HOW TO BECOME INVOLVED
Citizen Advocates are needed!
We all need justice, acceptance, love, security and control over the course of our lives. From time to time we all need practical support and representation. Sadly, these universal human needs are often not met for people with disabilities.
As a result of destructive social attitudes, some people with disability are often rejected, lonely and isolated and have very few opportunities to experience ordinary life.
This often translates into the person receiving unsuitable or poor quality services, or being denied services entirely.
This can also lead to unfair treatment, exploitation, neglect and abuse.
Become a Citizen Advocate
Citizen Advocates come from all walks of life, are of all ages, and each bring with them a very individual range of life experience, skills and expertise. Each Citizen Advocacy relationship is unique. The Citizen Advocate may become regular visitors and loyal friends for those who are isolated and lonely. Some citizen advocates even become substitute family for those who have no family of their own. Some advocates will offer new experiences and opportunities, and in some instances, spokespersonship and protection from abuse and harm.
Citizen advocates are carefully matched on a “one to one” basis with a person who welcomes their assistance. Each citizen advocate is provided with ongoing support and backup while they are involved. Citizen advocates don’t have rosters or timesheets to fill out, they just get on with the task of helping someone.
Because advocates are only involved with one person, they see the results of their involvement first hand. Over the long term, some extraordinary and wonderful things have happened for people who have had citizen advocates in their lives.
What skills do advocates need:
- believe in the right of all people to be treated with dignity and respect,
- don’t look for material rewards for helping someone in need,
- are genuine about making a serious commitment to a person with a
- have high expectations about what people with disabilities can achieve with the right support,
- demonstrate to the community by their actions and attitudes, that people with disability have the same needs and interests as any other member of society.
Many people who want to volunteer have much more than just their time and labour to offer. They have a ready store of experience and wisdom gathered throughout their life which can really make a difference to others who are not quite so experienced and resourceful.
Citizen Advocacy is a Sunshine Coast organisation which invites responsible, community minded men and women who are interested in a different way to volunteer, a way which encourages the passing on of useful skills and experience, an opportunity to become citizen advocates.
What training/orientation will you receive
People become citizen advocates for many reasons. Some because they have a desire to help people with disabilities achieve their personal aspirations, or because they feel a need to do something meaningful and relevant and others because they identify with the basic injustices people with disabilities face every day.
Whatever the reason, it is very important that citizen advocates have an initial sense of understanding and competence to be able to respond in an effective way.
All new Citizen Advocates are thoroughly prepared for their roles before they are introduced to the person with disability they will be involved with.
Orientation is a process where many potential advocates come to understand and gain some insight into the life of a person who is devalued by the community. The orientation can also show how strongly we are shaped and influenced by myths, stereotypes and societal values. For others, the orientation process will enhance their awareness of these issues and strengthen their resolve to ensure people with disabilities are treated as having the same worth and value and with the same dignity and respect we have come to expect as human beings.
Orientations are never the same for any two people each is tailored to meet the needs of the advocate and will focus on the issues and needs specific to the person the advocate is to be matched with. However, all orientations will cover the common life experiences of people with disabilities and how citizen advocacy can and does respond to them.
Other ways to become involved
Crisis advocates are on call to assist with problems or crises which need to be urgently addressed, eg. stopping physical or other abuse occurring; assisting a person who has become, or is in danger of becoming homeless; stopping intrusive or unfair treatment of a person; or helping to meet an emergency until a long-term advocate can be appointed.
An individual willing to work with the staff to recruit advocates through speaking to interested groups, assisting with advertising ideas and layouts, making contact with interested individuals.
Advocate Associates are professionals or other individuals, often in influential positions, who have embraced the advocacy concept without actually playing an individual advocacy role. They assist advocates by being available to provide specialist advice and support within their area of expertise. Advocate Associates provide a source of expert advice to Citizen Advocate Office Staff and Advocates in areas such as legal, financial, medical, counselling and government agency processes.
Member of Sunshine Coast Citizen Advocacy
Any person who wishes to be a supporting member of SCCA and be entitled to “Ordinary Member” status. Membership includes all benefits listed below and voting rights at the SCCA Annual General Meeting (AGM).
- Invitations to SCCA member events and functions,
- Opportunities for training in Citizen Advocacy and related fields,
- Networking opportunities,
- Public recognition of membership status.