Legal work during the AIDS Crisis: Alan Farrar
17 Sep 2021
As part of a new series from HALC featuring the longstanding lawyers behind the service for PLHIV, this interview with Alan Farrar discusses the work he did during the height of the AIDS crisis in Melbourne.
When did you start volunteering at HALC? What areas did you (or currently) practice in within your capacity at HALC?
I started in 2010. I handle estate planning matters: Wills, Enduring Financial Powers of Attorney & Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Makers (the new, cumbersome version of Medical Powers of Attorney).
What were the most common issues that clients approached you with during your time spent at HALC?
Clients want either to make a Will of modify an existing one. As most clients I meet at HALC are either single or in a domestic partnership, it is critically important that they also obtain an Enduring Financial Powers of Attorney (EPA) and an Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Makers (Med Treat).
An EPA enables the client to appoint one or more people to act on his or her behalf for financial and related legal matters while he or she is alive but unable to act for him or herself.
The Med Treat enables the client to appoint a Medical Treatment Decision Maker and an alternate one. Such person can then decide which doctor and which hospital the appointor sees or attends and can authorise medical operations and medication.
If a client does not have either or both these documents and the need for one or both arises and the client is not in a position to give instructions for the relevant document to be produced, someone, acting on the client’s behalf, has to approach the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (‘VCAT’) and ask to be appointed as the clients Administrator (financial & legal matters) or Guardian (medical matters) or both.
Once appointed, the Administrator or Guardian has to report back to VCAT every year and itemise every act he or she has done using that power. VCAT have a responsibility to check that the appointment(s) they have made is being used appropriately.
Understandable, but very time consuming and intrusive.
How did the general public respond to your work?
Most appreciate what is being done and the need for doing it.
Reflecting on your experience volunteering at HALC - if you could give a piece of advice to a practising lawyer today, what would it be?
Am I naïve in thinking that a lawyer will act for someone in exactly the same way for who has HIV/AIDS as for someone who doesn’t?
Rather than give advice to a practising lawyer, my advice is to anyone with HIV/AIDS: If you encounter a lawyer who in anyway exhibits negative behaviour towards you on the basis of your HIV/AIDS, sack that lawyer immediately and look elsewhere. Don’t waste time!