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What is Self Advocacy?

Image of a Self Advocacy Groups CommitteeSelf advocacy groups are run by people with disabilities who have joined together to support each other and to have our voices heard. We work together to make sure we have the same rights, choices, and opportunities as anyone else in the community.

Self advocacy groups are about:

  • Speaking up about our rights
  • Having a say about the services we want and need
  • Working together to make change happen
  • Helping each other
  • Standing up for others
  • Meeting new people
  • Strength in numbers
  • Working with governments, services and the community
  • Learning new skills
  • Networking with other groups

The self advocacy movement is a civil rights movement for people with disabilities.

Protestors fighting for rights

Self Advocacy: A Proud History


The first self advocacy groups started in Sweden. The members spoke up about how they wanted to be treated.


Self advocacy groups started in Britain


Self advocacy groups started in the United States


The first self advocacy group in Australia opened its doors. The group was called Reinforce and it was run by and for people with intellectual disabilities.


New self advocacy groups were set up all around Australia. The groups had a strong and powerful voice. They spoke out about:

  • Closing institutions
  • The right to equality
  • Freedom from abuse
  • Rights in shelter workshops
  • Changing community attitudes


The People First Resource Unit was set up to resource and support self advocacy groups around Australia.


Sadly, many of the groups lost their funding and disappeared. The People First Resource Unit closed its doors.


The Victorian Government funded the Self Advocacy Resource Unit (SARU). One of the jobs of the SARU is to help start new groups. With support from SARU the number of self advocacy groups in Victoria increased. However, today there are very few self advocacy groups left in the rest of Australia.


There are now self advocacy groups around the world: in Britain, Canada, Poland, Germany, United States, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Austria, Hong Kong and many more countries.

Images of people behind the text self advocacy mattersWhy Self Advocacy Matters

Self advocacy groups have made real change happen! We work tirelessly with little or no funding to:

  • Fight for real equality and to be fully included in the community
  • Improve services and support them to do a better job
  • Close institutions
  • Speak up about the need for accessible information such as Plain English, Braille, audio recordings, and more.
  • Advise government about the needs and rights of people with disabilities.
  • Educate and change communities to ensure equal opportunities for all.
  • Empower people to learn about their rights and to speak up for those rights.
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