ADEC’s Story

ADECs Story

Fighting for Equality since 1982

ADEC has been empowering Victorians since 1982.

Extracts from the Book

ADEC established in 1982

In 1982 the Commonwealth Schools Commission funded the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (ECCV) to establish a service for ethnic children with disabilities which maximise their opportunities for gaining access to services.  ADEC grew out of this base, originally under the management of the ECCV’s Committee on Disability and Ethnicity.  A year later in 1983 ADEC became an independent organisation with the support of the ECCV and an interim committee of management comprised of parents, people with a disability and interested community members.

During 1983-84 ADEC was funded by the Commonwealth Schools Commission under their educational programs for severely handicapped children and their early education programs.

Three new programs introduced at ADEC

Of major concern during 1983/84 and in the proceeding years was the receipt of long term core funding. The three programs established during 1983-84 were Community Education and Community Development direct service. Research and Evaluation were also acknowledged in this earlier period as integral parts of the three program areas.

adecs vision

Staff numbers grow at ADEC

Staffing levels during 1983-84 comprised a part-time Co-ordinator, part- time Community Development Officer and ten Ethnic Liaison Workers engaged on a sessional basis, funded through the Schools Commission grants. The Community Employment Program operating during this period through the Commonwealth Employment Service enabled ADEC to also employ a Community Education Officer and an Administrative Officer, each for one year. The ten Ethnic Liaison Workers employed on a sessional basis covered the Greek, Italian, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Serbian, Croatian, Arabic and Turkish languages.

During this period it was envisaged that ADEC would play a greater role in research, advocacy and policy analysis as well as extending its direct service role.  The advocacy role of ADEC developed a little differently to the advocacy movement in Victoria.  Systemic advocacy was often perceived as including policy analysis.

ADEC recognised that the experiences of ethnic families in need of support and access to adequate services tended to have additional needs because of their language and cultural differences which were not recognised by service providers or in the policies of service delivery organisations.

Advocacy role established at ADEC

The advocacy role grew out of a logical conclusion that if ethnic families have the same rights as everyone else, then it was important not to isolate them by failing to promote culturally and linguistically relevant services which would encourage their participation in mainstream or generic services.

To this end, the Constitution states that as its first principle on which the Association is based that:

“The rights of ethnic Australians with disabilities to achieve both individually and collectively full access to human rights as defined by the Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons adopted by the United Nationals General Assembly Resolution 3447 on 9 January, 1955”.

ADEC programs were developed on the basis of research facts which showed that ethnic children were not using available services, were diagnosed later, used services less and they and their families were not always aware of services available.

ADEC when established was the only service of its kind in Victoria and Australia.

ADEC was established with the knowledge that it was the only service of its kind in Victoria and at the time, in Australia. (Although now there are ADEC equivalents in nearly every other capital city in Australia.)

ADEC aimed to facilitate a two-way awareness between ethnic families, communities and service providers. In furthering this aim and in empowering ethnic families, the Constitution states that full members (ie voting members) who are members of the Board of Management must include ethnic parents or carers of children who have a disability, ethnic people with a disability and interested community members with experience or interest of disability and/or ethnicity.

104 families contacted ADEC during 1983-84, the Greek, Turkish and Italian communities were the greatest users of the service. 50% of families using ADEC had children with intellectual disabilities. This high representation of consumers with intellectual disabilities has existed throughout the organisations history.

The nature of contacts with families ranged from working intensively with parents on early education programs to critically examining with parents the services they were using or would like to use.  This information was fed back to service providers and parents were linked to local support services.  The Ethnic Liaison workers liaised with schools in cases where parents wanted to integrate their children.

Community Development and Education activities were also undertaken in country areas of Victoria and the notions of self-help and self-determination were strongly emphasised.  ADEC’s basic principles were that ethnic parents needed to be informed about their child’s disability and services and consulted about what, where and how services should be provided.

ADEC 1985 to the present

A Disability Awareness campaign which was planned in 1985 in conjunction with the Ethnic Child Care Development Unit in NSW initiated relationships between ADEC and disability interested services and organisations outside Victoria. At this time, ADEC began to explore the implications of its service in a national, rather than a limited Victorian context.

Up to 1986-87, ADEC constantly struggled for funding, so much so that efforts to keep the organisation going nearly took priority over the work that ADEC had been funded to undertake. Committees and staff were strongly united in mainstreaming the organisation and often made personal sacrifices of time and money to ensure that ADEC did not fold. The positive feedback received from ADEC consumers constantly encouraged staff and Committee, who strongly believed in the advocacy role of ADEC.

Support for core funding finally came in 1986 from the Department of Community Services Victoria (CSV) when Senator Grimes stated that “ADEC has been providing an important link between ethnic families and service providing agencies to ensure that disabled people in ethnic communities gain access to available services, it is important that its operation continue to receive support. ”

ADEC observed the limited flow of information about disability to ethnic families.

It was observed during 1986-87 that an overwhelming majority of ethnic families did not have information in their own language about disability and did not know about the range of services available. It was also noticed at this time that although qualified interpreters tended to be used, they were unfamiliar with disability terminology and issues and in the education system, appeared to take on the role of parent advisors on educational matters.  In general, interpreter services appeared to gear themselves to the demands of professionals, not consumers.

It was concluded by this stage, that consumers from non-English speaking backgrounds would not use programs and services that were not culturally acceptable to them.

The Service Model to 1985

ADEC’s philosophy continued to be based on the principles of:

  • Access
  • Participation
  • Equity
  • Integration
  • Cultural Relevance

In 1985 Dr Gillian Fulcher was contracted to assist ADEC in the preparation of a submission to CSV and other departments which would demonstrate the viability of this service model.

Funding was forthcoming in 1986 and ADEC was able to establish its service with five Ethnic Disability Workers, Director, Advocacy Coordinator and Secretary. It was decided at this time that since it was not possible to receive funding for more than five full-time Ethnic Disability Workers, that the five language groups would be selected on the basis of population numbers and length of stay in Australia.

As such, the Italian and Greek communities, representing the largest ethnic communities and the Arabic, Turkish and Vietnamese communities representing a combination of both criteria were selected.  Discussions about including workers for the Spanish and Serbian-Croatian communities were inconclusive at that time.

The restructure of ADEC in 1989

A restructure in 1989 following an internal critique in 1988 resulted in the position of Advocacy Co-ordinator becoming redundant.  It also resulted in the employment of a part-time Administrative Officer and the expansion of the Ethnic Disability Worker's duties. Other recommendations were the combining of the roles of Director and Advocacy Co-ordinator and a Committee structure with sub-committees focusing on specific ADEC activities.

The need for provision of direct assistance to individuals from ethnic backgrounds was also acknowledged as a necessary aspect of ADEC’s total program.

With the restructuring, various internal procedures were put in place in 1989 to encourage a planned and evaluative approach to all aspects of ADEC’s functioning.  As the roles of workers became more structured, ADEC began to experience difficulties in filling vacant positions. The salaries offered were well below those of the public service, the skills needed of workers were quite sophisticated and the work itself very demanding.

Throughout the years recurring themes in service provision to ethnic communities included the lack of co-ordination, lack of information and the lack of policies specifically addressing the needs of ethnic consumers.

Overall, ADEC’s input on various committees and working groups and everyday advocacy activities have made demonstrable changes to service provision for ethnic consumers.  Changes in how ADEC is perceived by other organisations and the community have also influenced the interest of individuals in ADEC. The inclusion of ADEC in major activities within the disability field and its lesser inclusion on ethnicity related activities are signs of both ADEC’s strengths and weaknesses.

While ADEC is clearly a unique organisation in its focus on ethnicity and disability, the period between 1983 and 1986 was characterised by uncertainty in the funding of the organisation's activities.  In response ADEC continued to provide a forum for the discussion of service delivery options and support for people with disabilities from ethnic communities.  ADEC maintains a close watch on the way it and other organisations sought (and continues to seek) to address access issues for people with disabilities from diverse cultural backgrounds.

ADEC’s philosophy, aims and objectives remain relevant to date.

Click here to view Fighting for Equality - about ADEC