Adult guardianship and orders

If a person is unable to make thoughtful decisions based on information about parts of their life, then they may need a guardian to make decisions for them.

A guardian is a person chosen to make decisions on behalf of someone who is unable to make decisions for themselves to make sure their needs are met and their interests protected.

For more information on guardianship laws, regulations and the Public Guardian go to the Department of Attorney General and Justice website.


A guardian can be a family member, close friend, professional, a person who is related to the adult through customary law or tradition, or anyone who has an interest in the wellbeing of an adult with impaired decision-making capacity.

Guardians must be over the age of 18 to be appointed.

Sometimes there is no one who is suitable to be appointed guardian, in these cases the Public Guardian or Public Trustee may be appointed to act on the adult's behalf. There may be someone willing, but they may not be eligible or suitable, so in this case others may be appointed.

Decision-making capacity

You are accepted as having decision-making capacity if you can:

  • understand and remember information about your own personal and financial matters
  • consider the information and then make sound decisions
  • communicate those decisions in some way - in writing, by talking or in sign language.

Impaired decision-making capacity

If an adult is unable to make sound decisions as described above, they are considered to have impaired decision-making ability.

Decision-making capacity may be impaired even if the impairment is episodic (varies from time to time) or if their decision-making capacity in other matters is not impaired.

Eligibility for a guardian

You can have a guardian appointed if:

  • NTCAT is satisfied that you have impaired decision-making capacity
  • the effect of the impairment means that for some or all personal or financial matters you are unable to make reasoned or informed decisions
  • you are in need of a guardian for some or all of these matters.

Apply for a guardian

You or any person interested in your wellbeing can apply for a guardianship order.

You need to apply to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

You should not need a lawyer, but you can choose to organise your own lawyer to represent you at NTCAT.

Interested person

An interested person for an adult means any of the following:

  • relative of the adult
  • agent for the adult
  • guardian for the adult
  • Public Guardian
  • Public Trustee
  • person who is primarily responsible for providing support or care to the adult
  • any other person who has a genuine and sufficient interest in protecting the adult's best interests.

Guardianship orders

Guardianship orders are individual to the person and what they need.

The guardianship order will detail the personal matters, financial matters, or both for which a guardian has power to make decisions.

More than one guardian may be appointed for each or all matters if needed. If guardians are appointed jointly, they have equal responsibility for decision making.

Guardianship orders are given a reassessment date, but an adult under a guardianship order, or any interested person for the adult, can apply to NTCAT for a reassessment at any time.

NTCAT will then consider the appropriateness of the guardianship order and if any change should be made in the person(s) who is appointed or the terms of the order.

Short term guardianship

NTCAT can make an interim, or short term, guardianship order if NTCAT believes the adult has impaired decision-making capacity and is in urgent need of a guardian for some or all financial or personal matters.

An interim guardianship order will expire 90 days after the order is made unless the order expires on an earlier date, is cancelled by NTCAT, or NTCAT decides the application should become a full guardianship order rather than an interim order.

Interim guardianship may be renewed once for a period of up to 90 days.

Non-compliant guardians

Guardianship is a very important role. If a guardian is not doing the right thing then anyone who is worried about the wellbeing of the person can ask NTCAT to reassess the situation.

NTCAT will also look at the behaviour of the person who is the guardian to make sure they are doing what is best for the person. NTCAT can make changes to the guardianship order or make a complaint about the behaviour of a Public Guardian.

Contact Office of the Public Guardian

Office of the Public Guardian
Phone: 1800 810 979


Darwin Corporate Park
Building 3, Level 1
631 Stuart Highway 
Berrimah NT

PO Box 40596
Casuarina NT 0811

Alice Springs

1st floor, Jalistan House
18 Parsons Street
Alice Springs NT 0870

PO Box 721
Alice Springs NT

NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal

Go to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Last updated: 03 January 2018

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