Introduction to Citizen Advocacy

Ways to be involved

People's stories

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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 disability.

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 system.

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.


Ways to be involved

Be an advocate

Be an advocate associate

Advocate associates voluntarily assist advocates by providing information or expertise in their field. Some examples of areas of experience or expertise are:

Be a board member

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 communities.

Be a supporter

You can contribute financially to Citizen Advocacy to ensure its long term presence in your community.


People's stories

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 needed one.

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 institution.

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 go.

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 out.

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 married.

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 victimised again.

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.