The Disability Advocacy Resource Unit (DARU), in collaboration with Disability Advocacy Victoria (DAV) and the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS), is pleased to respond to the Review of the National Disability Advocacy Framework (the Framework) discussion paper.

About one million Victorians have a disability, and around 338,200 have a profound or severe disability. There are 33 disability advocacy organisations operating in Victoria, including two resource units. That is, the DARU and the Self Advocacy Resource Unit (SARU).

In early July 2015, DARU convened a roundtable discussion of representatives from 13 disability advocacy organisations and two consumer representatives. The disability advocacy organisations in attendance included a mix of organisations receiving Commonwealth National Disability Advocacy Program funding, Victorian Government disability advocacy program funding, or a combination of the two. With the exception of one organisation, which is funded to deliver systemic advocacy only, all organisations in attendance were funded to provide individual advocacy. This submission draws upon the comments and feedback provided at that roundtable consultation. It also draws heavily upon recommendations and commentary from the Victorian Ombudsman report into the reporting and investigation of allegations of abuse in the disability sector.

The participants understood the Framework is the structure that governments currently work within to enable and support people with disability to protect their rights and overcome barriers. However, they strongly believed that the Australian Government needs to take this further by placing the human rights of people with disability in legislation for their rights to be truly protected.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Australia ratified in 2008, supports this argument.

Subsection 1 of article 16 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities says that:

“States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, educational and other measures to protect persons with disabilities, both within and outside the home, from all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse, including their gender-based aspects.”

Further to this, participants believed the role of advocacy outlined in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) legislation only goes part way to acknowledging the role of advocacy for people with disability, especially noted that it does not state that advocacy is a right.

Clause 4 subclause 13 of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (C’th) states:

“The role of advocacy in representing the interests of people with disability is to be acknowledged and respected, recognising that advocacy supports people with disability by:
a) Promoting their independence and social and economic participation;
B) Promoting choice and control in the pursuit of their goals and the planning and delivery of their supports; and
c) Maximising independent lifestyles of people with disability and their full inclusion in the mainstream community.”