Saturday, November 18, 2017
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Advocacy for Inclusion Blog

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Inclusion through the eyes of children



As part of our Inclusion and Awareness trainingAdvocacy for Inclusion was recently invited to talk at a local primary school on the topic of Human Rights and Disability Rights.

In front of me was 60 year 4 students between the ages of 9 and 10. A potentially rather daunting experience, however, the welcome I received was genuinely warm and inviting. The students were all very engaged and eager to learn. A perfect audience. To my surprise, the students already had an incredible understanding of human rights and were able to share examples of how we use them in our everyday lives. 

Several things stood out to me in the short time I was there. Two specific things: Firstly - It didn't take long after talking about the correct use of language in regards to disability, to see them put it to use consistently.

And secondly - the biggest and most telling moment of all was a question I was asked towards the end of my visit. 

“Do the police arrest people just because they have a disability?”

Now I would have liked to have said no. In fact, that would seem the logical and only acceptable answer but I couldn't. In our experience at Advocacy for Inclusion, this IS something that we come across on a regular basis. 

It hit me hard. How is it that a 9-year-old child was able to connect these dots, yet despite many years of many Disability Advocacy Organisations trying to bring this issue to the attention of government, it has been minimally acknowledged.

A 9-year-old could see the inequality and point out the breach of human rights and disability rights.

We discussed this a bit further. I shared the statistics with the children  - 60% of people in custody identify as having a disability and the reverse side - that people with a disability were 40% more likely to be a victim of abuse and assault. 

As this info was processed another question  - "are there special police to help". 

Again a 9-year-old seeing the issue and practicality then coming up with a logical solution. 

Frustratingly here in the ACT, despite people with disability being the largest of minority groups - there is no official police Disability Liaison Officer. 

However, it isn't all doom and gloom. Advocacy for Inclusion has been funded to develop and deliver a Specialist Justice Orientation Program and resources to support people with disabilities to better understand and participate in the justice process they are involved in. This program is being funded through Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) funding from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

Last year Advocacy for Inclusion developed wallet cards for people with disability in consultation with the Australian Federal Police - more information about the wallet cards can be found here AFP-wallet-card

Hopefully in the near future, if I am asked again I can tell this very insightful group of students, that no, people with disability are treated fairly and have equal access and involvement in the justice system and not ever a target for police just because they have a disability. Because as we all know that that would be a breach of human rights and disability rights.


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AFI presents at Lifelines Domestic Violence Alert Trainers National forum.


Several weeks ago one of our Training Officers, Sharon, attended a local focus group session about Lifelines Domestic Violence Alert training and the development of disability specific content.

Recognised for our expertise around the intersectionality between Woman with disability and Violence, Sharon was invited by Lifeline to present and be on an expert panel for discussion at their recent National Domestic Violence alert Trainers Forum.

The national DV Alert forum provides the Lifeline trainers with professional development. Over several days, discussions take place “focussing on collaboration, best-practice care, awareness campaigns, and referral pathways and building safer communities”. The  panel was asked to discuss Community Awareness and Prevention, and  Advocacy for Inclusion was there to specifically to talk about Disability, and a program developed by Advocacy for Inclusion called "Being Safe, Being Strong"

The Being Safe, Being Strong program has previously been recognised as a finalist in 2016 ACT Government  ‘Violence Prevention Award” in the community sector category.

The Being Safe, Being Strong program aims to build understanding among women with disabilities of their right to be safe from violence and their ability to identify the difference between safe and violent behaviours in relationships. The program also helps identify pathways to getting help and staying safe. It is the only program known of its type in Australia.

Sharon shares “As I spoke to the audience, I could see the messages and statistics I was sharing hitting home. I could see people writing down notes as I spoke - that people with disability are the largest minority group in the world yet other minorities are catered for and yet somehow services and resources are not automatically made accessible for people with disability. The gasps from the audience as I shared that women with disability are 40% more likely to be the victim of domestic violence, and I did notice the tears as I highlighted the very disturbing statistic that 90% of woman with a cognitive disability that has been sexually assaulted and that two-thirds of this woman had been assaulted before the age of 18”

In our individual advocacy work, we note a level of complacency towards violence by disability service providers when we raise issues of violence in their facilities with them. It seems to be systemically accepted. Disability support staff seem inured to it after years of having no alternative to offer, or perhaps having succumbed to a “culture of violence”. It seems that workers and managers in the disability service system are also not trained to recognise and respond appropriately to these incidents. This means that women with disabilities can be subjected to violence and abuse in their home for years.

Despite the heightened vulnerability and instances of violence experienced by women with disabilities, there is little in the way of legislative protections, programs and resources in response. For example, crisis accommodation appropriate to the needs of women with disabilities scarcely exists in Australia. Some women with disabilities have specific and significant support needs that would never be catered for in a women’s domestic violence shelter.

Given this background, Sharon made sure to highlight all the people that these trainers possibly had never thought of as being in a domestic violence situation that actually is – those in congregate living places and supported accommodation – those living in institutions.

Despite only having a short time to present it was clear the message was not lost. During the panel question time, there were questions about being more accessible, other attendees shared stories of their own training and acknowledging how they could be more accessible. We look forward to seeing in the future the new Disability module in the DV Alert Training.

To see further information about the forum

DV alert forum Sharon


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Things are what you make of them.

Things don't always go to plan.

As part of our role as Trainers at Advocacy for Inclusion, we facilitate Self Advocacy groups. As facilitators it is our job to help things run smoothly not to direct the groups. It is the self advocates themselves who direct the groups and the topics. Many of the groups have self advocates who have been using their skills for some time and take a leadership role and we don't have much in the way of facilitating to do. 

Sometimes things do not go quite to plan and this is usually when the biggest opportunity for skill building and practising self advocacy skills occur. The Trainers will step in and take the facilitating role to its true meaning of "smoothing things"

Recently we had two people with a difference of opinion. Pretty much an everyday occurrence you would think. However, often people with disability are stopped from sharing their opinion, perhaps told that their opinions do not matter, are unimportant or simply are just never asked. Many people with disability have been so marginalised they have never been taught the skills to deal with this sort of confrontation appropriately or given the opportunity to practice the skills if this should arise. It is the sort of thing that leads to "challenging behaviour" as they feel unheard.

In our groups, everyone has a voice and is encouraged to share their thoughts. In this case, as I said, there was a difference of opinion. Voices became raised, people were visibly upset. So what did we do? We collectively agreed we all had an opinion. We all agreed they were different. We all agreed we had the right to our own opinion. People were given the opportunity to express their opinion and identify what they felt and why. We focused on staying calm and using respect - in our language, in our volume and in our body language. All skills required to be able to self advocate effectively.

Everyone in the end felt heard. Everyone in the end felt respected. Everyone was able to accept we had different opinions and that was ok as long as we were assertive and not agressive.

We finished off our group session each describing a time when we felt the happiness. What do you know - they were all very similar and despite our differences of opinion earlier, we had found a common place in the end.

As one of the self advocates involved shared with us as we were packing up. 

"life is like the weather, you never know when it is going to change" You need to be prepared.

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Voting kit recognised as best practice

Earlier this month Advocacy for Inclusion was contacted by Nathan Despott from Inclusion Melbourne. We were honoured to be asked us to present our Voting Kit at the Political citizenship and people with intellectual disability seminar. The seminar was a collaborative event presented by ASID, Inclusion Melbourne and the Living with Disability Research Centre. 

Our Voting Kit was included as an example of best practice.

The voting kit was developed in 2013 following consultation with our self-advocacy network and answers many of the questions that they have raised about their right to vote.

We discovered that some self-advocates had taken their name off the electoral roll because they didn’t understand voting. Others had never bothered to be enrolled because they found it too confusing.


The aim of the kit was to assist voters to get out there and to participate. As Christina Ryan our CEO points out “All Australian citizens have the right to vote, but people with disabilities don’t always feel confident in exercising that right”

The voting kit was designed in plain English to help people understand voting. It is designed to help the voter identify what their key issues are and it helps access candidate and party positions and of course information on how to go and vote – all things needed to be able to make an informed choice. The kit is broken down into 4 key areas and therefore into manageable pieces of information.

Our experience facilitating self-advocacy groups is that people can become easily overwhelmed and confused by a lot of information all at once. By breaking things down into separate key areas people are then able to take away information and process it, be able to ask questions and then move onto the next one. It is important to revisit the information as well. So discussion about voting and politics happens regularly in our self-advocacy groups.

Canberra has recently had local elections as well as the federal election. Our stats show that our voting kit was viewed over 2000 times over this period. In the week following the Seminar our stats showed that our Voting Kit had been viewed over 200 times!

When recently asked about views on voting one of our self-advocates made the important point “everyone's vote is equal no matter who you are”


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The role of ongoing Self Advocacy support in recognising abuse and violence.

The topic of women with disability being exposed to violence has been one of our key discussion topics over the past 12 months in our Self-advocacy groups.

Statistics show that women with disability are more likely to experience more severe violence, more often, over a longer period of time than women without a disability.

Many women are often unaware of how to seek help and support and are actively prevented from doing so. Often violence and abuse is not recognized by the woman experiencing it.

As well as discussing violence and abuse, the Self advocates have also given feedback used to develop resources.

The resources are in easy and plain English and help people identify what abuse and violence looks like, specifically for people with disability. We have also developed resources of  what help and supports are available.

Recently, one of the Self advocates disclosed to the group an incident involving violence.

It was heartwarming to see other self-advocates provide peer support, by recognizing and validating the experience and making suggestions of what local supports may be of use.

Twelve months ago, it would have been unlikely that the incident would have been recognized as violence and the behavior involved would have been minimized and normalized.

This scenario speaks volumes about the supportive dynamic of the group and the increasing self-advocacy skills that are being developed both individually and in a group setting.

Find out more about our Self-advocacy gorups: Self-Advocacy Group

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Is disclosure a good thing?

I was facilitating a group yesterday. Our discussion was around disability and rights around employment. Two people in group – Jane and Helen had recently attended job interviews.

Jane attended her interview with a badge on that had words to the effect “please face me when talking and speak clearly”. Jane told the group, that she felt by wearing the badge it made disclosing her disability easier. It gave her an opening at the beginning of the interview that enable her to talk about her needs and how best to facilitate communication. She then used this discussion to show how with the correct facilitation she was suited for the position.

Helen has only recently started wearing hearing aids and is very self-conscious about people seeing them so she had styled her hair so they could not be seen. Helen felt her interview was progressing well until she brushed her hair behind her ears and her hearing aids became more visible. At this point the interview came to an abrupt end and she was told she would not be suitable for the position. No direct mention was made of Helens hearing aids but she feels the indirect disclosure was an issue.

Jane felt that using the badge to disclose her disability immediately to future employers is helpful. Helen believes her disability shouldn’t factor into whether she is capable of doing the position and chooses not to disclose her disability unless necessary.

Often it comes to personal choice whether a person chooses to disclose if they have a disability. A person with disability is not legally required to tell an employer about their disability unless it affects their ability to do the tasks that must be carried out to get the job done. State and federal laws do not allow discrimination against someone because of their disability. 



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A working example of Supporting Self-advocacy and seeing the positive in the seemingly negative.

A self-advocate has been attending our self-advocacy group for well over 18 months. Last month out of the blue we get a phone call. The conversation is clearly a hard one to have, I know that they don’t use a phone very often.  We start with simple pleasantries, I share that I have recently been away and ask what they have been up to. As the conversation starts to flow I remind them to talk a little louder as I’m finding it a bit hard to hear them.


“Hi, I just wanted to tell you I don’t want to come to the self-advocacy group anymore……”


My response is to take a deep breath to stop myself flapping with excitement. (Excitement? Keep reading as to why)


A summary of the next part of the conversation:

“I’m sorry to hear that you will not be coming along any more but thank you for letting us know. Congratulations on putting all your self-advocacy skills together. It must have taken a lot of courage to call. You have made this decision, you have called me and you have given me your message clearly and assertively. Thank you for showing me the skills that we have learnt, improved and practiced over the past 18 months. I’m sorry that you will not be attending any more, I will miss our chats but yes this is your choice and your decision and we respect that. We would really like it if you kept in contact”


I get off the phone and do the held off happy dance. Whilst I’m sad that we have lost a member of our group, to be honest this is what the group is there for – this is a huge success.

A person has learnt to speak up for themselves and learnt to do it well. Two years ago this same person would not have said anything. They would have sat there silent, eyes downcast and become agitated.


We have seen our numbers of people attending the self-advocacy group repeatedly fall and rise. People leave the group, new people join us and people come back. The reasons are varied but often they have started employment or volunteer work. They have moved into accommodation of their choice. They have joined other social groups. The long and the short of it - they have developed their skills and are out in the community using them. Definitely a positive not a negative.



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The power of language

Language exerts hidden power, like a moon on the tides.

Rita Mae Brown, Starting From Scratch, 1988

I was involved in a conversation recently with a large group of people. The group were discussing positive ways to support people with disabilities. During this discussion it was agreed that it is important to focus on peoples strengths and to have an awareness around the language we use. The conversation eventually led to someone discussing “Capacity Building Workshops”. 

This brings me to my point: Language is powerful. The power that comes from one word in a sentence - it can completely change the meaning or the context of what is being said.  One word can turn a sentence into to a positive or negative statement.


Imagine if the word “Opportunity” replaced the term “capacity”.


Increasing a person’s opportunity to use skills rather than increasing a person’s capacity to use skills. It certainly becomes a more strength based approached rather than referring to a potential inadequacy.

Christina Ryan further discusses the use of the term “Capacity Building”  here





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What's been happening in Self-advocacy?

A lot has happened in the last six months and there are more exciting changes to come!

Wednesday Self-Advocates group will be moving back to the Griffin Centre next week. The decision was made to make this move to make it more accessible to the people living on the North side of Canberra; and to make it more centralised. We would like to thank the lovely staff at Woden Community Services for their use of the community room, and help for the past eight months.

In our time at Woden, over many sessions we have had a diverse range of topics and speakers. Here are just a few of the interesting we had; ACT Capital Metro to come and hear the Self-Advocates thoughts on the light rail, ACT Policing to discuss safety issues and one of our past Self-Advocates come to the group to talk about her experience in safely travelling around Australia. We have also had sessions discussing privacy, voting, money management, health and even planning holidays.

We will be starting in September with the "Everyday Self-Advocacy", a month of how self-advocacy skills can be used in everyday situations. Amanda will be facilitating the group, and everyone is welcome to come and meet some new friends and learn about Self Advocacy for people with a disabilities. The group will be held every Wednesdays in Room 4, Level 1, Griffin Centre, 1pm-3pm.

Then at the same time we will be asking for expressions of interest for the Self-Advocacy Plus group. That will meet once a month and discuss their opinions about everyday concerns and learn more about other aspects of Self-advocacy. This group will be for anyone that feels that they want a challenge and to expand their self-advocacy skills. We hope to make this group fun and educational, expression of interest close the 2nd September 2015.

For more information about our Self-Advocates Group, please check out


IMG 1156

Picture above: Self-advocates ask questions about policing and safety matters to Sgt.Brett Cunningham 

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Self Advocacy Plus Group

Advocacy for Inclusion has been facilitating the Self-Advocacy Group for several years now . It is the only group of its kind running in the ACT.

Over this time, the group dynamics and group structure have changed as people have gotten to know each other and the skills of the self-advocates have developed.

With the Group Home project starting, the numbers of people attending the self-advocacy group are predicted to increase and we will have an ongoing diversity in self-advocacy skills.

With this in mind and at the request of several of our self-advocates we are starting The Self-Advocacy Plus group next month. This group will meet monthly.

The goal of the group is to increase skills and confidence with public speaking and developing leadership skills to assist in mentoring newer self-advocates.

 So how will this happen? To begin with we will be looking at powerpoint presentations. Each self advocate will be individually supported to prepare their own poweroint presenation on a topic of their choice. The presentation will involve a set format with questions for the self advocate to prepare slides for. Once the slide show has been put together we will be working on delivery of the presentation to the group. Once practised and the self advocate is comfortable, the presentation will be filmed. This will provide the self advocate with a record of their huge acheivement.




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Self Advocacy Group - Peer Network Update

Welcome back from the Holidays. The New Year brings exciting news that this year we will again be running 2 weekly self-advocacy groups.

The self-advocacy groups are open to anyone with a disability who want to learn more about speaking up for themselves and making their own decisions. Meeting weekly, it gives you a chance to continue to develop the skills you learn, meet people and learn about issues that matter to you. The group is free to attend and a light afternoon tea provided.


Meeting times this year will be:

Wednesday 2pm – 4pm, Griffin Centre, Level 2, Room 9 (or otherwise advised)

         Commencing 21st January

Thursday 1pm-3pm Griffin Centre, Level 3, Canberra Men’s Centre meeting room (or otherwise advised)

   Commencing 19th February

Last year’s self-advocacy group  that was meeting on Thursdays will move to the Wednesday time.


I have been busy booking in guest speakers and planning meetings based on the feedback of what the group had discussed at the end of last year. We have some very interesting and exciting meetings coming up over the next few months. Guest speakers include; Andrew from Funny Works Oz, Guest speakers from the ACT Deafness Resource Centre and a dietician from Diabetes ACT plus many more. Also important is welcoming Andrew D, who will start in the role of volunteer co facilitator. Andrew has been a valued member of the Self advocate group for some time and is looking forward to using the skills he has learned and developed to assist others.


The Thursday group commencing 19th February – will start with “MY NDIS, My life, My Vision, My Say” a 5  week workshop on being ready for your first NDIS planning meeting. Self-advocates attending the workshop will be supplied with our “ My NDIS” preplanning kit.  This workshop was first run last year with great success.  

Examples of some of feedback we received from our self-advocate:  “When the NDIS came to talk to me there was nothing new. We had already talked about it here” and “ because we had talked about NDIS I understood all the words and what they were talking about”.  Evidence from trial sites has shown that the pre planning process is key to successful NDIS outcomes.


Self-advocates are welcome to attend either or both groups.





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Self Advocacy Group Update

This week's topic of "Preparing for meetings" fitted in well with the taking of photos for Advocacy for Inclusions NDIS pre planning kit. The kit has been put together to help people have ideas ready for their first NDIS meeting with their individual planner. Recent evidence has shown the importance of the pre planning process in the successful outcome of NDIS planning.

Also fitting in was our discussions focusing on our very own self advocacy group meetings and how they will look for next year. As part of meeting pre planning and setting of agendas, the group has brain stormed some topics that we would like to discuss and guest speakers we would like to hear from - some examples of ideas for next year are; contraception, personal safety in the community, fire safety in the home, personal training/exercise, diabetes education, medication safety and Volunteering ACT.
Recently, we started running our meetings slightly different with a set Agenda format. As a result self advocates are successfully taking on a greater role in the running of the group. An agenda has been helpful as it has provided a visual flow chart which amongst other things, helps keep us on topic and running to time.

Another change discussed this week was meeting times. With many of our group working and taking on new and exciting challenges, our current day and time of meetings (Thursday 1-3pm) is not going to work for next year. At this point we are looking at Tuesdays from 1pm-3pm for next year. We would appreciate any feedback from people who are attending or who wish to attend, on days and times that would suit you.

With the start of the new year, a new volunteer co facilitator will be needed to assist with the running/chairing of the group. Our most recent co facilitator, Kathryn R , will be standing down. We thank her for her time as co facilitator of the group. Kathryn has done a wonderful job and will continue on as a valued member of our self advocacy group next year.

Before the year is out we have a few more topics to be discussed.
6th November - Social Media with our own self advocate Anthony V guest speaking.
13th November - Discovering our strengths.
20th November - Advanced Care Planning and Wills - with an expert guest speaker
27th November - Self-esteem - feeling good about ourselves
4th December - End of year Celebration  - we will being go to a local café for afternoon tea (make sure to bring some money)
11th December - NDIS pre planning workshop in Braddon (RSVP required)
(This will be our last meeting for the year)

The group meets every Thursday from 1 - 3pm in the Griffin Centre. All people with disabilities are welcome to attend and groups are free. No registration necessary - just turn up

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