Published in Centralian Advocate Newspaper
Tuesday 9 October 2018
By Valerie Dearman, Disability Advocacy Service CEO

Disability Advocacy Service (DAS) is an organisation that supports people to navigate the systems that provide services for people with disability. We inform of rights and respond to concerns that a person may have about their care plans. We can also help people through the process of reviews of NDIS plans and appeals.

However the best person to advocate for what they might need is themselves – this is called self advocacy. A number of skills are needed to be able to do this including confidence, communication, and sometimes a lot of resilience. It can also take a change in the way we think.

Well-meaning support workers, friends, family and care-givers might feel the need to “take over”: this can also happen in service meetings where the person with a disability might be in the room, but the talk goes all round. Decisions can be made by others and the only contribution the person at the centre of it all is, simply asked “Are you OK with all of that?”

The person has not been able to participate and there are quite often assumptions made.

So lets change the thinking about enabling people to have a say for themselves. Self advocacy starts with knowing what it is that you want, being able to communicate that to others and being heard. That in turn means that as receivers of that communication we need to really listen to what is being said, and not make assumptions or assessments based on previous experiences on provision of services or known understandings of the person. People are not static robots, we all change our minds, develop new interests as we mature and develop new opinions and ideas.
Being able to speak out about the way you want to live your life is a right we all have, we need to listen to people to support them to grow in confidence to be able to say what they think and to give them the opportunity to advocate for themselves.

DAS is supporting people to learn more about self-advocacy in association with Mental Health Association of Central Australia (MHACA) for clients and workers. Then we will be rolling it out to workers in other organisations, and we would like to offer training to people who would like to support people in self advocacy.

We have just employed a Trainer -Vanessa – to help in this training so please feel free to contact DAS if you would like more information.

We will also be contacting our clients and their family and friends to help us set up an advisory body called the Friends of DAS to work with us on developing our services and in particular to monitor the self advocacy initiatives that are happening.

DAS is looking for someone that can assist with learning Australian Sign Language (AUSLAN). There are a number of clients of DAS who could benefit from AUSLAN support, and DAS staff are also interested in learning. If you know anyone who could support us in this, please make contact with us at the DAS office in Reg Harris Lane.

We would also like to congratulate Bindi on their 40th birthday – great birthday bash! Well done everyone – we all enjoyed ourselves.

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