After 11 years of campaigning, finally a national television program is to reveal the sins of the public trustee of Queensland, or will they? And if they have what good will it do? Will the Qld government set up yet another inquiry to cover up the corruption? Three Queensland Premiers and their Attorneys General have known about the Public Trustee’s criminal maladministration in Queensland over those 11 years and have not fixed the problem. They should place the Qld Public Trustee back into the public service, properly regulated and make advice about ordinary people’s estates free of charge.
State Control: Australians trapped, stripped of assets and silenced reported by Anne Connolly, goes to air on Monday 14th March 2022 at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 15th March at 11.00pm and Wednesday 16th at 10am. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.
Here is one story Four Corners left out.
“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.” ― Franz Kafka, The Trial
They left only his hat On Thursday 16 October 2104 at 10 am I arrived at the Sunnybank home of my friend, Ross, a man of 80 years. I had told Ross through other friends (Bernie and Rosslyn) to expect me. The front gate was not properly locked; I found his two dogs (Harry and Phoebe) waiting behind the glass doors. I could see Ross’s hat hanging up on its stand. He never leaves home without his hat. I went to nearby Sunnybank plaza searching for him.
I asked people at the shopping centre who knew him if they had seen Ross. No luck. I returned to the house and rang Bernie.
I checked the doors to the house. They were locked as were the windows. Bernie and I discussed where Ross could be. Later that night I received a call from Bernie. He told me that Rosslyn, his carer, had come home from work and Ross was still not there. This concerned me because of the way Ross had been taken advantage of by fraudsters – a crooked accountant, an architect and a political activist. Whoever took Ross had left his two dogs at the glass front door. They had not locked the front gate properly. I was aware that Ross had been under the control of the Public Guardian since 2009 for health, accommodation and contact matters even though he lived in his marital home. His wife Ellen passed away early in 2004.
I was always suspicious of the arrangement with the public trustee and the guardian as I had accompanied Ross to make a complaint about how badly his affairs were being managed. Ross asked the Public Trustee what had happened to his main retirement asset, a building in West End. Ross and his friends took the matter to Queensland Civil Administration Tribunal bit to no avail.
At 3pm on Friday 17 October 2014, I made a visit to the Office of the Public Guardian at Brisbane Magistrates court on level 3 at 363 George St Brisbane. On arrival, I signed the register and spoke to the receptionist and asked to speak to the guardian about Ross’s whereabouts.
After several minutes wait, the receptionist returned saying that I should go to the guardian’s office and gave me an address in South Brisbane on a yellow post-it note. I said I wished to make a complaint, that all I wanted was to find out where he was. It became apparent that someone in the back room was giving me the run around.
So, after another delay I spoke with the complaints officer (Megan) who told me that the regional manager was dealing with the matter and was currently with the public trustee and could not be contacted.
I said I was not leaving the office without finding out where Ross was and to make sure he was alright.
I gave the complaints officer, Megan, my details and told her that I had tried to contact Kevin Martin, the Guardian, and a case officer, Kelly, earlier in the day but had received no response, only voice messages saying they were unavailable. I told Megan I had made a written request to find out where Ross was. Megan asked me if a person was living in Ross’s house.
I said that I was not going to be cross-examined. Megan told me that she would not help me unless I answered her questions. I told her my contact details and the complaints officer left.
At 3.20 I rang the a/Public Trustee, Mark Crofton, on his mobile phone and left a message. The Public Trustee is responsible for Ross’s financial affairs. I then rang a solicitor to ask for his advice. He said that I should try to persuade them to tell me where Ross was and, failing that, to make an urgent application to Queensland Administration Tribunal as a friend and support person for Ross.
At about 3.40 pm a man came to the counter and said that the regional manager, Therese Craig, would ring me next Monday. He did not identify himself so I asked his name. He said that he was Brian Norman, the office manager, and that he could make no further comment.
I said that I did not understand – all I wanted to know was where Ross is and if he was alright. Brian Norman told me that Ross was alive and well. I said that I was Ross’s friend and wished to find out for myself; that I had visited Ross on Thursday and found that he was not at home.
I told him that Ross was expecting me and I was concerned that he might be upset. Brian Norman said that he could not help me. I said that I did not understand and left.
At 4 pm I received a call from the Public Trustee’s officer, Clinton Myles, who told me that he had been instructed by Mark Crofton acting public trustee to give me a call and let me know who was dealing with the matter. He told me that Ian Spalding at the guardian’s office was handling Ross’s case and gave me his phone number. At 4:16 pm I rang Ian Spalding and received a voice message saying he was unavailable.
I left a message.
Soon after, I rang another manager, Tim Brown, and received yet another voice message. I left another message.
None of the guardian staff ever responded to my messages of concern. On Monday 20 October 2014 at about 10 am, I attended the Office of Public Guardian with another of Ross’s friends, Bernie. I asked to speak with Ms Therese Craig. We waited for some time. While waiting I attempted to ring Ms Craig without any luck. Finally I received a call from Ms Craig and placed the call on speakerphone so that Ms Craig could converse with Bernie who is Ross’s main point of contact and support person. Ms Craig told me Ross’s whereabouts were 100 kilometres away and that he was permitted visitors but was not permitted to leave the facility.
After a long period I was informed Ross was being held at the RSL Care facility. Reasons were not given. Later I received an email from Lisa Pool from the guardian’s office which said that Ross had been taken to RSL Care on the Sunshine Coast to better look after his needs. The email said that Ross was high care and that is why he was transferred to the dementia facility at Alexandra Headlands. So I made complaints in person and in writing to the Public Guardian Officers, Tim Brown and Therese Craig.
Tim Brown refused to give reasons for their actions and refused to tell me when I could expect a written response to my complaint and my concerns. Therese Craig said that they would respond to my concerns by 31 October 2014. Ms Craig did not honour her promise.
It is now 2018 and Ross is still locked up in a facility over 100 kilometres from his friends and support.
The real reason why Ross was abducted from his home was so that the crooked accountant could sell the property and so that the public trustee could wipe his hands of the matter.
There is a transparent attempt by those responsible for his abduction to absolve their departments of elder abuse. They placed Ross in a high secure facility where management were briefed to monitor and record all interactions his ‘Brisbane friends’ had with Ross on our visits. There is a constant refrain from the Office of Public Guardian that visits by ‘Brisbane friends’ are the cause of Ross’s distress when the real cause are the actions all their officers and the fraudsters.
Ross is a victim of crime and these ‘sage’ lawyers are no better than those who defrauded him of his retirement savings. Ross was kidnapped so that his crooked accountant could sell his house and the public trustee could wipe his hands of the whole affair.
I don’t believe Ross ever had dementia; I think he had a stroke, was grieving for his wife and prone to trusting friends who betrayed that trust.
I have visited Ross at the Sunshine Coast. He is now 85 and does have some ageing issues but is still in good spirits.
He still wants those ‘thieving bastards’ brought to justice. We now appreciate how different arms of government work against the aged and vulnerable in this case The Public Trustee, Public Guardian and Qld Civil Administration Tribunal (QCAT).
Ian Curr September 2018
State Control: Australians trapped, stripped of assets and silenced
“It could happen to you, it could happen to me, it can happen to anybody. I’ve seen it.” Advocate, Tasmania
On Monday, a Four Corners investigation will reveal the stories of Australians who say they’ve been virtually abducted by the state, stripped of their assets and stopped from speaking out, until now.
“They can use your personal funds, your life savings, to fight you, to keep you entrapped in this system.” Advocate, Victoria
Some 50,000 Australians are currently under the control of Public Guardian and Trustee agencies around the country. By law, these ‘clients’ are banned from speaking out about what happens to them, and journalists can be fined or jailed for reporting on them. Four Corners went to court to fight for the right to have their voices heard.
“They are evil. They’re terrible. They are heartless. They are thoughtless. And they’re just money-hungry users.” Former Queensland Trustee ‘client’
Four Corners has uncovered astonishing cases where individuals say they are being held against their will and prevented from living in their own homes.
“I don’t like being effectively locked up. I want to live in the real world where I can do the things that I have done, and would do, and will do, I’m very lonely here for that reason. I don’t have anybody to talk to.” Trustee and Guardian ‘client’
And despite the Public Trustees’ express aim being to protect the health and finances of their ‘clients’, the investigation will reveal startling cases of financial mismanagement and fee gouging by these agencies around the country.
“The Public Trustee are the biggest perpetrators of financial abuse of elders. And this is actually legal, and this is part of the system. So, this to me is state sanctioned elder abuse.” Advocate, Queensland
This investigation, more than a year in the making, will expose how the system, designed to protect the vulnerable, does the very opposite.
“They’re a law unto themselves, they’re a power unto themselves. There needs to be some oversight into how their decisions are being made.” Daughter of a Public Trustee ‘client’, Western Australia
State Control, reported by Anne Connolly, goes to air on Monday 14th March at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 15the March at 11.00pm and Wednesday 16th at 10am. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.