Introduction to Citizen Advocacy
Ways to be involved
Citizen Advocacy home page
Citizen Advocacy promotes
and protects the needs and interests of people with disability by
connecting them in one-to-one, freely given relationships with
competent, concerned citizens.
Citizen Advocacy programmes build
long, lasting relationships between ordinary citizens (citizen
advocates), who are unpaid and independent, and people with
intellectual disability (protégés). Citizen advocates
are asked to make a commitment to represent their
protégé's rights and interests as if they were their
own. A citizen advocate may assume one or more advocacy roles, some
of which may last for life. Having people who know and care about us,
and speak out on our behalf when necessary, enhances and provides
security to our lives.
In today's society, it is commonly
assumed that paid professionals are needed to address people's needs.
Citizen Advocacy, in contrast, asks ordinary citizens to become
involved in the lives of people with intellectual disability. Many
people possess a variety of talents through their experience in
family, work, church and community associations. This experience
often makes a real difference in the life of a person with
Citizen Advocacy is not a service.
Rather, it is an invitation to people leading full lives in our
communities to get to know people who have intellectual disability
who have been or who are at risk of being excluded from their
community. Citizen advocates voluntarily enter a relationship which
is independent of the Citizen Advocacy office and the human service
Since many people with
intellectual disability are isolated, alone and hidden, it is
important for Citizen Advocacy programmes to actively seek out these
individuals. Citizen Advocacy staff look for people in need of
protection and representation according to guidelines that have been
established by the programme. They meet the person with intellectual
disability to discover their needs and interests and then seek out a
suitable potential citizen advocate who is given extensive
orientation in the principles of Citizen Advocacy. Only when the
citizen agrees to take the responsibility of representing the best
interests of the protégé is the match recognised. The
Citizen Advocacy staff then support and offer encouragement to the
relationship. Over time a Citizen Advocacy programme supports a
growing number of relationships.
to be involved
- Advocates are all ages and
come from a variety of backgrounds.
- Most citizen advocates have
had no significant involvement with people with disability
- An advocate is individually
matched to a protégé on the basis of the advocate's
preferences, personal characteristics and commitment.
- Advocates are given an
orientation to the common life experiences of people with
intellectual disability, advocacy principles and the specific
needs of the person they will be advocating for.
Be an advocate
voluntarily assist advocates by providing information or expertise in
their field. Some examples of areas of experience or expertise
Be a board
Citizen Advocacy programmes
are guided and managed by a group of active local citizens who are
concerned about the interests of people with intellectual disability
and who have a vision of better life for such persons within our
- Board members live in the
local community where the Citizen Advocacy programme is
- Board members have or want to
develop an understanding of the common life experiences of people
with intellectual disability.
- Board members are concerned
about social justice and inclusive communities.
- You can be part of the
community network through which potential advocates are identified
You can contribute financially to
Citizen Advocacy to ensure its long term presence in your
Rosie is now twelve and has lived
in a local institution since she was 18 months old. Rosie has not had
the protection of her family for a number of years and was made a
state ward; her health was so poor she was likely to die; she weighed
4.9 kgs. Few people saw a future for her or really believed she
Fatima, a recently married
university graduate, was asked to be Rosie's citizen advocate to
protect and improve her life. Fatima could not take Rosie home
herself, but she set about finding someone who could. Fatima found
Rosie a foster family and several months later, she moved out of the
Now, after 2 months living with
her foster family, Rosie has gained 2.5 kgs; she has her own room;
her own clothes; her own possessions; her own home - and Fatima will
continue to be her citizen advocate.
The citizen advocate of a 12 year old boy is supporting his parents
to make decisions and choices about his future education and
employment needs. The advocate attends meetings at the education
department and helps his parents to clarify and understand what is
being suggested. The advocate also asks the questions that the
parents are reluctant to address.
When his mother passed away, a 26 year old man had no one and nowhere
to live. His citizen advocate found him a place to live and located
his father who was thrilled to be a part of his life again. When we
see this man now (he is about to turn 30) he tells us with pride that
he has 18 people in his family.
Red tape and a series of unfortunate circumstances landed Tom in a
locked psychiatric unit. Although the professionals agreed that it
was an inappropriate place for this gentle young man to live, he
remained there for three months. He had nowhere else to
Tom needed someone on his side
immediately so Peter was asked to be his crisis advocate. Through
Peter's vigorous advocacy and representation, using the media and the
Anti-Discrimination Board, Tom was released and now lives in his own
unit, with support provided. The Programme is now seeking a citizen
advocate to watch out for Tom's long-term, stable future. In the
meantime, Peter will continue to protect Tom.
When her grandmother, the only family she had, passed away, this
thirty-five year old woman, like so many others, was alone. She now
has a citizen advocate who has come to care very much for her and
will take her home to live when her own family members move
Labelled as having a dual disability, the future for a young woman
was very grim. She had no place to call home except the psychiatric
ward of the local hospital. Her so-called 'friends' would take her
in, take her money and flush her medication down the toilet. This
cycle continued until a citizen advocate stepped in and said 'no
more'. It has been over two years now since this same woman (who
had been abandoned by services) has had to spend time in the hospital
and last month she fulfilled a long-time dream and was
Institutionalised for most of her life, a thirty year old woman moved
into the community and was living alone in a unit, totally isolated
and vulnerable, as she was unable to walk following a motor vehicle
accident in which both her legs were broken. She was tormented,
teased and the target of thieves which made her fearful for her life.
When her citizen advocate met her he likened her deprivation to that
of a prisoner of war. With his support she has moved to safe housing
and her stolen possessions have been replaced. The citizen advocate
is now challenging the Motor Accident Insurance Board for
compensation and is committed to ensuring that she will never be
Ella monitored decisions made by others for Nadine, about events
which would change the course of Nadine's life forever. Ella ensured
Nadine's needs and best interests would be met during this time of
change and disruption to her lifestyle. She also met Nadine's
solicitor and attended court with Nadine. Nadine now has a safer
environment and is learning many new skills.
Everyone in Allan's life settled for far less than what was best for
him. As well as having an intellectual and physical disability, he is
blind. The only people around were staff who did not imagine life
ever looking different for Allan. No one expected anything of him and
his life was spent sitting ... and waiting. Peter has become involved
in Allan's life and is providing many and varied experiences for him.
They share time together and Peter is assisting Allan to build and
fulfil dreams. He is getting to know Allan as a man with potential
and hope for the future.