Courtesy of Citizen Advocacy South Australia.
In 1966 The United Cerebral Palsy Association sponsored a conference near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at which participants asked, ‘What happens to my handicapped child when I’m gone?’ Dr Wolf Wolfensberger (who later became the founder of Citizen Advocacy) was in attendance and took note of the limitations of each of the protective measures discussed at the conference. Then, in response, he conceptualised an advocacy scheme with the desirable elements that would become known in 1968 as Citizen Advocacy.
The first Citizen Advocacy program began in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1970. It later received a Presidential commendation. Workshops followed, and people from throughout North America went away to start other Citizen Advocacy programs. By 1972 USA Federal grant money paved the way for over 200 programs in USA alone.
In 1979 Standards For Citizen Advocacy Program Evaluation (commonly referred to as CAPE) written by Dr Wolfensberger and John O’Brien was published. Drawing on the experiences of Programs that both succeeded and failed, they came up with a set of standards to gauge the quality of Citizen Advocacy practice.
Citizen Advocacy in Australia began in Western Australia in 1980, when a parent group set up the first Citizen Advocacy office. In 1981 the first Victorian Program started at Burwood Teachers College under the influence of Trish O’Brien. Canberra followed in 1982, South Australia in 1986, and Launceston, Tasmania in 1989. By 1991 eight programs (including a State office known as Citizen Advocacy NSW) had been established in New South Wales, and eight more in Victoria (including a state office known as Citizen Advocacy Victoria Resource Unit or CAVRU). Three programs were established in Queensland between 1996 and 2003.
The Trust adds; The total number of Citizen Advocacy programs has fallen dramatically in the last 10 years. For example where there were 9 programs in the ACT and NSW alone by the end of 1999, yet there are now no dedicated Citizen Advocacy programs and only two Citizen Advocacy programs that exist within a larger paid advocacy office. Five programs have closed in Victoria. See the section “threats to citizen advocacy” for more discussion of this issue.