A Presentation by Christine Scott
WHAT IS ADVOCACY??
The concept of Advocacy is not new.
Unfortunately advocacy is not simply defined, as it should be outworked in a framework of principles and beliefs, such as a belief in the right of individuals to self-determination (ie. be involved in decisions which affect them). Therefore a narrow definition as given by the Macquarie dictionary as "one who defends, vindicates or espouses a cause by argument, an upholder, a defender, one who pleads for or on behalf of another", is not in keeping with current advocacy trends or philosophy. Keeping this in mind here are some 'definitions':
The term "advocate" has been in use for hundreds of years and derives from the Latin, meaning "to be called to stand beside". This definition at least gets hold of the concepts and conveys what good advocacy should be, e.g.
- to seek a solution with and for people with disabilities to their particular problems or needs, so as to enhance their rights and dignity.
- to influence the 'system' (e.g. the policies and procedures of agencies/governments) to change in response to people with disabilities and their families/carers needs
- is about people with disabilities/ families & carers, speaking up for themselves. Self-Advocacy services assist consumers to develop or maintain the personal skills and self-confidence necessary to enable them to represent their own interests in the community
- Citizen Advocacy services recruit and support individual volunteers from the community to assist i) persons with disabilities, or ii) the families of, and other persons who provide care for and assistance to, people with disabilities to represent their interests in day to day life and the community.
- Group advocacy services facilitate community organisations to represent the interests of groups of persons with disabilities and/or their families/carers.
Note: these definitions have been modified from 'A - Stands For Advocacy'; a report of the Office of the Public Advocate Vic.
WHY IS ADVOCACY IMPORTANT??
Society has many different 'groupings' of people, some of which are more disadvantaged than others. This disadvantage can make a person more vulnerable, emotionally, physically and mentally.
People with disabilities and their families are in general in the disadvantaged category.
This disadvantage may occur due to a number of reasons:-
(Undoubtedly you will think of many more issues!)
Possibly one of the biggest 'disadvantages'.... is being on the receiving end.
This puts someone else in the position of power, and often in the position of control over your situation.
This fact is why advocacy is important, as it assists balance the power ratio.
THUS, ADVOCACY IS NEEDED TO:-
AN ADVOCATE's ROLE CAN INCLUDE:-
These roles can and should assist to even out the 'playing field', that is the power ratio, and ultimately to make services/people more responsive to people with disabilities and their families/carers needs.
WITHOUT ADVOCACY people can be doubly disadvantaged, firstly by a disability/illness and secondly, by the uneven power ratio within the 'system'. This can create many difficulties that individuals may be left to face alone.
Advocacy is when you are not alone!!