Participants reported their feedback on the future environment for disability advocacy, and the directions that could underpin its development.
Increase the profile of advocacy
The availability and types of advocacy need to be heavily promoted throughout the community. People with disability and their families/carers need to know that advocacy exists before they can ask for a disability advocate.
Advocacy should be funded across Australia
Participants agreed that disability advocacy must be funded and available in all states and territories. This would ensure that all Australians with a disability have access to the same levels and variety of disability advocacy as their interstate counterparts.
Currently, there is a disparity between states and territories with regard to the amount and types of advocacy available to people with disability. Victoria, relative to other states, has a large, well organised and funded disability advocacy sector. Participants would like to see this to continue to be the case, and participants were keen to see that other states are similarly resourced.
As previously stated, participants believed that rights-based legislation should underpin the framework, otherwise other mechanisms put in place risk being weakened.
The unique needs of different diagnostic groups require recognition
Participants believed that it is important to recognise the advocacy needs of specific population groups, including women, children and young people.
For example, the period of adolescence and young adulthood often includes important life transitions and growing independence. It is important that the unique needs young people face during this period that are distinct from those of children with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities are recognised and supported through funding of specialist services.
Participants also argued that it is of equal importance to recognise diagnostic specific groups such as people who are blind, deaf or have complex communication needs.
Advocacy should remain the joint responsibility of State and Commonwealth Governments
State and Commonwealth Governments should continue to have joint responsibility to fund disability advocacy programs. The dual focus of both levels of Government allows for a greater level of oversight and gives disability advocacy the recognition it needs in order to be best utilised by people with disability.
Both levels of Government have responsibilities that affect the lives of people with disability. They each have different capacities to identify the needs of people with disability and, combined, can provide more stable and complete coverage of services. Dual funding arrangements would also enable disability advocacy to maintain a greater level of independence.