A-Z of common terms

     Glossary (Noun): An alphabetical list of words relating to a specific subject, text, or dialect, with explanations; a brief dictionary.

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Advance Care Directive (ACD)

Term used in NSW, SA, TAS, VIC

A document completed and signed by a competent consumer who still has decision-making capacity regarding their future care and preferences for end-of-life care.

In Australia, advance care directives are recognised by specific legislation or common law. Advance care directives can record the person’s preferences for future care and/or appoint a substitute decision-maker to make decisions about the person’s health care.

Other terms used are:

  • ACT - Health Direction
  • NT - Advance Personal Plan
  • QLD & WA - Advance Health Directive

Advance Care Planning (ACP)

The process of planning for future health and personal care

whereby the person’s values, beliefs and preferences are made known so they guide decision-making at a future time when that person cannot make or communicate their decisions.

Aged Care Act 1997 (the)

The overarching legislation

which outlines the obligations and responsibilities that aged care providers must follow to received subsidies from the Australian Government.

Link to Aged Care Act 1997  Visit the  Aged Care Act 1997 website

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC)

The Commission

The national end to end regulator of aged care services, and the primary point of contact for consumers and providers in relation to quality and safety in aged care in Australia.

The Commission's primary purpose is to protect and enhance the safety, health, well-being and quality of life of aged care consumers; to promote aged care consumers’ confidence and trust in the provision of aged care services; and to promote engagement with aged care consumers about the quality of their care and services.

Link to ACQSC website  Visit the ACQSC Commission website




People, charities and/or organisations

who you decide will receive or benefit from your estate when you pass away.



A person's ability to understand

facts about their choices, weigh up the consequences (the risks and benefits) of making choices, and communicate consistent choices. 

Capacity - Impaired (incompetent)

Lacking decision making capacity

A person has impaired capacity if they are not capable of understanding information, balancing and weighing that information, and then being able to come to a decision. In the health care context this information includes the proposed treatment, alternatives to the treatment, and the consequences of the proposed and alternative treatment options.


Amazing individuals!!

A person who provides personal care, support and assistance to another individual who needs it because they have a disability, medical condition (including a terminal or chronic illness) or mental illness, or they are frail and aged.

An individual is not a carer merely because they are a spouse, de facto partner, parent, child, other relative or guardian of an individual, or live with an individual who requires care. A

person is not considered a carer if they are paid, a volunteer for an organisation or caring as part of a training or education program.


Permission for something to happen

Generally, for a person to provide valid consent to medical treatment, he or she must have:

  • the capacity to make treatment decisions;
  • the consent must be free and voluntary; and
  • the consent must cover the act to be performed.

A voluntary decision is one that is freely made by the person in response to an understanding of the treatment options. There must be no undue pressure, coercion or manipulation.



Irreversible cessation of all function

of the brain (brain death) or irreversible cessation of circulation of blood (circulatory death).

De facto relationship

Where two people are not married

but are living with one another as partners, including same-sex couples.


Duress and undue influence

occurs when someone is pressured by another person to write their will in a particular way to the point where they are not acting freely.

Doctrine of double effect

A doctrine based on moral philosophy

used in the context of palliative care. It recognises that medication may be given (usually by a health professional) to a person where the primary intention is to relieve pain (the good effect), even if it hastens the person’s death (the bad effect).

Doula, death. (end of life doula, death midwife)

A non-medical carer who assists in the dying process

An end-of-life doula is a person who provides emotional, social, spiritual and practical support to those who are planning for, or nearing end-of-life.

They focus on a continuity of care throughout all stages of end-of-life, which typically begins with diagnosis and proceeds through to death, and then beyond into post-death bereavement support.  

A lot of Doula's in Australia have a background particularly in medical and/or palliative care treatment. 


Link to wikipediaRead more on Wikipedia 


The terminal phase of life

where death is imminent and likely to occur within hours or days, or occasionally weeks. This is sometimes referred to as ‘actively dying’. 


End of life

The period of living, and impaired

by, a fatal condition, even if the trajectory is ambiguous or unknown.

This period may be years in the case of patients with chronic or malignant disease, or very brief in the case of patients who suffer acute and unexpected illnesses or events, such as sepsis, stroke or trauma.

Enduring Guardian

NSW - A person you appoint

to make health and lifestyle decisions on your behalf if you become unable to, due to injury, illness or disability.

Enduring Guardianship

NSW - A legal document

that allows you to appoint an Enduring Guardian(s) to make health and lifestyle decisions on your behalf if you become unable to, due to injury, illness or disability.

Enduring Power of Attorney

NSW - A legal document

that allows you to appoint a person(s) to manage financial and legal decisions on your behalf and continues even if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself.


Assets and liabilities

All assets (things owned) and liabilities (things owed) of a person.

For a deceased person, assets and liabilities are the person’s deceased estate.

Estate planning

A planning process

Preparing to protect and transfer assets after you pass away in the most financially efficient and tax effective way.


Euthanasia is a deliberate, intentional act

of one person to end the life of another person in order to relieve that person’s suffering.

The term euthanasia is often used in different ways. Three of the most common are:

  • Voluntary euthanasia: Euthanasia is performed at the request of the person whose life is ended, and that person is competent. For example, a doctor injects a competent person, at their request, with a lethal substance to relieve that person from unbearable physical pain.
  • Non-voluntary euthanasia: Euthanasia is performed and the person is not competent. For example, a doctor injects a person in a post-coma unresponsive state (sometimes referred to as a persistent vegetative state) with a lethal substance.
  • Involuntary euthanasia: Euthanasia is performed and the person is competent but has not expressed the wish to die or has expressed a wish that he or she does not die. For example, a doctor injects a competent person who is in the terminal stage of a terminal illness with a lethal substance, without that person’s request.

PLEASE NOTE: Any reference to euthanasia on this website is a reference to voluntary euthanasia, unless it is stated otherwise.


A person or organisation

who administers your estate (things you own and owe), within the terms of your will, after you pass away.



Relations, people of choice and even pets!

The term family includes people identified by the person as family and may include people who are biologically related and people who joined the family through marriage or other relationships, as well as the family of choice and friends (including pets).


A ceremony or service

A funeral is a ceremony connected with the final disposition of a corpse, such as a burial or cremation.

Depending on culture and religion, these can involve either the destruction of the body (for example, by cremation or sky burial) or its preservation (for example, by mummification or interment). Differing beliefs about cleanliness and the relationship between body and soul are reflected in funerary practices.

A memorial service (or celebration of life) is a funerary ceremony that is performed without the remains of the deceased person.

Funeral costs

Here are the typical items you’ll need, to arrange a funeral:

  • funeral director fees
  • transport
  • coffin
  • death certificate
  • permits
  • burial or cremation
  • cemetery plot.

Other expenses to think about include a celebrant or clergy, flowers, newspaper notices and the wake.

Funeral - prepaid

Funeral costs paid for in advance

Prepaid funerals let you choose and pay for your funeral in advance through your local funeral director.

Prepaid funeral plans can be cheaper than funeral insurance or funeral bonds. The cost of the funeral is calculated at today’s prices and doesn’t increase over time. You can pay in full or make a deposit and pay the rest off with regular payments.

Assessment information

As long as you have a contract that says you’ve paid in full for your funeral, your assessable assets for the assets test won’t include either:

  • the amount you prepay to a funeral director
  • the amount you invest in a funeral bond that has been assigned to a funeral director.

Services Australia website link  Read more on the Services Australia Website


Funeral fund rules vary per state

To protect you if they go out of business, funeral directors must put your money into a registered funeral fund. You can find information on the state websites:

There are fewer protections in the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

This information was last updated - 28 Dec 2020, if you find something is incorrect it will help us if you let us know using our feedback form.


Funeral Bond

A managed investment product

We sometimes call funeral bonds funeral investments. These are managed investments that earn interest. Funeral bonds have all the following features:

  • the money must be in an independently managed funeral fund
  • the interest must be added to the capital
  • the fund can only release the money after your death
  • it can only do this to your estate or to the funeral director
  • it can only do this to pay for funeral costs.

Assessment information

As at 1 July 2020 the allowable limit is $13,500. It changes every 1 July.


Services Australia website link  Read more on the Services Australia Website


Funeral Insurance

A very expensive option

Funeral insurance can cost you a lot more than the benefit your family will receive. And if you stop making repayments, you lose what you've already paid.

You’re not saving for funeral costs, but buying insurance to meet those costs in the future. You have to keep paying your premiums until you die or you will no longer be covered.

In the end, the premiums may cost more than the funeral itself.


Please consider your other options before taking out this type of insurance.

Want more information about alternatives to funeral insurance? 

Get in touch with our customer support team and let them know how they can help you.


Futile or non-beneficial treatment

Non-beneficial medical interventions

Interventions that will not be effective in treating a patient’s medical condition or improving their quality of life.

Non-beneficial treatment may include interventions such as diagnostic tests, medications, artificial hydration and nutrition, intensive care, and medical or surgical procedures.

Non-beneficial treatment is sometimes referred to as futile treatment, but this is not a preferred term.


General Power of Attorney

NSW - A legal document

that allows you to appoint a person(s) to manage financial and legal decisions on your behalf, only while you have the ability to make your own decisions.

General practitioner (GP)

A medical practitioner

who provides primary comprehensive and continuing care to patients and their families within the community.

A GP is a medical practitioner who is vocationally registered under Section 3F of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (Cwlth), and/or a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, or a general practice registrar.



Hospitalisation (or separation)

refers to the episode of admitted patient care, which can be a total hospital stay (from admission to discharge, transfer or death) or a portion of a hospital stay (beginning or ending in a change of type of care; for example, from Acute care to Rehabilitation).


Law - Common and Statutory

Common - by judges. Statutory - by Legislation (Parliament).


Common law or case law is law as declared by judges.

Legislation is the primary source of law today and all cases start with interpreting the legislation as made by Commonwealth and the States.

There are a few notable exceptions to this rule that are common law jurisdictions. These include negligence, torts, fiduciary duties and other equitable rights and contracts (to the extent not covered by statute).


Statute Law can also be called Legislation (made by Parliament).

Legislation consists of Statutes (or Acts) and Delegated Legislation (usually Regulations).

Life-sustaining treatment

Treatments to keep you alive

Medical treatment that is need to prolong a person's life.

Depending on the guardianship and medical-treatment decision-making legislation of the State or Territory it may include cardiopulmonary resuscitation, artificial ventilation, artificial nutrition and hydration, blood transfusions and/or antibiotics.

In some cases chemotherapy and other medical procedures such as transplantation or amputations may constitute life-sustaining treatment.


Testamentary capacity

Decision making capacity

If a person has the mental ability to:

  • freely and voluntarily make decisions about a matter

  • understand and foresee the effects of any decision you make

  • communicate these decisions to others

  • and, in South Australia: able to remember these decisions for a short while.


Palliative care

Care given to someone that cannot be cured.

Palliative care is person and family-centred care provided for a person with an active, progressive, advanced disease, who has little or no prospect of cure and who is expected to die, and for whom the primary goal is to optimise the quality of life.

An approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification, assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.

Palliative care is provided where the person and their family wants, where possible. This may include:

  • At home
  • In hospital
  • In a hospice
  • In a residential aged care facility

Many people indicate a preference to die at home and making this possible often depends on several factors, including:

  • the nature of the illness and amount of care the person needs
  • how much support is available from the person’s family and community
  • whether the person has someone at home who can provide physical care and support for them.


Some definitions in legislation also refer to palliative care as the relief of pain, suffering and discomfort.

Person Responsible

Someone who can be called on to make decisions for you

A ‘Person Responsible’ is identified, according to the hierarchy, by the treating medical practitioner when no SDM has been appointed by the patient and, in the absence of an SDM appointment by the Court or Guardianship Board. This is not an on-going role as the law in most states/territories specifies that the Person Responsible is the first person in the hierarchy who is ‘readily available’– the same person may not be available each time a decision is needed.

There are some things your Person Responsible cannot do they cannot:

  • make decisions about your finances, accommodation or support
  • consent to treatment if you object
  • consent to certain treatments, including sterilisation or experimental treatments.

Every state has different names and rules:

ACT - "Health Attorney"

Domestic partner; unpaid carer; close relative or friend (No specific order but one of the above)

NT - No designated hierarchy
New South Wales - "Person Responsible"

The Guardianship Act 1987 (NSW) states that the Person Responsible is:

  • your guardian, if they have the authority to consent to your medical or dental treatment. Or, if you don’t have a guardian;
  • your spouse, de-facto or same-sex partner. If you don’t have a partner;
  • a person who provides care for you (but not a paid carer). If you don’t have a carer;
  • a close friend or relative.
QLD - "Statutory Health Attorney"
  • Spouse or de facto partner (including same- sex partner) who has close and continuing relationship
  • Unpaid Carer (but person receiving carer’s pension qualifies)
  • Close friend or relative
SA - "Substitute Decision Maker"
  • Spouse or domestic partner or relative or friend overseeing day-to-day care
  • Person approved by board on application
TAS - "Person Responsible"
  • Most recent spouse or de facto partner (including same- sex partner) who has close and continuing relationship
  • Carer
  • Close friend or relative
VIC - "Person Responsible"
  • Spouse or domestic partner
  • Primary carer (but not a paid carer)
  • Nearest relative*
WA - "Person Responsible"
  • Spouse or de facto partner
  • Nearest relative*
  • Unpaid carer
  • Close friend or relative

*Nearest relative in order of: (1) Adult son or daughter (2) Parent (3) Adult sibling and for VIC also: (4) grandparent (5) adult grandchild (6) adult nephew or niece

This information was updated 29 Dec 2020 


Substitute decision-maker

Someone you appoint to speak for you

A person who is lawfully able to make health care and medical treatment decisions on behalf of a person with impaired decision-making capacity.

Each Australian State and Territory has different substitute decision-makers. These may include guardians, enduring guardians, attorneys, enduring attorneys, medical agents, a person responsible, health attorney and default decision-makers.


PLEASE NOTE: Our advice should be considered general in nature. We do not provide any legal, tax, medical or other professional advice and would advise that you seek expert professional or medical advice before making any decisions based on your individual circumstances. 

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