MHCC Mental Health Rights Manual

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Chapter 10 Section E : Support through advocacy

This part discusses what advocacy is and the different types of advocacy . Legal advocacy is briefly discussed, but for more information about legal services and legal advocacy, click here.

There is information about different types of advocacy: self-advocacy, individual advocacy and systemic advocacy.

There is information about several advocacy services that may be able to help you, as well as information about organisations that advocate for systemic change.

10E.1: What is advocacy?

An advocate is a person who speaks or communicates on behalf of another person. Advocacy is what an advocate does.

Advocacy is important to achieving an outcome through the legal system, through a formal complaints process or from an organisation that you are unhappy with. In all of these situations, an advocate can use their skills to outline effectively your concerns to the relevant person or organisation and what outcome you want.

When you are dealing with the legal system and legal problems, you should seek help from a lawyer. Usually a lawyer will be your advocate in court or at a tribunal dealing with your legal problem.

Most courts discourage people other than lawyers from being advocates in the legal process. Some will not allow this at all; others will allow this only in exceptional circumstances. Some courts and tribunals will let non-legal advocates help another person with their case, but not let them speak on behalf of the person they are helping.

However, there are some tribunals where solicitors or barristers are not allowed to advocate on behalf of other people in the hearing or are only allowed to do so with special permission. Examples of this are the Guardianship Division and the Consumer and Commercial Division of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).

The rest of this section of the Manual only deals with advocates assisting in non-legal situations. For information about how to access lawyers for both advice and legal advocacy, click here.

There are different types of non-legal advocacy and they are done by different people. For more about the different types of advocacy, click here . For information about an advocacy service that may be able to help you, click here.

10E.1.1: What are the different types of advocacy?

You may come across references to different sorts of advocacy. Sometimes, in real life, they overlap. Some organisations and individuals only provide one type of advocacy. However, others provide a range of advocacy types; sometimes even when they are assisting with one person's particular complaint or concerns.

  • Self-advocacy is when someone advocates on her or his own behalf.
  • Individual Advocacy is advocacy on behalf of a person (or groups of persons such as a close family group) to try to get particular outcomes or answers to questions.
  • Systemic Advocacy is when someone advocates for a system or policy change or reform of the law on behalf of the members of their organisation or on behalf of a sector of the community or the broader community. The outcomes sought are changes in systems, policy or the law, not changes in specific outcomes for individuals in specific situations.

However, sometimes when individual advocacy takes place, systemic change can be one of the outcomes. When people say they are complaining because they don't want what they are complaining about repeated in the future; they are participating in systemic advocacy as well as individual advocacy.

10E.2: SPECIALIST ADVOCACY SERVICES that can help a person with a mental health condition

10E.2.1: The Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association of NSW (MDAA)

The Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association (MDAA) provides individual advocacy for people with a non-English speaking background with disability, including mental illness. MDAA is a state-wide service and has advocates in a number of regional centres in NSW.

Examples of the kinds of issues MDAA advocates on include when people have problems with housing, immigration, school, work and disability services, as potential areas of assistance.

MDAA can be contacted at:

Phone: (02) 9891 6400
Freecall: 1800 629 072*
Fax: (02) 9635 535
Teletypewriter (TTY): (02) 9687 6325

Street address: 40 Albion Street


Click here for a list of MDAA advocates in regional areas.

* Remember, mobile phone calls to freecall numbers (numbers starting with 1800) are charged to the caller at the usual mobile rate.

10E.2.2: People with Disability Australia (PWD) - Disability Rights Information Service

The Disability Rights Information Service provides advice and referral services for people with disability and their associates. It also offers direct short-term issues-based advocacy services of a non-legal nature. It operates both a state-wide individual advocacy service, as well as regionally based individual advocacy services in Sutherland Shire, Queanbeyan and the Southern Highlands.

Click here to go to the People with Disability Australia website.

People with Disability Australia also provides independent advocacy assistance to people living in licensed Residential Centres (licensed boarding houses) in NSW. Its role is to:

  • promote and protect residents' legal, consumer and human rights;
  • to make sure that residents have access to health, allied health and community services;
  • support resident participation and decision-making in transition to new living arrangements, and to
  • provide an independent source of information to residents in their interactions with government agencies and service providers.

PWD and the Disability Rights Information Service can be contacted on:

Phone: (02) 9370 3100
Freecall: 1800 422 015*
Fax: (02) 9318 1372
Teletypewriter (TTY): (02) 9318 2138

*Remember, mobile phone calls to freecall numbers (numbers starting with 1800) are charged to the caller at the usual mobile rate.

10E.2.3: The Disability Trust

The Disability Trust provides information for people with disabilities and their families in the Illawarra/ Shoalhaven region of NSW and the ACT about everyday issues including:

  • Locally available programs and services
  • Referral to counselling or advocacy services
  • Self-advocacy & support groups
  • Forums and workshops
  • Gaining access to services, aids and equipment
  • Community Links

The Information and Advocacy services have 3 programs:

  • Disability Information and Assistance Line (DIAL) – covers the Illawarra Region and provides Information services
  • Illawarra Self-Advocacy group – group that meets monthly to increase skills, confidence and knowledge, in a fun way, so that people can speak up for themselves and help others to speak up as well
  • Shoalhaven Information and Advocacy (SIA) - covers the Shoalhaven Region and provides Information services and direct advocacy for people with a disability

The Trust also produces and distributes information about events and services for people with disabilities, frail aged and their carers through a monthly newsletter.

Contact the Disability Trust at these numbers for further information:

Email: or telephone: 1300 DISABILITY

1300 347 224* Website:

*Remember, mobile phone calls to freecall numbers (numbers starting with 1300) are charged to the caller at the usual mobile rate.

The Disability Trust provides a wide range of clinical and other services to people with disabilities, including mental health conditions in NSW and the ACT. Offices are in the following districts:


Fairy Meadow


Weston Community Hub

100-102 Jardine Street

210 Shellharbour Road

Cnr of Gritten and Hilder Streets

Fairy Meadow NSW 2519

Warrawong NSW 2502

Weston ACT 2611

PO Box 395

PO Box 242

Phone: 02 6287 7305

Fairy Meadow NSW 2519

Phone: 02 4255 3100


Phone 1: 02 4255 8000

Fax: 02 4210 8684

Bega Valley

Phone 02: 1300 347 224


156 Newtown Rd

Fax: 02 4255 8088


PO Box 933



Bega NSW 2550

Cooma - Monaro


Phone: 02 6492 3995

Suite 3, Centennial Plaza


Fax: 02 6492 4357

114-128 Sharp St



PO Box 741



Cooma NSW 2630


35 Old Princes Hwy

Phone: 02 6452 6522


PO Box 752



Batemans Bay NSW 2536

Goulburn - Mulwaree


Phone: 02 4472 3707

PO Box 1054


Fax: 02 4472 3701

Goulburn NSW 2580



Phone: 02 4821 5265



Fax: 02 4821 9308


272A Crawford Street



Queanbeyan NSW 2620



Phone: 02 6232 9440

Unit 11A, 75 Cygnet Ave



Shellharbour City Centre NSW 2529



Phone: 02 4295 9800


1/19 Nowra Lane

Fax: 02 4295 9890


Nowra NSW 2541



Phone: 02 4428 9000

Southern Highlands


Fax: 02 4421 6880

Shop 5, 2 Ward Lane



Mittagong NSW 2578


South West Sydney Office

Phone: 02 4860 1100


Unit 14 Macarthur Business Enterprise Centre

Fax: 02 4871 2848


70 Topham Road



Smeaton Grange NSW 2567

 Sutherland and St George


Phone: 02 4647 6613

248 The Boulevarde


PO Box 474



Miranda NSW 2228



Phone: 02 9540 3011



Fax: 02 9540 3032