The following generic powers apply to all Official Visitors in the ACT. Further powers apply to specific Official Visitors under individual Operational Acts (see over) -
Primary functions of an Official Visitor
- Visit ‘visitable places’ as defined in Operational Acts
- Report to the Minister on non-compliant places, and any complaints raised
- Receive/consider complaints from ‘entitled persons’ and others on their behalf
- Be available to talk to entitled persons or persons with concerns about an entitled person
- Exercise any other function under the relevant operational Act
Powers of an Official Visitor
- Attend a visitable place at any time following a raised complaint, or at their own initiative
- Access any health or other record relating to an entitled person with their written or oral consent
- Access any record required to be kept under the Operational Act
- Other powers as specific to the Operational Acts
Requirements of a visitable place
- Notify an Official Visitor as soon as possible, but no later than 24 hours of any request by an entitled person to speak with an Official Visitor
- An entitled person cannot be asked why, nor do they need to provide details on why they want to speak with an Official Visitor
- Persons may request to speak with an Official Visitor of a specific gender, and to speak with an Official Visitor with no-one else present
- Provide all reasonable assistance to the Official Visitor that they ask for to exercise their functions, including answering all questions asked
- Keep records of each visit by an Official Visitor
- Provide information to all entitled persons on the functions of the Official Visitor, and how they may be contacted
Further specific powers contained in Operational Acts
Children and Young People Act 2008
- To request sensitive information following complaint (S.39)
Disability Services Act 1991
- To visit a visitable place providing at least 24 hour’s notice of the visit (S.8C(1)).
- To visit a visitable place without giving notice if the Official Visitor believes, or has been given a complaint, that a person is at risk or if the entitled person consents (S.8C(2)).
- To visit a non-visitable place after giving the owner of, or entity operating the place at least 24 hours written notice only with the person’s consent and at a reasonable time (S.8B(3)).
Housing Assistance Act 2007
- To visit a visitable place after providing the operating entity 24 hours’ notice (S.25W(1)).
- To visit a visitable place without providing the operating entity 24 hours’ notice if the Official Visitor reasonably believes that a person is at risk of abuse or harm and if the person consents to the visit (S.25W(2)).
Mental Health Act 2015
To enquire into –
- the adequacy of services provided at a visitable place for the assessment and treatment of people with a mental disorder or a mental illness (S.211(a)).
- the appropriateness and standard of facilities at a visitable place for the recreation, occupation, education, training and rehabilitation of people receiving treatment, care or support for mental disorder or a mental illness (S.211(b)).
- the extent to which people receiving treatment, care or support for mental disorder or a mental illness at a visitable place are being provided the best possible treatment, care or support appropriate to their needs in the least possible restrictive environment and least possible intrusive manner consistent with the effective giving of that treatment, care or support;
- any other matter that an official visitor considers appropriate S.211(d)).