Missing Persons guide already proving its worth

In 2011 a Bendigo family asked our service for help in dealing with the affairs of their missing son. Their previous attempts to handle his legal and financial affairs had been stonewalled because they had no legal rights to do so.Off the back of this personal tragedy, we called for a change in legislation to allow for the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to appoint people to administer the affairs of missing persons in Victoria. This call received bipartisan support.

Since this legislative change, at least three applications have been made to VCAT for an administration order. While the circumstances facing the applicants are terrible, we’re pleased that at least there is now a legal mechanism to help them to deal with the practicalities.

In conjunction with the change to the law, we produced a guide for families and friends of missing people: Safe Keeping – a Guide to Managing the Affairs of Missing Persons. The guide explains what is involved when families and friends of missing persons need to manage the latter’s financial and legal affairs. The guide was funded by the Victoria Law Foundation and produced with the assistance of stakeholders including Victoria Police, VCAT, State Trustees and the Coroner’s Court. It was launched in January.

Soon after its launch we received the following praise for the guide from a woman whose son went missing (we have edited it for clarity and reproduce it with her permission):

“I am writing to thank you for producing this brochure on how to look after the assets of missing persons. I only wish this had been there when our son went missing.

[The] situation we were in was terrible. Our son is mentally ill and walked out on his home leaving bills and a mortgage, which we took over. But as you know, trying to deal with departments and banks is terrible. We were able to go to VCAT and gained the right to look after his assets and sell his home. He actually has gone missing again. I feel this is going to be an ongoing thing for us.

Thankyou again,

I am sure it will help other families.”

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