The Foundation House Disability Project Community Advisory Group are newly arrived people from refugee backgrounds, from Iraq and Syria, who are living with a disability or caring for someone with a disability. The group worked together to identify common challenges and priorities and met with local services to provide advice about how services could better meet their needs. The group also made a submission to the Disability Advocacy Futures consultation and presented on a
panel at the 2019 Refugee Alternatives Conference, advocating for the rights of people from refugee backgrounds living with disability through improved services and systems.
Since September 2018, the group have worked together over a series of meetings to identify and discuss their common challenges, strengths and priorities, with the aim of helping Victorian services to better meet their needs. Meetings were co-facilitated by an Assyrian/Arabic/English speaking Community Capacity Building Worker and an English speaking Sector Development and Policy Advisor from Foundation House. Meetings were conducted in Arabic, with an English interpreter for the English speaking project facilitator.
The group identified a number of obstacles to advocacy and self-advocacy, including language and knowing how to give feedback or make complaints. Obstacles also included the impact of their previous experiences in Iraq such as fear of speaking up, not being valued in Iraq as a person living with a disability and experiencing the trauma of war. The group have worked together to overcome some of these obstacles, supporting each other and sharing knowledge about how
and where to speak up to access their rights and building the confidence to advocate and self-advocate. Participating in the advisory group has empowered group members to advocate for themselves and their families but also for people from refugee backgrounds living with a disability who come after them.
In addition to the dialogue meetings with service providers, the Community Advisory Group have demonstrated leadership and a commitment to improving life for people from refugee backgrounds living with disabilities and their carers who are settling in Victoria. This includes talking with their families and communities about their work in the group, in such a short timeframe.
The Victorian Disability Awards honour the contributions of Victorians who support, lead, educate and advocate for people with disability, and recognise and celebrate achievements that increase the rights and participation of people with disability.
To find out more visit: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/disabilityawards
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