AMPARO Advocacy speaks, acts and writes on behalf of vulnerable people from a non-English speaking background with disability to defend, protect and promote their rights and interests so their fundamental needs are met. Individual advocacy is provided in a way that respects and meets language, cultural and religious needs of the person and is based on the principles of human rights, social justice and inclusion.
AMPARO Advocacy recognises that societal responses to vulnerable people can be extremely inadequate and strong social advocacy on their behalf is often needed. The people with whom we work are those most likely to be at risk and least able to represent or defend their own interests and whose fundamental needs are not being met – inadequate food, clothing, income, support, housing, health and wellbeing, safety and freedom from harm, having someone who cares.
We work to assist refugees and migrants with disability and their families who are experiencing social and economic marginalisation to identify their unmet needs and to address issues of disadvantage, discrimination and neglect. Individual advocacy is provided to people living in the Brisbane area who meet the eligibility criteria AMPARO Advocacy advocates for a diverse mix of people who differ in age, disability, language, culture, living arrangement, relationships and life situations.
To receive individual advocacy the person must:
- have a disability;
- be from a non-English speaking background for whom language and /or cultural differences make it difficult to understand and negotiate systems and services that support people.
- be vulnerable and not having their fundamental needs met;
- be between 0-65years of age;
- live within the Brisbane area.
To be accepted for individual advocacy the organisation must have the capacity and resources to offer assistance.
If you need an interpreter to speak with someone at AMPARO Advocacy you can call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450 and ask them to contact AMPARO Advocacy on 3354 4900.
All new referrals are discussed at fortnightly staff meetings to determine eligibility and AMPARO’s capacity to accept the person for individual advocacy. Organisations can locate a referral form on this website.
Individual advocacy stories
At risk of homelessness
Habib and his wife and children are Australian citizens, but were originally refugees from Afghanistan who entered the country around 8 years ago. Habib experiences an acquired brain injury as a result of violence he experienced while fleeing Afghanistan. Habib’s brain injury precludes Habib from working. Habib spends much of his time at home playing with his children or volunteering at their school, which he enjoys.
A referral was made to AMPARO Advocacy around property issues Habib and his family were experiencing. They live in private rental accommodation that is overseen or managed by a multicultural service provider. After a property inspection, Habib has been accused by his landlord of keeping the house in an unreasonable condition, and there is an indirect threat by the landlord that the family may be asked to leave the property. In addition, Habib has received a bill for over $5,000 from the multicultural service provider to remedy alleged damages he has caused to the property over a number of years. Habib is confused and very concerned that his family is about to be evicted. He also cannot afford to pay the $5,000 bill and is unsure why he has received this. The family, due to language barriers, does not understand what is going on and feel very distressed.
AMPARO Advocacy considered Habib was in a precarious position in terms of potential imminent homelessness. Through discussing the bill with Habib and his wife through a Dari interpreter, AMPARO Advocacy also ascertained that many of the items on the $5,000 damages bill were in fact not a result of damage caused by the family, but issues that had arisen in the home as a result of reasonable wear and tear that the family had raised with the multicultural service provider. Also, on examination of the property, AMPARO Advocacy observed that the property was an older property with low quality fixtures and finishing’s; and were somewhat surprised as the multicultural service provider had indicated it was a newer property. While Habib agreed to cover any costs related to damage caused by himself and his family, the family were not prepared to pay for issues to the property which they had not directly caused – but, in fact, had requested to get fixed. AMPARO Advocacy was also concerned that this bill had built up over a number of years and had not been previously addressed by the multicultural service provider.
AMPARO Advocacy supported the family to seek advice and representation from their local Tenancy Advocacy and Advice Centre, including attending appointments with them. Under the terms of their contract, the family learnt that the landlord could issue them with a notice to leave the property at any time. This placed the family in a very tenuous and difficult position in trying to negotiate to have the $5,000 bill decreased; as they were concerned that any conflict could result in a notice to leave. Through an interpreter, the family was advised of their rights to pursue the matter through the legal system.
The matter remains ongoing – a positive outcome of AMPARO Advocacy’s involvement being that when contacting the multicultural service provider the family is now represented by the Tenancy Advocacy service, which has created a greater sense of transparency and accountability around their matter. Interpreters are also being used by the Tenancy Advocacy service to clarify background facts, provide the family with advice and obtain their instructions. Importantly, the family feels they understand “what is happening”. Habib’s CRPD right to an adequate standard of living and social protection (Article 28), while still precarious, is nevertheless being protected and promoted.
At risk of being excluded from the educational system
AMPARO Advocacy has advocated on behalf of a young boy called Raja from a Liberian background who was at serious risk of being excluded from the Queensland education system due to a lack of appropriate educational, medical and therapeutic assistance. Raja arrived in Australia under the Humanitarian Program with his sole parent and five older siblings in mid-2006. His mother reports that she had not experienced any concerns regarding Raja’s behaviour until he commenced school in Australia. Prior to coming to Australia Raja had been living in a refugee camp for 3 years with his family and had not had access to any formal education.
Within a few months of commencing school in Australia it was identified by the teachers that Raja was experiencing significant learning difficulties, and was struggling to follow directions given by his teachers. He was frequently suspended from school due to physical and verbal aggression towards his peers and teachers and was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. Before AMPARO Advocacy became involved Raja had attended several different Special Education Units attached to various primary schools. He had only attended a Special Education Unit at high school for less than six months when he was expelled. Raja was very unhappy with being separated from his peers and felt the stigma of being seen to be different and was at serious risk of dropping out of school permanently. Raja was at serious risk of missing out on receiving a secondary school education and the long term impact of this would have been devastating.
Raja’s mother was struggling as a single parent and sole income earner to cope financially and emotionally to support her family in a new country. She had limited proficiency in English and required an accredited interpreter, particularly when having important information explained to her regarding her son or when needing to make important informed decisions. Language and cultural barriers meant that the family required much assistance to negotiate the educational system to ensure Raja was included in the best educational environment to meet his needs.
AMPARO Advocacy was also concerned that Raja’s diagnosis was formed without a culturally appropriate assessment of his needs for support.
Our advocacy efforts focused on ensuring:
- Culturally sensitive cognitive, speech and language assessment for Raja.
- Raja could attend an inclusive school and receive the best supports possible so that he could complete his secondary education.
- Teaching staff having access to support and information to provide the educational support that would enable Raja to continue his education without the risk of further suspensions or expulsion from school.
After much negotiation, Raja was enrolled in an inclusive independent secondary school, however he was again at serious risk of being expelled after attending this school for one month.
To achieve our goals for Raja over the past two years AMPARO Advocacy has worked closely and attended many meetings, with Raja’s mother, his teachers and the principal of the independent school to secure individualized support for Raja to pursue the subjects he is interested in so that he could complete his senior school education.
The school is staffed by a multi-disciplinary team of teachers, counsellors, youth workers and family workers with a philosophy of providing holistic support for attending students.
According to Education Queensland an inclusive education “builds communities that value, celebrate and respond to diversity. It is underpinned by respectful relationships between learners and school community members. It is supported by collaborative relationships with parents and communities through communication, learning partnerships, participation and consultative decision-making.”
To assist in maintaining Raja’s school enrolment, AMPARO Advocacy secured the involvement of behavioural specialists who undertook an appropriate cognitive, speech and language assessment taking into consideration Raja’s cultural and language background and previous lack of educational opportunities. These finding were summarized in a comprehensive report with specific recommendations which were implemented by Raja’s teachers.
AMPARO’s experience is that some government and non-government services are still not utilizing accredited interpreters. Advocacy was needed to ensure the presence of an accredited interpreter for every meeting Raja’s mother attended regarding medical, therapeutic and educational issues.
Advocacy efforts were also directed at securing appropriate therapeutic intervention from the Mater Hospital specialist clinic for children and support from the family General Practitioner. Language and cultural barriers required the advocate to attend many of these appointments to ensure:
- Onsite accredited interpreters were always provided
- The advocate had a thorough understanding of Raja’s complex support needs
- Raja’s mother understood the issues her son was facing and could make informed decisions of his behalf.
Raja has successfully maintained his enrolment at the school now for the past two years, studying those subjects that interest him and will soon complete grade ten. His teachers are working very closely with Raja and his family. He is attending school as required, participating to a greater extent across all school activities, growing in confidence and taking on more responsibilities. ‘
The wider impact of mental illness
AMPARO Advocacy has been assisting Andrea, a woman who came to Australia under the Humanitarian Program, and who is a sole parent with 2 young children. She has been suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other serious mental health issues which have led to the family becoming socially isolated and to a string of events involving Centrelink, housing, and health services, and to Andrea being hospitalised and ultimately to Child Safety placing the children in care.
A combination of mental illness and a limited English proficiency meant that important written correspondence in English from Centrelink requesting a review of her income was not responded to, and as a result Andrea’s Centrelink benefit was ceased. This led to the automatic debit usually made to the Department of Housing for rent was unpaid. Housing then sent Andrea a letter to remedy this breach, but again due to illness and limited English the importance of this letter was not recognised. Stress levels were exacerbated from living in a home whose garden and exterior were being regularly vandalised and impacted by high traffic noise and pollution. Applications for a housing transfer were being regularly cancelled due to a lack of response to letters requesting further information.
Sadly as Andrea did not see herself as being unwell she did not understand the need to attend medical appointments regularly and did not take the medications prescribed for her. Andrea became so unwell that that she was unable to leave the home and the children were staying home from school. AMPARO advocated for the local mental health team to become more involved and they organised for her to be hospitalised and to receive the necessary mental health treatment. Unfortunately, as there were no family or friends who could care for her children, Child Safety was notified that she would be going to hospital and her children were taken into care. The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal granted a short term order for a Legal Guardian and an Administrator to be appointed for 3 months.
AMPARO Advocacy’s initial role was to inform Centrelink and the Department of Housing that Andrea’s was very unwell and to provide them with the appropriate information so that Andrea’s benefits were reinstated and backdated and her rent was paid to prevent the family’s eviction.
Advocacy was needed to involve appropriate services so that as soon as Andrea was able to come out of hospital she would have additional support so that her children could be returned to her. To ensure that the Department of Child Safety returned her children to her care as soon as possible the advocate attended court hearings and meetings with Child Safety.
Once out of hospital, and the children returned, AMPARO’s role has been to provide ongoing advocacy during the recovery process to ensure that Andrea remains well and that ongoing appropriate mental health support has been available. A move to a quieter home in a different suburb is seen as important to this recovery process.
To summarise AMPARO’s advocacy efforts to support Andrea included:
- Ensuring that appropriate interpreters who respect confidentiality were in attendance at all meetings and interpreted all correspondence.
- Advocating with Centrelink for Andrea’s income benefit to be reinstated as a matter of urgency.
- Working with the Department of Housing to remedy the breach notice and to pay the rent arrears, preventing Andrea and her family from being evicted and becoming homeless.
- Advocating for the necessary supports to be put in place to allow Andrea to return home, and for the swift return of her children.
- Addressing the communication breakdown between Andrea’s general practitioner and mental health team to ensure each were aware of the medications being prescribed by the other.
- Supporting Andrea to discuss and address her concerns with the mental health team and to attend regular appointments.
- Supporting Andrea at court regarding Child Safety orders and in meetings with the Department of Child Safety.
- Supporting Andrea at QCAT re the dismissal of the Guardian and Administrator and to ensure that outstanding funds were returned to her in a timely manner.
- Supporting the appointment of an appropriate service to provide complex case management support for an initial 6 month period.
- Advocating for the appointment of a service to provide ongoing support in the longer term through the Personal Helpers and Mentors Program (PHaMs), and for the service’s use of interpreters. Services were reluctant to become involved as they were unaware that they could access fee-free professional interpreting services through the Translating and Information Service (TIS).
- Supporting Andrea to raise her concerns at the Mental Health Tribunal hearing regarding the involuntary treatment order.
- Advocating for the family’s housing transfer application to be backdated to the first application date, and to be prioritised due to health and safety concerns.
- Assisting Andrea to provide Child Safety with the contact details of friends who could care for her children should she become unwell again
Andrea is now well on the way to recovery, with both the involuntary treatment order to cease shortly. Andrea’s caring well for her family and her English is improving rapidly through regular attendance at TAFE. An application has been made for Australian citizenship and the family are at the top of the housing transfer listing. AMPARO Advocacy continues to advocate for this housing transfer and for a service to support Andrea in the longer term.