From information and inclusion to the advocacy engine room
David Briggs recently made a leap from Council for Intellectual Disability’s (CID) Information and Inclusion team, to its advocacy team. His experiences and the motivation behind his move give great insights into what CID is all about.
Knowledge is power
David is well known in CID as a person who seems to know just about everything. He’s not a know-it-all, he just knows a lot, especially when it comes to intellectual disability, and trying to make sense of “the system”.
After joining the organisation in November 2014 as an Information Officer, he became the voice at the end of the phone when people called us seeking advice or information. Having to find the answer for hundreds of enquiries, it turns out, is one of the quickest ways to become an expert. That and studying a Masters of Social Work.
He soon took on participation and inclusion work as well, supporting people with intellectual disability attending advisory committees and reference groups to help ensure their voices were heard.
A call to action
David spoke with countless people with intellectual disability, their family and carers, as well as government officials, and service providers. Through the two key elements of his role, information and inclusion, he saw many issues rearing their heads again and again. These issues that were not one-offs related to the individual circumstances of a person, but systemic problems. Problems that affected large numbers of people, or all people with intellectual disability.
“People were often overwhelmed by their situation and found the system really confusing and difficult to navigate,” David said.
“You would get influxes of calls and emails on a particular issue, which then makes it clear that you have a systemic issue.”
It was then a natural progression for David to take what he had learned at a grassroots level, and move into systemic advocacy, which involves working with governments, government agencies and service providers, to find solutions to these problems.
Learning from people with intellectual disability
David said it had been an honour working with people with intellectual disability over the past two and a half years, and learning not just about their challenges, but also their resilience and their triumphs in overcoming the many barriers stacked against them. He looks forward to learning more from fellow advocates with intellectual disability in his new role as Policy and Advocacy Officer.
“A lot of the people I work with are really effective as advocates because they are very good at breaking down barriers and assumptions about people with disability,” David said.
“People with intellectual disability can often be quite direct in what they say, which is quite refreshing for a lot of people, particularly heads of departments or MPs. Hearing that very direct approach to the issues from the person experiencing it is quite powerful.”
The two advocacy campaigns that David is most interested in currently are the call for a Royal Commission into the abuse of people with disability, and improving the accessibility of transport.
“Whenever we speak with our members in consultations, and even other people with disability who we haven’t met before, they tell us about their experiences of bullying or abuse, and often sexual abuse, which is quite shocking,” David said.
“I think it is important that we focus on trying to get a Royal Commission into the abuse of people with disability, so their voice can be heard, the public can understand the lived experience of what that’s been like, and people can get justice.”
“For our members, along with abuse, the second topic that they raise is transport issues. Accessible transport is so integral for people with intellectual disability to be able to get out into the community to participate.”
Everyone has a role to play
Systemic advocacy is at the core of the work of CID, and all active members and staff contribute to achieving positive change for people with intellectual disability.
If you have an issue that you feel is shared by many people with intellectual disability, or a personal story that you want to tell to draw attention to a systemic problem, email David at email@example.com.