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What is advocacy?

Broadly, advocacy means supporting the interests of an individual or group, with the aim of promoting and protecting their rights and welfare.

If your disability puts you at risk of being disadvantaged or treated improperly (e.g. pressured to make a decision or choice, or abused, neglected or discriminated against), an advocate can help you represent your interests.

Common types of advocacy include:

  • individual advocacy—a one-on-one approach, aiming to prevent or address instances of discrimination or abuse.
  • systemic advocacy—working to influence or secure long-term changes to ensure the collective rights and interests of people with disability.
  • family advocacy—when a parent or family member advocates with and on behalf of a family member with disability.

Advocacy is not:

  • counselling
  • taking over a person's life or problems
  • making decisions for another person
  • providing mediation.

National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP)

The National Disability Advocacy Program offers people with disability access to government-funded advocacy agencies.

People with disability, carers and their families can use the NDAP Provider Finder to search for advocacy agencies funded by the Australian Government.

Parents as advocates

Speaking out on behalf of your child to achieve a better outcome in a difficult situation is advocating for your child. To ensure your advocacy is as effective as possible:

  • identify who is responsible for decision-making
  • be clear in the outcome you need
  • prioritise your concerns as there may not be time to address them all at once
  • stay calm and be factual rather than emotional
  • consider the issues others may raise and how they may respond
  • listen to others' views
  • negotiate a compromise if necessary
  • document your efforts
  • seek advice from an advocacy organisation if you need to.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated:
23 March 2016
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