Michael is Chair of NSW Council for Intellectual Disability, on the NDIA Intellectual Disability Reference Group, a member of an Australia wide advocacy group OUR VOICE, and has recently been appointed the University of New South Wales Ambassador for Healthy Aging.
He is a staunch self-advocate, wonderfully articulate, an excellent role model and an ambassador for giving people with Down syndrome a voice.
My work as a self-advocate
I am person with Down syndrome and a self-advocate. When I advocate for myself I am also advocating for others. When I am up there delivering my talk, I take a minute for a quick reflection – I think “I am not just here for myself” and then I go in to my talk.
Speaking up for other people makes me feel good, it is an honour and a privilege to meet Ministers and people in government and speak up for others. In an ideal world there should be more people with disability talking to government, for example the NDIA.
Speaking up in your life and your community
Speaking up can be daunting so it is good to have support and experienced advocates for back up. But advocates and support people need to know when to back off and let people with disability go forward.
It is very important for people with Down syndrome to have a voice in all parts of their life and in their community.
Everyone has an inner voice, people know what they want, they know what is right and that needs to come out. Once it comes out you can’t stop us, it just comes naturally, that’s how it was for me and now look at me!
If people haven’t ever had a voice they are going to need help and support. You need someone to help you speak up – advocates, family, friends and role models, other people with disability doing this stuff.
For me it was other people with disability in Special Olympics that I admired. I never won a gold medal for sport but I have won lots of gold medals for doing what I do now – speaking up!
How to help people speak up
You need to gain information, find out what’s out there to help you develop these skills. You can contact your local advocacy service or check out My Choice Matters. You need to gain skills and confidence and have an understanding of self-importance.
If people don’t listen to you it can be a real disappointment. If this happens I encourage you to keep going, keep talking, sooner or later they will listen it may just not happen overnight. Do not give up.