Public Advocate for people with intellectual disability cannot replace community advocacy

02 November 2018

Today the NSW Ombudsman tabled a special report to Parliament into the abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults, calling on the NSW Government to implement the recommendations of the NSW Law Reform Commission to establish an independent Public Advocate.

The report outlines the rise in allegations of serious human rights abuses of vulnerable adults living in the community, such as people with intellectual disability.

We at Council for Intellectual Disability (CID) are appalled by the stories of abuse outlined in the Ombudsman’s report, and support the call for an independent Public Advocate in NSW.

“We support the creation of an independent statutory body with power to investigate the abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with intellectual disability. With proper safeguarding measures in place, this body should also have the authority to enter premises and require people to answer questions and provide documents.”

“The introduction of a Public Advocate will also offer assistance to people before guardianship is considered,” Justine O’Neill, CID CEO, said. “However, a Public Advocate must be independent to be effective.”

An independent Public Advocate would be a step forward for people with intellectual disability. However, CID emphasises that community advocacy is still required. A Public Advocate complements and does not replace community advocacy.

“Community advocacy enables people with disability to become leaders within their communities, and allows them to have a voice,” Ms O’Neill said.

The Ombudsman agrees, and says community advocates would be an important stakeholder for a Public Advocate, including playing a key role in raising concerns about suspected abuse and neglect of individuals for the agency’s investigation and action, and providing critical decision making support.

“Community advocacy for people with intellectual disability has brought about important changes, including more accessible transport, specialist health services and the shaping of the NDIS,” Ms O’Neill said.

For more information or to organise an interview please contact Justine O’Neill on


Read our open letter calling for independent Public Advocate for NSW

CID and 13 other ageing and disability organisations have signed an open letter asking the Government, Labor and other political parties to commit to an independent Public Advocate for NSW. A Public Advocate would have a different role to community advocates. You can read the letter here.



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