Although society continues to look to professionals for answers, MEDA asks ordinary citizens to become involved in the lives of people with intellectual disability. Many people have lived experience or possess a variety of talents through their experience in family, work, church, and community associations. Contact us if you can help us continue our vital work in those eastern suburbs of Melbourne in which we operate.
The role of a Volunteer Citizen Advocate
Citizen Advocates can expect to perform a variety of roles.
Standing Behind and Beside
Citizen Advocates have a role to stand alongside people with intellectual disability. To support people to have a voice and to feel heard and to guide and support people to be a part of decisions affecting their lives.
In some situations people with intellectual disabilities are not treated with respect and dignity. Their basic human rights are denied, and they are expected to tolerate life conditions that you and I would not accept. Some people with intellectual disability have difficulty communicating their interests and needs to service providers and other people. A citizen advocate can provide an articulate voice for a person either in meetings or through written correspondence. The role of a spokesperson is to represent the individual’s rights and encourage individuals to ‘speak up for themselves’ as much as circumstances allow.
Everyone needs assistance at times to get through everyday life. People with intellectual disability may need assistance with: using a phone, using a new piece of household equipment, reading a map or deciphering a public transport timetable. Citizen Advocates can support, teach or assist people with disability to become as independent as possible by linking them with programs that empower them to increase their skills and community connections. The advocacy partnership is not about the individual with disability forming a dependency upon the citizen advocate.
Citizen Advocates are encouraged to support the person to be included in the local community by assisting the person to engage and contact local mainstream services.
Citizen Advocates are encouraged to develop a personal rapport or friendship. Friendship includes caring, sharing, emotional support, spending time together, having fun and just being there for the person. The way the friendship develops is largely up to both people. The aim is for the people involved to develop mutual respect and understanding. Although friendship is not essential, advocates will usually find themselves in a better position to safeguard the rights and interests as well as monitor the quality of life of the person with whom they are matched once friendship is established.
Click to read volunteer FAQs.
Click to read about becoming a MEDA member.