- standing beside people with disability by assisting them to advocate their own interests
- standing behind people with disability by supporting them to represent their own interests
- standing before people with disability by representing their interests.”
– Kevin Stone, author of the To Stand Beside: Advocacy for Inclusion Training Program.
Why is advocacy needed?
Advocacy is needed because:
- some people with disability are isolated and may not have support networks, and have complex needs and situations
- many people with disability and their families lack the knowledge they need to make a complaint or seek change
- people may lack confidence and the communication skills they need to assert their rights and have their opinions heard
- many people with disability fear that there might be negative consequences to making a complaint
- people with disability are often seen as powerless and vulnerable, and this becomes how we feel.
Role of the advocate
Advocacy is speaking, acting, and writing with a person with disability or group to promote, protect and defend their welfare and justice:
- by being on their side and no one else’s
- being primarily concerned with their fundamental needs
- remaining loyal and accountable to them in an emphatic and vigorous way.
Principles of advocacy
- have a clear value base of social justice, equity and full inclusion of people with disabilities as contributing and participating members of the community
- focus on the fundamental human needs, rights and interests of people with disabilities
- be on the side of the person with disability and be loyal and accountable to that person
- aim to be independent, autonomous and to minimise conflict of interest. It’s separate and independent from service delivery.
What is individual advocacy?
An individual advocate works with you when you think you have been treated unfairly or you are looking for a solution to a specific problem or issue.
To do this we:
- listen to you and get an understanding of your issue
- give you information about services, supports and resources
- talk to you about your options and help you to make your own choices
- refer you to other organisations in the community that can help you
- encourage and support you to speak up for your rights and make your own decisions.
Our individual advocacy services are available to any person with a disability in WA, and you don’t have to be a member to access advocacy.
All our advocacy follows the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
What our advocacy doesn’t do
We are not able to:
- give you legal advice, financial advice or assessments
- manage or coordinate services – such as finding you a house or applying for a service or benefit
- provide you with personal care or support workers
- provide mediation or counselling
- do something for you that you or someone else is able to do
- make decisions for you
- investigate an organisation and make them take action.
If we can’t help you, we will tell you why and refer you to another service if possible.
Systemic advocacy works towards making positive, system-wide change for a whole group of people. The ‘system’ can be legislation or laws, government policy or community attitudes.
We want to introduce, influence and secure positive long-term changes in society. Our aim is to remove barriers and tackle practices that discriminate to make sure the rights, interests and well-being of people with disabilities are achieved, upheld and protected. This is in line with our vision of a community where all people have a full and valued life with the freedom to make their own choices.
What we do
We work with other Western Australian (metropolitan, rural and regional) disability agencies, advocacy agencies and key government and non-government stakeholders. We lobby for changes to legislation, policy and service delivery for people with disabilities.
The cases and queries our individual advocates are involved in inform our systemic advocacy work. We listen to and work with individual people with disability to find out what systemic issues they are concerned with and where change is needed.
We work closely with members of the Western Australian Disability Coalition and develop policy by consulting broadly with members and other key stakeholders. Peak bodies play a role in appealing to government on systemic issues. It’s often not possible for government to work with a large number of people or organisations on these issues. We contribute to government reviews on issues such as disability standards on access to buildings and transport and feed into high-level discussions such as the Housing Advisory Round Table.
Our advocacy work has involved working with local councils and groups, as well as giving feedback on internal government policy. At other times we have brought together members to consult on State Government reforms or invited speakers to address concerns around education or safeguards.
We build capacity through programs such as our peer support project and other projects to build leadership and innovation by people with disabilities. We send out regular updates via MailChimp to all members and a monthly newsletter to keep you updated on the campaigns and projects we are involved in.