Access to documents - guardians and administrators cases
Find out how to apply for access to documents in a case about guardians and administrators, or to keep them confidential.
If the person the VCAT case is about doesn’t have capacity to express their wishes or make submissions about access to documents about them, their administrator or financial enduring power of attorney can do it for them.
Confidentiality of information
Under the law, no-one can publish or broadcast a report identifying any party in a case about guardians, administrators or powers of attorney, unless we order it. There are penalties for doing this.
Under the law documents may only be used for the purpose of the VCAT hearing they were submitted for and no other purpose. This means if the documents haven’t been used in evidence at the hearing, people involved in the case can’t use them for any other purpose.
This is called the ‘Harman obligations’. If you want to use documents from the case for another purpose, you must ask us for an order to allow it.
Access to documents before a hearing
You can ask for documents you submit not to be disclosed to a specific person or type of persons by applying for confidentiality.
Even if you’ve applied for confidentiality, the VCAT member may decide it’s necessary to show or give a copy of a document to the other people involved in a case about guardians and administrators.
The party who asks for access to documents before a hearing will usually be given access to them so they can prepare. In some cases, if the person who gave us the document doesn’t want access allowed and it's sensitive, we may refuse the request.
The application for access may be refused and can then be reviewed at the hearing.
If you think you’re disadvantaged by only seeing or being told about documents when you come to the hearing you can ask for the hearing to be delayed (adjourned) so you can prepare a response to the information. The member decides if the hearing will be delayed.
Access to documents at a hearing
At a hearing, it’s important that everyone knows the information that will help the member make a decision. Where that information is sensitive, the member may make the information available to all parties, but not necessarily to people at the hearing who aren’t parties (‘interested persons’.)
How the information is made available is up to the member to decide. For example, if copies of sensitive documents or confidential documents have been given to the parties at the hearing, they may be collected again at the end of the hearing.
Access to documents when there is no further hearing planned
While the law allows access to VCAT files for both parties and non-parties, we also have the power to prevent access to some files or documents to some (or all) of the people involved.
We are given confidential and sensitive documents to help us make decisions about:
- appointing guardians, administrators, supportive guardians or supportive administrators
- making orders about medical treatment or powers of attorney.
Possible reasons for VCAT to prevent a person having access to a file or to a document on a file are:
- access would or may cause serious harm to the health or safety of a person
- access would be unreasonable disclosure of a person’s personal affairs
- access would be a breach of confidence
- the document isn’t relevant to the VCAT case.
Applications to access sensitive documents
If a VCAT member making a decision about your application for access to sensitive documents is considering refusing access, they will explain the reasons why.
You also have an opportunity to make a submission in response.
- If you don’t make a submission, we consider the request withdrawn.
- If you make a submission, we consider the request further and may then tell all the parties in the case that they can make a submission.
- We can decide that submissions may be in writing or made at a directions hearing.
When submissions are made and a hearing is held (if needed), the member decides to disclose the documents or prevent access.
What’s a sensitive document?
A document may contain sensitive personal information which shouldn’t lightly be disclosed to all parties. This includes information given in confidence (for example, by a medical practitioner) and information about a person’s health, finances or other personal affairs or family or domestic issues.
If the person the VCAT case is about dies, their legal personal representative (for example, their executor) can give consent or make submissions about access to documents about them.
Apply for confidentiality
Most VCAT files, hearings and decisions are open to the public and media. If you want information to stay private, you must apply for confidentiality.
When there’s a VCAT application about you
Find out what this means, how you’re involved, and what happens next.
Other things we can do
We can help resolve issues or give you advice about existing guardians, administrators, supportive guardians or supportive administrators.