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Why is advocacy important?

Advocacy is important because people are important. Advocacy can be particularly pertinent with regard to people with a disability, as people can be unable to speak up for themselves. Human rights of people with a disability can be eroded, leave people vulnerable to neglect or manipulation. Despite progress made by the disability rights movement there is still has a long way to go to ensure a fair, equitable and inclusive society. Disability is generally poorly understood within the community, and people with a disability experience many barriers to accessing various buildings, services and community associations, which excludes, and limits participation.

When is advocacy needed?

A person needs advocacy when available supports and services are inadequate, or when:

  • other people or organisations are not meeting their obligations to that person
  • their rights are being ignored or violated
  • they have a responsibility that is difficult to carry out
  • they are misunderstood, or are having trouble understanding or communicating with others.

Advocacy within the hospital system

Families are entitled to ensure that their family member’s best interests are being served. Most hospitals provide support for families to obtain information and make decisions about a patient’s care. The person providing this support is often a social worker who will advocate for the patient on the family’s behalf.


Finding an advocacy service

Many welfare organisations engage in systemic advocacy – influencing and changing the ‘system’ in general such as legislation, policy, practices and community attitudes to benefit people with a particular Unfortunately, limited resources means that advocating for individual people or families is beyond the scope of most disability organisations.


Self-advocacy in important in many areas such as housing, in accessing the National Disability Insurance Scheme and in receiving care that suits the needs of the person with a disability. Self-advocacy pertains to the person with a disability, as well as family or friends who advocate on a person’s behalf.

Here are some basic steps for self advocacy:

  • What is the issue? You may have more than one goal, but they will all need to be relevant to the main issue
  • Gather as much information about the issue as possible (this may be paperwork, notes, receipts, or other general documents). Ensure good records of everything are kept as you progress
  • Develop a strategy through a list of steps needed to reach your Remember to check off each goal as it is completed
  • Who do you need to speak to? Contact the organisation first to start a resolution The organisation must always be given a reasonable opportunity to resolve the issue
  • Read about the organisation’s complaint or grievance Keep a full record of all contacts and discussions.

Contact Synapse for information and support with advocacy 1800 673 074.

What do I say?

  • What you say or write may influence how long the advocacy process takes. Focus on your goal and be specific. Make it clear that you are giving the organisation a chance to resolve the issue
  • Remain polite and calm no matter how upset you feel
  • Always ask questions if you are unsure about anything.

What if I need help?

  • Sometimes you may need a professional to communicate your views g. a doctor may write a letter or speak with someone directly.
  • Consider asking a family member or close friend to assist – they often know your situation well and are highly motivated.

How do I make contact?

There are several different methods you can use to self- advocate; phone, email, letter, fax, or the media. Choose the method that best suits you, or the one you feel most comfortable with. Remember that the way you raise your issue will be different from place to place.

Important tips for effective advocacy

People who advocate for themselves or others will have a better chance of success by following these tips:

  • Keep emotional While passion and emotions may be high due to negative circumstances, hostility and over emotionality will not be helpful when attempting to negotiate. Logical and evidential information will always help to influence change more effectively than anger, tears or threats.
  • If you become overwhelmed, state calmly that you would prefer to continue talking at another time and leave.
  • Pick your battles Decide which issues are most important and must be addressed first. You cannot fix everything at once. Other concerns should not be forgotten, but it is wiser to prioritise what can be solved, or must be fixed urgently, and only move on once resolved.
  • Know your rights, entitlements and responsibilities. Thoroughly read about the organisation’s policy, legislation, best practice, service standards and objectives. An informed perspective will win you respect in negotiations and reduce any feelings of vulnerability or dependency on others.
  • Come with suggestions for resolution, not just This shows the organisation that resolution is possible. It is far more productive to be a willing part of the solution than to simply judge, point out fault, or criticise the efforts of others.
  • Grievances may be justified, but anger and resentment rarely lead to a resolution. Create a win-win situation and be prepared to compromise.
  • Prioritise your needs and rights, but show equal consideration and awareness for the needs of others. This demonstrates you do not hold a selfish disregard or are dismissive of the impacts of these  actions. A small gain is far better than no gain at all.