Support for self-advocacy

June 21, 2024 BY

Plans into action: Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters and RIAC chief executive officer Dr Sandy Ross discuss the self-advocacy project. Photo: SUPPLIED

HELPING people with disabilities to help themselves will be the focus of a new federally-funded project in the Bendigo region.

The Rights Information and Advocacy Centre is receiving more than $2 million to boost the self-advocacy program, a move announced by Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters last week.

The sum of $2,203,403 is being delivered through the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building scheme, a program that funds projects for people with disabilities, their carers and their families.

RIAC’s three-year project will set up participant-led peer action groups in cities and towns including Bendigo.

To be developed in partnership with Grampians DisAbility Advocacy, it is expected to better integrate people with disabilities into their communities by providing training and self-advocacy.

RIAC chief executive officer Dr Sandy Ross said his organisation would “support capability-building based on awareness of rights and developing participants’ skills, knowledge and confidence for self-advocacy to exercise those rights.”

“The training element of the program is based on recognising that people with intellectual disabilities learn best through practical, hands-on, real-life experiences instead of traditional classroom-based methods,” he said.

“By promoting integration, inclusion and active participation in the community, we are working towards a society where people with disabilities are fully included and can contribute meaningfully.”

Local projects spearheaded by the action groups will likely involve developing partnerships with sports clubs, businesses and civic organisations to enhance inclusion and accessibility.

When she announced the funding, Ms Chesters said the latest grants round was highly competitive and had been targeted at organisations supporting austistic people or people with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities.

Those groups often face “disproportionate barriers” to accessing appropriate levels of support.

“RIAC is an outstanding organisation that provides independent advocacy and support for local people who might struggle navigating services like the NDIS,” Ms Chesters said.

“Their service is in demand and that is why I’m proud to

see $2.2 million in federal funding for a new program to support and empower more local people with disabilities across Bendigo.”