Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council Inc
Disability peak body
Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council Inc
The Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council Inc [VMIAC] has a determined view as to the future directions of NDAP. Advocacy has been a significant action since the introduction of deinstitutionalisation. It is important that any future over- arching decisions be inclusive of the realities of the people those decisions are made to serve.
VMIAC is aware that an ideal model of support is one that wraps around the individual. It is support which has an eclectic response of assistance. Where the individual’s rights and chosen direction of care is prioritised and addressed. It is responsive not reactive.
To be responsive, services need to first acknowledge that the health and wellbeing of the individual is the human right to be the driver of their own future. This premise needs to be the focus of all services ethos, philosophy and missions.
VMIAC specialises in advocacy for individuals with a mental health lived experience. We aim to ensure that each individual and their identified supports are provided with a service that is holistic in its approach. We start from the premise that we as a service are in the individual’s life for a short period we need to make that contact period an effective positive interaction. We are conscious that relaying your story more than once to get a service is disempowering of the individuals’ right to privacy.
1.1 In the Mental health space there is a situation where consumers struggle with a disability status. Within disability services people who experience a diagnosis of mental illness also experience discrimination and refusal of services. VMIAC aims to provide advocacy which is responsive via the consumers directed choices.
1.2 Minimal options provide for minimal choices. Telling your story more than once shouldn’t be an option – again different workers, same story, no real outcome.
1.3 VMIAC’s skill in advocacy is based on a “no wrong door” approach. Any consumer who accesses VMIAC either by phone, internet or in person can make the choice of a ‘wrap around’ service or if they wish referral to another service. We do not provide a prescriptive service. VMIAC has a long history of providing advocacy services by experienced consumers, ensuring that services are significantly different from other advocacy services in the mental health sector. VMIAC is also experienced in providing a state-wide service and the acknowledgement of the additional resources required to deliver this type of service.
2.1 VMIAC recognises that Aboriginal and Torres strait island peoples are the first people of the land in Australia. The recognition and understanding of their communities as one of kinship and diversity, a community which is entitled to advocacy which is not directive but inclusive.
VMIAC recognises that services delivered to any specific group should be delivered by their peers. Partnerships with these organisations is essential.
2.2 Self- directed advocacy enhances the capabilities of self- determination within these communities. The right to make choices in how they receive and accept advocacy underpins the VMIAC approach. VMIAC believes in people’s capacity to undertake advocacy for themselves and supports programs and services that build on this capacity.
3.1 There should be a uniform data collection. This universal adoption of the same collated information will allow for the identification of advocacy shortfalls. In return the allocation of advocacy to particular consumer groups allows for an over aching collective response. Systemically, it is important to identify that mental health does not always have a universal language or understanding. VMIAC acknowledges that in some instances the language of disability is more acceptable within communities rather than mental health.
Whilst we promote data collection, VMIAC also recognises that systemic advocacy has a myriad of opportunity to step outside the breath of what we can facilitate. As we have a ‘no wrong door policy’ VMIAC are often made aware of barriers experienced by families and carers and are able to access the expertise of Tandem – which is the Peak body for carers in Victoria.
3.2 VMIAC recognises that effective advocacy can only be driven by providing an eclectic response. It is important to acknowledge that consumers may require a myriad of advocacy and have the right to access more than one service system at the same time. VMIAC recognises that advocacy is best driven by going on the journey with consumers to ensure that they have their universal human rights met.
4.1 Where a conflict of interest arises a person has the right to be informed of this and provided with the option to be referred to another organisation. There needs to be an understanding that other avenues for support and advocacy such as Public Advocates and Ombudsman services exist.
4.2 There needs to be a comprehensive understanding of the service sector. There is a real concern that services in some instances will overlap while in other areas there will be no service offered. It will be important to have Memorandums of understandings between organisations for referral and services offered.
4.3 Australia is a signatory to the CRPD. There would also be some value in raising an anti- disability discrimination campaign, thereby highlighting the value of being ‘differently abled’.
5.1 Access to justice is a basic human right. VMIAC have stated previously that we walk alongside consumers towards their life choices. VMIAC recognises that legislation states that legal advice and legal advocacy can only be delivered by a lawyer. While this may be true VMIAC has spent a great deal of advocacy time facilitating access to justice. VMIAC has found this to be most effective.
5.2 Discrimination; lack of services; poorly funded services; limited access to legal redress.
5.3 An example of good legal advocacy is the legal services and support being offered following the findings of the Royal Commission into Childhood sexual abuse. The sensitivities that these particular lawyers offer are amazing. They have been able to provide legal advice, support within the context of an understanding of what these individuals have experienced. People with disabilities, in particular mental health do not always have the same interactions with legal services. While we appreciate that legal services are over worked in many cases, unless you are on a community treatment order you are unlikely to be able to access services without ensuing a cost.