Family advocacy involves family members acting on behalf of a son or daughter or sibling so that they can have the best possible life. However, as we all know, sometimes there are systemic barriers in the way. These barriers might be government structures, policy or practices, the systems and actions of disability support providers. In other cases, barriers can be caused by the failure of mainstream social structures and services to include our family members with disability.
For instance, schools once had the power to exclude children with disability without protections for those children.
That’s where systemic advocacy comes in. Systemic advocacy “lobbies for reform and change of social systems and structures that discriminate against, abuse and neglect people with disabilities” (Seymour and Peter).
Systemic advocacy is not individual, though it can be undertaken by just one person advocating on behalf of a group. The aim of systemic advocacy is to make positive, long-lasting change for a whole group of people. While this kind of advocacy takes time, strategy and resources, in the medium or long term it is more effective than negotiating that systemic barrier person by person, over and over again.
Our Systemic Advocacy Work
Family advocacy works systemically for change in many areas, these include:
Family Advocacy believes in and works for inclusive education. This means children with disability being included in regular classrooms with appropriate adjustments and support. Inclusive education seeks to address the learning needs of all children, youth and adults, with a specific focus on those who are vulnerable to marginalisation and exclusion. The principle of inclusive education was adopted at the United Nations Salamanca World Conference (UNESCO 1994) where inclusive education was viewed as a human rights issue and as a means of bringing about personal development and building relationships among individuals, groups and nations.
This was stated clearly in Article 2:“Regular schools with an inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discrimination, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all.”
Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which provides for this obligation in Article 24 (Inclusive Education). In 2016 the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted General Comment No.4 to Article 24, which provides Governments with guidance on the scope of their obligation to provide inclusive education for people with disability. The document also highlights the importance of recognising the differences between exclusion, segregation, integration and inclusion.
Kids Belong Together and Same Classroom, Same Opportunity Campaigns
In the mid-nineties when thousands of parents of children with disability were being refused enrolment in the regular class of the local neighbourhood school, Family Advocacy coordinated a campaign called All Kids Belong Together, to change education policy and education infrastructure so that students with disability could expect a quality education together with their peers.
Whilst there have been some gains made, our campaigning continues 20 years on. Our current campaign is Same Classroom. Same Opportunity. Visit our campaign page for opportunities to get involved, more information, and resources such as tips for contacting your MP and a guide to systemic meetings.
Family Advocacy has a vision of an inclusive society, and that means inclusive housing and supported living. For more information visit our page on Creating a Home and also My Own Home in our Resourcing Inclusive Communities website.
Essentially, Family Advocacy seeks more community housing; better and more public housing; home ownership assistance, including secondary dwellings or granny flats; increased Commonwealth Rent Assistance and private rental assistance at a state level; accessible housing.
You can also read:
Family Advocacy’s position statement on inclusive housing.
A home of my own: Right, Rhetoric or Reality? - This document provides considerations and useful information for housing and a sustainable future for people with disability in NSW.
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
We regularly provide submissions to the State and Federal Governments. We are part of round table discussions with relevant stakeholders. We also provide advocacy advice for NDIS participants. For more information, go to our Advocacy and the NDIS page.
Access to independent advocacy is vital - the Stand By Me Campaign
Family Advocacy helps families to advocate on behalf of their child for a good life with the things most of us would expect in Australia: mainstream education in a local school, a place in the community amongst friends and family, and the supports, informal and paid, necessary to make that happen. We receive our advocacy funding from the Department of Social Services and from the NSW Government.
However, our State funding for advocacy is under threat and we only have funding until June 2020. We are on the standing committee of the Disability Advocacy Alliance, fighting to get this funding in perpetuity through the #StandByMe campaign. If you want to know how you can get involved, go standbyme.org.au.