The Strength of Advocacy Shared Intelligence

This was the third session at the Advocacy Sector Conversations forum held at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre on 27 November 2018.


Demand for advocacy  is growing while, at the same time, the rules seem to be changing every day. Advocates are increasingly challenged to keep their knowledge base up to date in order to respond to new situations. Geoff Southwell from Leadership Plus, demonstrates a new app that they have developed. It is a secure platform where advocates  can connect to share information, advice and fresh perspectives with links to relevant resources and information.




Remember that you need to be working for a funded disability advocacy organisation to be eligible to join this app. For more information, or to request a login, contact Geoff Southwell at Leadership Plus:
E: [email protected]
T: (03) 9489 2999


Transcript & Audio


If everyone is happy to take a seat, we might commence with the next speaker.  If everyone is happy to sit down and we’re moving right ahead, I might get started.

I would now like to introduce to you Geoff Southwell from Leadership Plus.  Disability advocacy is getting more challenging every day – demand is growing and the rules are changing.  Dealing with new situations challenges our knowledge every day.  Yet there is probably someone the hundreds of advocates across Victoria who knows exactly what to do.  How do you find that perfect person with the perfect information you need?  Advice, support, technical or just another view of a problem.  Find out how to connect with other advocates in the sector to help make all our work easier and better.

That’s pretty much it actually I can go home now.  Thank you very much.

I would like to talk to you about what we can do to make it easier to get at information other people in the sector have actually got.  We’ve got a lot of people in the organisations around the State.  There is something like a hundred people who are involved in advocacy around Victoria either funded by the Victorian Government or funded by the Federal Government.

Whilst it’s an ever-changing environment the likelihood is somebody out there will have encountered a problem that you’re encountering already, the challenge is how to get hold of that person and find out what that information actually is.

A lot of this has been driven  offcourse with the NDIS.  The NDIS coming in has resulted in a lot of changes in the way the disability sector is working.  The organisations you’re working with, the nature of the relationship between our clients and the service providers, the service providers out there, the structure of the service providers.  Also, the NDIA process itself is very legalistic and complicated.

We started working with other agencies who were involved in providing appeals to the AAT for NDIS decisions and we found with a monthly teleconference that there are lots of issues coming up comparing notes about cases, explaining what case decisions had been and found it was useful to share more information between each other in between those sessions.  As a result of that, we set up a collaboration hub, in affect, where we could exchange information, compare notes, ask each other questions.

The question is all about information – whose got the information about evidence, whose got the information about what you need to apply to NDIS, whose got the information about how you get a particular piece of evidence for a particular condition, what’s the appropriate steps to make sure that your application with the NDIS is heard properly, what are the appropriate bits of information to support your request for a reviewable decision, what’s the information you need to go to the AAT.

That can vary depending on the client you’re working with, the circumstances around their particular claims, all those things it’s very complicated.  The question is how do you find that person.

As a result of the pilot we did, the Victorian Government has funded us to implement the Victorian Advocacy Hub.  We’ve set up a tool where any agency that’s involved with advocacy is funded by the DHHS or NDAP, can log on become part of that community and start a conversation, ask a question, ask anything about the work they’re doing advocacy in general or NDIS in particular or even a particular condition.

We’ve set it up with several channels to have discussions about particular topics.  There’s something like ninety-three advocates already registered to use it.  Somebody out there can probably answer the question already and somebody is online already.

What I’m going to do is do a little bit of a demonstration of it and show you what it looks like and hopefully it will be some incentive for you to have a look at it and try it for yourself later on.  With a bit of luck the technology will work.

What we have here is an area where we can just have discussions about anything; people can ask a question about anything at all, conversations about anything you want.  We’ve set it up with various rooms, various areas about topics.  We’ve got general discussion, which might be useful.  We’ve got things like AAT decisions where we’ve recorded decisions made by the AAT about the NDIS already.

We’ve already put in some individual cases as they’ve come up so people can look up what the history is of a particular case, a case that’s relevant.  We’ve got some discussions about the NDIS and how it actually works.  There are things like provider toolkits, things about mental illness.

We’ve also got previous things about pathways; those are previous questions people have already asked.  It might be something specific about Centrelink, don’t yet know if there is anything relevant about that, eligibility questions.

In practice, I can show you some discussion in real life if you like.  For example, this morning there was discussion about safeguarding.  Someone out there may have seen this session this morning, might know what we’re talking about.  The question is we heard about safeguarding this morning but how does this operate in practice, what things do we need to know about it that we don’t yet already know and hopefully somebody out there will answer that question.

There’s other things you can do like search.  For example, I could search that and that will pull up things like flowcharts.  There are flowcharts out there we’ve found that we’ve posted on here which has information about how to access the NDIS.  All these things are available once you find them.

This for example is a flowchart of how you actually go through the various stage of applying to the NDIS.  So request to become a participant, getting access approval, getting it not approved what steps you then go to do internal review, what steps you then go to an appeal.  Someone is asking if anyone has got a code of conduct.

That woman said it’s on their website.

Right okay.  There you go that’s a discussion that’s already started.  I’ve asked a general question about safeguards, Rachel has asked specifically has anyone got the code of conduct and there’s the actual document.  Again, that’s something, which is immediately available to anyone who’s logged on.  There’s all the detail you need to know about the code of conduct as was discussed this morning.

A follow up question – does anyone know how to lodge a complaint so another very legitimate question.  We know complaints have been discussed, how do you actually do it.  There’s more information about the actual details, what a complaint actually does, how to make a complaint, what complaints we do.

Of course these things are on the NDIS website but a lot of the stuff, you get down to very specifics.  You need to find a particular way dealing with a particular complaint or a particular question then having somebody else’s experience is very very useful.  More specifically wondering what a reportable incident actually is.  Again, there’s probably some guidelines for that somewhere and maybe someone out there knows what’s there maybe not.

Parents being their children’s biggest advocate, is this just for providers or we as parents are we allowed to log onto this as well because we’re kind of our children’s advocates as well?

We’re funded specifically to provide support for the agencies funded by the Victorian Government and NDAP.  The answer is no.  I guess that’s also because all those agencies have some sort of quality processes around their actual operations that that potentially underwrites the quality information that’s being discussed in something like this.  Doesn’t mean it’s always right but it certainly assists.

Anyway, what I’d like to do is ask you all a question.  How many of you in the room have heard of this before?  How many have signed up for it, registered – four people who have signed up.  As I say there’s already over 90 people who have signed up so if the balance of people actually sign up we’re probably talking 120, 150 people who are actually on the other end of the line if you’re asking a question.

The most important thing from my point of view I guess is making sure that people are actually using it.  It really relies entirely on actually being used.  Just coming back to that discussion, somebody is working with a client who has a complaint about a service provider, goodness me that sounds awful.

It depends entirely on people actually using it.  There’s information there but there’s no sort of process just to feed information automatically.  It’s about sharing stuff.  We’re adding things like the AAT case descriptions as we go because that’s useful to have but beyond that, it’s really up to the community to be actively using it and to generate the discussions about it.

For now what I would like to do is ask you people what you’d like to know about it that you don’t already know, over to you.

I guess I have a two-part question.  The first being that obviously several people in this room who work directly with advocacy have heard of this type of prototype, which I think, is really good, my question is how are you getting the knowledge out there that this resource exists?  Are you still in the process of fine tuning it and retooling it so that it’s user friendly, do you check on feedback from users, what is entailed in that process?

In terms of promoting it, standing here today for starters but basically we’ve emailed invitations to all the agencies in the State that we know of which is as far as I know all of them.  We’ve run some training sessions with groups of advocacies and advocates.  We’re happy to do as much of that as necessary.  Whatever is useful to promote it and to help people learn to use it we’ll do.

In practice, it’s pretty much a self-education thing.  You turn it on and it takes you through a tutorial and from then on, it’s just up and running.  In terms of refining it basically, you’re using a tool set for managing discussions, which is as it is.  All we’re potentially doing is refining if you like those discussion areas on the left side.

We’ve created a whole bunch of channels, which are just discussion topics.  It may make more sense to have fewer of them or more of them but that’s really anyone in the community can actually do that themselves anyway.  It’s not something we need to be prescriptive about.

It’s certainly open to feedback.  Anything in terms of how it could be improved or what information should be added, or anything, we’re happy to take on board.

Hi, I’m Miia I work at YDAS which is the Youth Disability Advocacy Service.  We use the Slack platform at our organisation just to communicate amongst our staff so I’m familiar with the way that it works.  You mentioned that emails have been sent out to invite people to join and for some reason if we’ve missed it how do we request to join again?  How do we access it?

I would say just contact me as a starting point but that does raise a question how to do that more generally.  What we might do is get DARU to promote a link on it as well because it’s something that’s complimentary to what DARU does.  If we just put a reminder there and a link there then that should make it possible.

Are you able to search for previous discussions and see previous things saved that you can look what questions are asked?

Yes, you can search on anything that’s been in the public discussions.   Anything anyone has said at any point you can search on and that will pull up both the conversation you’ve had if you’ve had a conversation or the topic, other people talked about.

You can also filter it.  You can search just for things I’ve talked about or if you know Melanie has done a particular conversation about a particular topic you can say tell me just about incident reporting that Melanie has posted, you can pull up something like that.

In terms of how we might improve it, I’m also open to any suggestions people might have in terms of things we could be adding to it.  As I mentioned we’ve got things like the AAT decisions but there’s potentially other things that we could be adding that are useful to have as a general resource.  Obviously we’d put in links to DARU discussions and things like that but any other ideas we’re more than happy to hear about them.

Does anyone have any other comments or questions about the app?  I’ve used it myself it’s actually a really good tool to just get instant information about what’s happening as well.  I found it really useful.  If you haven’t done it, please sign up.

Thanks to you Geoff.

I will just reinforce that point please if you haven’t already signed up contact us and we will get you signed up.  There is another question down here.

Sorry I just thought it might be helpful to mention that it does work as a telephone as well, so you can actually talk to those individuals.  I think that’s something that’s handy if you want a more general discussion.

That is a good point I forgot to mention that.  There is also direct messaging capability.  You can have a conversation with an individual, which is not public to everyone else so it’s just another good way of exchanging information.

Given the nature of the work we do and given things like confidentiality there is lots of situations where you might be asking in a general forum does anyone have any experience in this particular type of case and somebody might but then it might be appropriate then to have a more narrow conversation offline.

Again, that’s just connecting people, finding the right person who’s got the experience and making it possible for them to help you with your particular issue.  Thank you very good point.

Like Geoff said before we will circulate all the information about the app and all the resources from today on DARUs website and we will let you know when it’s all up.

Just wondering whether others, whether this kind of system is available in other States and if there’s a view to do something a national equivalent given the NDIS being national, a few things are national.

This particular thing isn’t available nationally but I know that Mary Mallett from DANA the national body has been looking at it closely and has been keen to promote something like that and off course, we stand ready to help.

It’s certainly good, there is no reason why it shouldn’t go national particularly around things like managing NDIS appeals where that’s a very specific tool set, skill set involved.

Thank you everyone for your attention.  We look forward to seeing you all logging in in a very short space of time, having active discussions and making use of it.  Thank you very much.

Thank you very much.


Date published:
Tue 27th Nov, 2018