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Government appoints new Queensland Public Guardian and Public Advocate

The State Government has announced the appointments of senior government lawyer Shayna Smith as Queensland’s Public Guardian and Victorian Dr John Chesterman as Queensland’s Public Advocate.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman, in a statement released late yesterday (Tuesday 29 June), said Ms Smith had acted as Queensland’s Public Guardian since March 2020 and was Deputy Public Guardian from November 2015.

She said Dr Chesterman had extensive experience in the justice and reform system and had previously served as Deputy Public Advocate in Victoria.

As Queensland Public Guardian, Ms Smith is vested by the Government with decision-making powers under the Public Guardian Act 2014, the Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 and the Powers of Attorney Act 1998.

The appointment of Ms Smith makes her the Chief Executive Officer of the Office of the Public Guardian – an independent statutory office established to protect the rights, interests and wellbeing of adults with impaired decision-making capacity, and children and young people in the child protection system (foster care, kinship care and residential care) and at other visitable sites such a youth detention centre, disability service or mental health facility.

As Queensland’s new Public Advocate, Dr Chesterman is charged with working on behalf of adults with impaired decision-making capacity to:

  • promote and protect their rights, including protecting them from neglect, exploitation and abuse
  • encourage the development of programs to help them reach the greatest degree of autonomy, and
  • promote, monitor and review the provision of services and facilities for them.

 Ms Fentiman said Dr Chesterman’s recognised advocacy on behalf of vulnerable and marginalised Australians made him an excellent choice for the role. 

“Dr Chesterman has been a strong advocate in protecting the rights and interests of adults with impaired decision-making capacity in his role with the Victorian Office of the Public Advocate,” she said.

“He is also one of Australia’s leading experts in the fields of social care and adult safeguarding. His research has influenced legislation and developments across Australia, particularly in the areas of supported decision-making, guardianship, powers of attorney, advance planning, medical consent and elder abuse.’’

Ms Fentiman said Ms Smith was also highly qualified for her new role, having stepped in as acting Public Guardian in March 2020 just as COVID-19 presented challenges to agencies across government.

“Under Ms Smith’s leadership, the initiative and commitment of staff ensured the Office of the Public Guardian was able to adapt to continue to deliver their vital services to some of Queensland’s most vulnerable people.

“Before joining the office as Deputy Public Guardian, Ms Smith gained more than 14 years’ experience working in government policy and legislation in the areas of fair trading, liquor, education, and justice, with a strong focus on consumer protection.”

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