The ACT Official Visitor Scheme provides independent oversight of services for people in government institutions and community facilities who are dependent on service providers.
The objective of the Scheme is to identify and address systemic service issues in the diverse environments of:
- Mental Health
- Children and Young People and
- Housing Assistance.
Official Visitors visit [entitled people (58Kb)] at [visitable places (61Kb)] and report to Operational Ministers and other public authorities. Official Visitors also fulfil a more direct and informal function within their respective jurisdictions by resolving grievances and lesser issues with service providers or institutional authorities.
The Scheme is administered by the Office of the Public Trustee and Guardian.
Who are Official Visitors?
Official Visitors are engaged as independent statutory office holders, appointed by the Minister for Human Rights for their skills and expertise. They are appointed for a maximum term of three years and may be re-appointed for a further term.
Official Visitors visit Bimberi (youth detention facility) and residential out-of-home care facilities for children and young people, the Alexander Maconochie Centre (prison), mental health facilities, accommodation for people with disability (including aged care facilities) and accommodation for people requiring housing assistance.
The Official Visitor Scheme has appointed several Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Official Visitors to better meet the needs of Indigenous people in respect to Corrections and Children and Young People. People in other types of accommodation can request to meet with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Official Visitor.
Official Visitors are empowered by law to meet and talk with entitled people in visitable places to hear their concerns and help them resolve any complaints. They observe the environment and staff interaction with residents and patients, make enquiries and inspect documents, communicate with residents and patients to ensure they are being cared for and supported with dignity, respect, and identify any issues of concern. They can visit unannounced.
Official Visitors can raise issues with service provider management and the relevant Operational Directorates and may meet with and discuss matters with the Public Advocate, the Public Trustee and Guardian and other ACT Government officials, including the Human Rights Commission. Serious complaints of assault or other criminal activity may be referred to police.
The findings, observations and recommendations of Official Visitors are compiled in a quarterly report to the Operational Minister giving those Ministers valuable and direct insight into what is happening in these places.
They also report to the Minister for Human Rights, as Minister responsible for the Official Visitor Act 2012.
The Scheme is established by the Official Visitor Act 2012.
Other legislation dealing with Official Visitors may be found in:
- Children and Young People Act 2008
- Mental Health Act 2015
- Corrections Management Act 2007
- Disability Services Act 1991
- Housing Assistance Act 2007
The Official Visitors Board
The Official Visitors Board has been established by s. 23A of the Official Visitor Act 2012.
The Board comprises:
- the Chair as appointed by the Minister
- at least one Commissioner under the Human Rights Commission Act 2005 nominated by the Commissioners under that Act
- two Official Visitors elected by the Official Visitors and
- any other members appointed by the Minister.
The Board has the following functions:
- oversee the exercise of functions by Official Visitors
- arrange for the recruitment, induction, training and support of Official Visitors
- provide support for and manage the exercise of functions by Official Visitors
- consider and try to resolve any complaints about Official Visitors and
- any other function given to the Board under legislation.
The Board is assisted in the administration of the Scheme by an Executive Officer, who is a member of the staff of the Public Trustee and Guardian.
The Board makes a summary report to the Minister at the end of each financial year about:
- the number of:
- visits by Official Visitors to visitable places
- complaints received by Official Visitors in relation to visitable places
- referrals of complaints to investigative entities
- the action taken on complaints received
- any systemic issues in relation to the operation of the Act identified by the Board
- the number and kinds of matters referred by Official Visitors to an investigative entity and
- the number of times an Official Visitor inspected records in accordance with s. 15(2)(b).