CASE STUDY: The state of things

The state of things

Australia doesn't have a national law covering advance care planning; instead, each state and territory has its own requirements. It is helpful to understand the requirements of your own state of territory when writing an Advance Care Plan, and the National Advance Care Planning (ACP) Advisory Service can help.

Helana Kelly is the Project officer for ACPA Advisory Service. She has spoken with many people about advance care planning and frequently advises people about transferring or adapting their Advance Care Plans between states and territories. Here, Helana describes two situations where people needed to consider the requirements of another state as well as their own. 

Maria* contacted the ACP Advisory Service from Queensland. She was going to visit her parents in New South Wales and they had arranged that, as a family, they would discuss advance care planning. Maria, her sister, and her parents were going to write their own Advance Care Plans. Maria had begun to understand that there might be different advance care planning requirements between Queensland and New South Wales.

Helana was able to explain differences between the two states: in New South Wales, for example, appointing an enduring guardian (substitute decision-maker) requires a witness.

"Maria was concerned that her parents lived in a small rural town and that they might not have access to the right person. I was able to look at the New South Wales requirements and see that the local court registrar could witness the form. And between us, we figured out that in Maria's parents' town, they could ask the court registrar to help them."

Helana says she heard of other instances of family members from multiple states gathering to discuss advance care planning as a family. In addition to explaining state and territory requirements, Helana says, "We can provide other things, like conversation starters and identifying ways that might be appropriate within your family to start the conversation - just helping people in a practical way. The discussion about advance care planning is quite different from simply filling in a form, and families can benefit from getting support."

In another example, Cristina* contacted the ACP Advisory Service to find out whether her Advance Care Plan, prepared in the Northern Territory, would still be valid when she moved to Sydney later in the year. She had appointed several substitute decision-makers, including the public trustee in the Northern Territory. 

"The discussion about advance care planning is quite different from simply filling in a form, and families can benefit from getting support." 

"We got in touch with the New South Wales Office of the Public Advocate on Cristina's behalf and their advice was that the plan would be respected within New South Wales. However, Cristina needed to fill in a new form in New South Wales appointing her enduring guardians, and in New South Wales, unlike the Norther Territory, she couldn't choose to have a public trustee as one of her substitute decision-makers. The Office of the Public Advocate said it would be a simple process for Cristina if she made an appointment with them when she was in Sydney, to get all forms filled out correctly." 

Helana explains that some states/territories recognise advance planning documents from other states, but some don't. 

"The benefit of ACPA having a national perspective is that we have investigated the legal differences by state and territory and have national resources by state and territory and have national resources we can share with people contacting the service. If we don't have the information to hand, we can certainly find it out for people. Most people can get all the information they need from a single inquiry, and further information is available on our website as we have a network of organisations and provide expertise."

*Names have been changed.