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The persistent advocate

24/4/15 · Posted in advocacy tips

The Ministry of Health has recently released data on the people that use its disability supports. I plan to take a good look. Before I descend into the depths of numbers, I want to be clear about something. Despite what I said last week, there are often more important things in advocacy than data and evidence.

Passion, emotion and having a lived experience of disability are often more important. They affect your ability to keep on advocating for change. They motivate you, especially when you encounter barriers.

To be a successful advocate you need to know what you want (An objective or goal) and figure out a way to get it (A strategy). One of the most simple, but effective, strategies is persistence. Just keep trying until you succeed.

So all you really need to bring about change is a goal and lots of persistence. It is very helpful to have allies and others with you on the journey, as they can add their persistence too.

I am simplifying, the reality is a bit more complex than that. We live in a democracy, where there are many different voices, ideas and beliefs. Goals and strategy may not guarantee success. On the other hand, you will fail if you give up. Persistence can be more important than using evidence. Ideally, you will combine both, but the most important thing is to keep going.

This does not mean you should be closed-minded. You should at least listen to others. You also should not ignore evidence, even if it is inconvenient. At the same time, stubbornness can be a virtue and sometimes you need to stick to your guns.

As an example, Robert Martin really shows the qualities of a persistent and effective advocate. He has been fighting for change for a long time. He does not give up and has achieved a lot as a result. He was a key advocate for the closure of the old institutions, especially Kimberley. He also helped draft the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Sam Murray
National Policy Coordinator

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