3.6 Family

In the 2012-16 reporting period, disability advocates reported assisting on average 42 people with family issues in any given three-month period.

Disability advocacy Issue Family
Number 42 people on average per quarter
Trend declining
Rights under the CRPD Governments will:

  • take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children (Article 7)
  • take effective and appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood and relationships, on an equal basis with others (Article 23)
  • ensure that children with disabilities have equal rights with respect to family life, prevent concealment, abandonment, neglect and segregation of children with disabilities, and undertake to provide early and comprehensive information, services and support to children with disabilities and their families (Article 23)
  • ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except in accordance with applicable law in the best interests of the child. In no case shall a child be separated from parents on the basis of a disability of either the child or one or both of the parents (Article 23).
Commitments in the State Disability Plan The Victorian government:

  • recognising the additional disadvantage of vulnerable families experiencing disability, child and family services will support vulnerable children and families with disability (Action 11)
  • will provide support to vulnerable children with a disability, with high support and/or complex medical needs through the Kindergarten Inclusion Support program (Action 11)
  • will develop a new intensive early childhood support service, tailored to the needs of families who need the most support in their child’s first years (Action 11)



There has been an observable decline in the number of people reported to be seeking assistance with family issues over the four year data series, especially in the most recent year (figure 13). In the 2015-16 financial year, an average of 26 people each quarter were reported as requiring assistance with a family issue. In the previous three years, the average was 48 people each quarter.


Figure 13: Reports of family issues


Case study: Securing disability support when facing family conflict

Tom* is a person with a disability that was reportedly being abused and controlled by his older brother Sam*. Advocacy was requested from support service to assist Tom’s younger sibling Mark* in having a voice to raise concerns about Sam taking over Tom’s decision making powers, day to day living and happiness. Financial abuse and manipulation was also a great fear raised by support workers. Tom’s mother was in palliative care at the last stages of her life and in denial of abuse.

The advocate talked with Mark, support staff and DHHS around urgency or concerns around Tom being bullied by Sam, potential decision making being taken away and financial abuse. The advocate also visited Tom outside of the case meeting to understand his position better. The advocate met with Sam to hear his side of the story. They also attempted to connect with other family members to talk further about concerns. The advocate referred to OPA for advice and a disability legal service for legal advice. A VCAT Officer was also involved regarding the emergency guardian issue to ascertain a position in an accommodation offer that would have been ideal for Tom with his brother Mark.

It was agreed not to involve Tom’s mother, given her situation and not stressing her further was an important goal. The advocate determined that working with the team of people around the brothers was better option, as well as empowering the support staff and encouraging them to use their voice to raise concerns was better option.

* names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals