT members are fully aware of the conflict of interest and breach of fiduciary responsibility. Their failure to object shows they actually condone the practices. To add insult to injury,  the appeal is on hold indefinitely, ostensibly pending the response by the president that will never come.

Furthermore the issue of Public Trustee lawyers misappropriating the victim’s money needs to be resolved before they decide to take her entire life savings (which I understand has been done previously with other victims).  In any case, it now appears that its impractical to rely on appeal processes to extricate a victim from the clutches of the triune beast. It was also suggested by Public Trustee lawyers that they would actively oppose any move by the victim to use her own funds to retain legal counsel of her choice.

Requests to the case manager for details of the legal costs have gone nowhere apart from a suggestion that $28,000 ‘might’ be reviewed by the legal department. Both the Legal Services Commission and the Crime and Corruption Commission refuse to take action against Public Trustee lawyers. Its been suggested that Public Trustee lawyers may not actually be ‘admitted’ lawyers however any relevant legal dispensation that applies expressly precludes non-admitted lawyers from acting for other than the Public Trustee.

I haven’t mentioned the Adult Guardian previously because although supremely inept, the entity (unlike the Public Trustee) has been relatively disconnected at least in this case. Shortly after being appointed by QCAT, there was a meeting between a delegate of the Guardian and the victim. A list of family members was provided with whom no contact whatever was wanted and it was assumed that would be the end of the matter. After numerous issues with family members attempting to make contact with the victim, a second delegate rocked up advising that although she was aware of the victims wishes regarding no contact, she needed to consider the wishes of family members. The victim chose to apply for domestic violence orders to ensure her wishes were honored and since then there has been no further contact from either family members or the Guardian.

Actually there was an event apparently initiated by the second delegate acting in cahoots with an opposite number at the Public Trustee. It appears that these clowns had the bright idea of doing a shonky ACAT test on the victim to justify kidnapping her from her own home and locking her away in some institution. There is no way known any halfway legitimate ACAT test would have worked but neither the Adult Guardian nor the Public Trustee have ever been known for fair play. For various reasons the game didn’t work out as planned by the aforesaid clowns and it would be well nigh impossible to arrange a re-match as we have since obtained a brace of positive medical opinions that even chronically biased QCAT members will have a particularly hard job denying.

A Human Rights Act for Queensland?

As anyone who knows anything about the law in Queensland knows, there are no legal human rights in Queensland except those provided by the Australian constitution – the right to vote, the right to freedom of religion and the implied right to publish material relevant to government policy. Continue reading

The Public Trustee, the Adult (Public) Guardian and their Aboriginal client.

I would like to draw your attention to the situation of a person for whom I advocate, who I will refer to as “the person” so as not to breach confidentiality restrictions. He is a client of the Public Trustee and former client of the Adult Guardian (now known as the Public Guardian).

There are two elements of this story, the Public Trustee and the Adult Guardian but the problem is the combined consequences of the Queensland’s guardianship agencies’ structural inability to engage with Aboriginal clients, their life needs and the perspective of their families. As such, statutory authorities’ substituted decision making on behalf of Aboriginal clients is without insight or sensitivity resulting in a severe disadvantaging of the person.

The person is an Aboriginal man in his early thirties. He grew up in an Aboriginal family in North Queensland. At the age of four he was involved in a car accident and suffered injuries to a leg and an arm. The psychological consequences of the injuries and lifestyle when recuperating manifested as emerging mental health issues as a teenager, as recorded in medico-legal reports. Mental health issues are the only diagnosed medical issues other than orthopedic injuries.

1/ The Public Trustee

1When the person turned 18 he received an insurance payout for the car accident. The amount was enough to buy a house which is what the person and his family wanted it to be spent on. The Supreme Court appointed the Public Trustee to administer the money.

The Public Trustee refused to buy a house for the person, in direct defiance of the will of the person and his family and he consequently lived in a cycle of inappropriate hostels and the streets.

When the person was twenty, his family successfully applied to the (now defunct) Guardianship and Administration Tribunal (GAAT) to replace the Public Trustee as administrators in order to purchase a home for the person.

At this time, the Public Trustee falsely reported to the GAAT that the person had an acquired brain injury. Previous medical reports specifically ruled out a head injury and there were no new diagnoses suggesting a brain injury. This false attribution of an acquired brain injury subsequently informed the decisions of the Adult Guardian and GAAT including being relied on to justify the the removal of the person’s right to make personal decisions and consequent restrictions on contact with his mother including family accommodation and care options.

When the person was 21 a two bedroom unit on the Sunshine Coast and a thirty acre bush block on the Sunshine Coast hinterland were purchased for him by his family trustees – a fulfilling and flexible lifestyle with investment potential. The person was the first person in his family to ever own his own home since the forced removal of his grandparents from their traditional estate.

Shortly after the properties were purchased the Public Trustee was re-appointed administrator. The unit was initially rented out on the open market to pay for Public Trustee fees and the bush block was sold.

When the person was twenty four he lived in a South Brisbane Park for eleven months. Because of his assets, he was ineligible for public housing and basic homelessness safety nets. He had no access to any money as his pension was being paid to the Public Trustee who had no arrangement to deliver it to the person. At the time, the Adult Guardian was appointed as the person’s substituted decision maker for accommodation decisions and would not let him live with his mother. The Adult Guardian was aware that the person was living in the park. At this time the Public Trustee sold the person’s Sunshine Coast unit, which had been bought specifically for the person and a carer to live in and close to health and welfare services. The Public Trustee did not speak to the person, his family or the Adult Guardian in making the decision to sell the unit. For the next four years the person lived in a cycle of living in the park, gaol and age, culture and disability inappropriate nursing homes, after which he has been allowed to live with his family and has lead a stable and happy life, except for insecure accommodation and constant conflict with the Public Trustee about even basics such as access to pension, transport and to get some sort of lifestyle benefit from his assets.

Under the management of the Public Trustee, the person’s life was transformed from an 18 year old with the means of being the first person in his family to own his own home, to a 21 year old that actually owned not just a home but a lifestyle, then to today, a person with fewer accommodation options than the average homeless person. Because the Public Trustee lost a lot of his money in the GFC, he no longer has the means to purchase a home. Yet his remaining assets still make him ineligible for public housing, which also means he is not allowed to live with any family member who is in public housing as his assets are above the household limit. His current carers, pensioners, are ineligible for public housing as long as they live with the person. Except for his current carer’s, all of his extended family live in Public housing. There are ongoing problems with private rental market as he faces racial and disability discrimination, this has never been successful in the past and there are problems at present that are just a continuation of the cycle of insecure accommodation that has existed for most of his life.

His assets also make him ineligible for Legal Aid or Aboriginal legal service representation, both of which he could access if he owned his own home.

When the person’s current carer’s are no longer able to live with him he will be left with the same lack of options that he faced previously including a return to a cycle of gaol and living in the streets. This is no exaggerated prophecy of doom, there simply are no other options. He cannot access public housing, he cannot stay with family in public housing, there are no appropriate supported accommodation programs and he cannot afford his own home. He cannot access basic homelessness services such as housing and legal support.

2/ The Adult Guardian

The Adult Guardian was appointed substituted decision makers for the person’s personal decisions for various things at various times. All appointments were based on the false assumption of the person’s incapacity because of an acquired brain injury despite all medico-legal reports identifying that the person did have the capacity for all personal decisions except the management of his insurance payout. The one single diagnosis of an ABI, five years after it was recorded on all the person’s files and repeatedly reported to GAAT and medical authorities, was made by a doctor that was told by the Adult Guardian that the person had a brain injury, was not provided with any previous medical reports, including a neuro-psychologist report ruling out a brain injury or the most recent medico- legal report that not only diagnosed mental illness but referred the person to a particular hospital mental health unit. The new diagnosis ruled out mental illness, attributing all symptoms to an ABI. The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) that replaced the GAAT for guardianship matters has recently stated that the ABI was a misdiagnosis, but despite this and to the contrary of all previous credible medico-legal reports, QCAT has re-affirmed the presumption of incapacity for personal matters on the basis of this misinformed diagnosis.

The Adult Guardian placed contact restrictions on the person and his mother for six years, against the person’s will, including prohibiting the person being cared for by his mother. An internal Adult Guardian review identifies that the Adult Guardian acted without objectivity towards the person’s mother, made decisions based on insufficient evidence, made culturally inappropriate decisions and made decisions outside of its GAAT appointment. Yet the Adult Guardian restrictions on contact between the person and his mother continued for six years, only ceasing when the person walked out of his nursing home and lived on his mother’s lounge room floor, shortly after which the Adult Guardian’s appointment ended.

The success and stability of the person in the care of his mother since his defiance of Adult Guardian decisions is solid proof of the inappropriateness of the decisions to remove the person from his family. All contemporary reports and policies regarding Aboriginal families specifically identifies the importance of family connections and the disastrous consequences of removing vulnerable people from their families. The internal Adult Guardian report identifies that non-objective and culturally inappropriate decisions were made based on insufficient evidence. The Adult Guardian’s most recent submission to QCAT is that the person’s mother is the most significant and important relationship in the person’s life – after six years of arguing and acting to the contrary.

In the context of severely restricted accommodation options as a result of Public Trustee decisions, the Adult Guardian deprived the person of opportunities of family support during his times of extended homelessness that accompanied periods of serious regression of mental health issues. The Adult Guardian refused to provide mental health services, insisting that the person had an ABI and no mental illness as per the now discredited diagnosis of an ABI, and was consequently referred to an ABI service and then nursing homes. He was prescribed anti-psychotic medication by an in-house G.P. in his last nursing home, shortly before he walked out, but except for that he had received no mental health treatment while under the management of the Adult Guardian.

The Adult Guardian decisions, based on false information of an ABI from the Public Trustee, a documented bias against the person’s mother and a structural incapacity of the Adult Guardian to engage with, let alone make substituted decisions for, their Aboriginal clients, have had a serious consequence on the person’s life including separating him from his primary family support, denying appropriate accommodation, denying appropriate health care and denying appropriate legal representation.

This has resulted in a serious deterioration of the person’s mental health through the stresses of homelessness and repeated unnecessary incarcerations (because he had no fixed address).

The person’s grandmother, who was his co-carer when recuperating from his accident, was forcibly removed from her family as a child and sent to Palm Island. From that time until after the person’s mother was born, the family had their lives and wages managed by statutory agencies – the “protection” system. The grandmother’s wages were held by the state yet she was never allowed to benefit from it, begging permission to buy basics for her family. The person’s insurance payout and the possibility of home ownership represented a break from the cycle of enforced poverty and institutional powerlessness, but instead this same cycle has been repeated in this generation.

They left only his hat

(This is just a small part of this person’s story. His supporters have previously published the whole story and been order by QCAT to remove it)

Somewhere between 7am and 10 am on Thursday 15 October 2014 they came for him at his home in Sunnybank.

His carer had just left for work. No warning was given to his’s unpaid carer or his support people despite the fact that we are all listed in various government agencies as his friends and support people.

He has been in good health and in good spirits. His mind is active and his memory good.

They took him away and they took his wife’s ashes too. They left his hat.

They left his two dogs (Phoebe and Harry) at the glass front door. I saw them waiting patiently for him when I arrived at 10 am. When I asked people at the local shopping centre if they had seen him, they said that they knew him but had not seen him.

Those that took him have a motto: ‘Protecting the rights of vulnerable Queenslanders’.

‘They’ call themselves the Public Guardian of Queensland (until recently, the Adult Guardian).

We are concerned about the mental anguish they have caused him by taking him from his home.

The Public Guardian refused to tell his carer or support people where they put him and would not give any reasons why.

We have made written complaint to both the Public Guardian and the Ombudsman.

We have complained in person to the Brisbane Manager of the Adult Guardian and to the Public Trustee.

We have sought an order from Qld Civil Administration Tribunal (QCAT) for the Public Guardian to be removed as his guardian and that he be returned home. To no avail. He has been locked up in a high security RSL facility on the Sunshine Coast for six long months, over 100 kilometres away from his friends and supporters.

None have responded to our questions or given reasons for their actions.