Principles of the framework 

Representatives at the roundtable discussed the principles of in the current framework, developing a number of themes that could improve the framework.

The advocacy framework should protect the rights of people with disability

Overall, the principles of the Framework are quite broad and it is recommended that they are amended to be more specific and direct in their aim. The principles should state that disability advocacy must be free and independent, and be guided by a human rights approach.

In section 562 of her report, the Victorian Ombudsman states:

“It is not viable for advocacy to take a secondary position in the safeguards framework. I consider advocacy to be key in a framework for Victorian people with disability who have no prospect of becoming empowered consumers and have no family or friends to voice their best interests.”

Again, roundtable participants asserted that advocacy should be a right. A right only exists if it is provided for under legislation.

Outreach services should be incorporated into the framework

Roundtable participants believed the Framework should include scope for outreach. People with complex communication needs, in particular, require direct contact and engagement in order to be empowered. It is one thing to receive information about rights and entitlements; however, it is entirely another process to then assert them or even to express one’s needs.

Advocacy needs to be independent

Funding to deliver independent disability advocacy needs to be independent of agencies or departments which also deliver services for people with disability. In Victoria, disability advocacy is currently funded through the Department of Health and Human Services. At best, this can lead to perceptions of conflict of interest, and in some circumstances it can lead to unnecessary tensions and protracted negotiations.

Systemic issues should be monitored and addressed

Participants believed the principles of the Framework should also include monitoring systemic issues.

This past year, there have been many welcome reviews, consultations and inquiries into matters such as abuse in institutions, family violence, social inclusion, young people in nursing homes, NDIS quality and safeguards, and reviews of the Disability Standards for Education, public transport and access to premises.

Many of these inquiries and reviews occur in isolation from each other. There is no single body or authority which logs or records and reports on systemic issues faced by people with disability, meaning they are left to be dealt with in a siloed way, by different agencies and levels of government. This fragmented approach works against cohesive and sustained policy-making.