About Side By Side Advocacy
Side By Side Advocacy is a not for profit advocacy organisation based in Parramatta.
We specialise in advocacy for people with intellectual disability.
We provide advocacy in a way that suits the needs of the person with disability. This could be through Citizen Advocacy, Individual Advocacy, or NDIS Appeals Support.
We respond to requests for advocacy assistance and also seek out people with disability who have unmet needs.
We are committed to inclusive governance. We are researching ways that people with intellectual disability can be more meaningfully included as members of management committees and boards.
We provide information and share relevant resources.
We speak up about issues that matter to people with disability.
A world where all people are equal and valued, where diversity is celebrated, needs are fulfilled, and opportunities realised.
To promote and uphold the rights, needs and interests of people with disability to enable full and meaningful participation in the community.
We recognise that people with intellectual disability experience particular barriers in having their voices heard and needs met and for that reason we specialise in providing advocacy for people with intellectual disability.
The following values guide our work.
Inclusive: We embrace diversity and treat everyone with dignity and respect
Accountable: We are transparent and ethical in all we do
Tenacious: We act with vigour and a determination to achieve the best results
Our core principles
1. Each person’s life is of equal and inherent value and worth.
2. People with disability have the right to advocacy and to protection from devaluation, neglect, abuse and the denial of human rights.
3. People with disability have the right to be treated as individuals, and not in terms of their disability.
4. All people are entitled to comprehensive and appropriate support to ensure full inclusion into the community.
5. All people have the right to make decisions about their own lives.
6. All people should be treated with dignity and respect.
7. All people have the right to be safe, valued and accepted.
8. All people have the potential to grow and develop and should be provided with opportunities.
9. All people have the same human and legal rights regardless of age, race, disability, religious belief, sex, sexuality and gender identity.
10. People with disability are to be treated in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Michelle is one of the founding members of Citizen Advocacy Ryde Hunter’s Hill (before the organisation became Side By Side Advocacy) and has been actively involved in the organisation for over thirty years. Michelle is committed to people with disability being included as valued members of the community as demonstrated by her roles as a foundation board member of Family Advocacy, her former role as a Board member NSW CID and her role as a Citizen Advocate. She has an academic, professional and personal commitment to educating people about disability. Michelle is Adjunct Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy at Southern Cross University. She has also been Chief Investigator for multiple successful research grants.
Ruth has a background in psychology and education. She retired in 2013 after a twenty-two year career as a high school teacher. Ruth has a strong sense of community and speaks up and out on various issues when she feels that justice is not being served. She is the mother of three adult daughters, and the proud grandmother to three granddaughters. Ruth loves travel and lives in Eastwood with her husband. Ruth was elected to the Board in 2013 and became secretary in 2014.
With over 15 years of experience across the not-for-profit sector, property and real estate, financial services, and the energy sector, Toni is a member of the Chartered Accountant ANZ with an extensive range of corporate and commercial skills. These include reporting, budgeting and forecasting, business partnering, commercial insight and people management. Toni grew up in Epping and Eastwood and is passionate about volunteering her time to the local communities and assisting the community in the capacity of a Justice of the Peace. Toni was elected to the Board in 2022.
Belinda has a professional background in law, practising as a lawyer primarily in employment, anti-discrimination and work health and safety law. Belinda brings to the Board a particular interest and experience addressing the challenges faced by people with a disability in accessing advocacy, the justice system, transport and other government services and equal opportunity in employment. Belinda’s particular interest is in ensuring people with a disability are heard in the justice system and working for systemic improvements to legal and policy frameworks, service delivery for people living with disability and, crucially, reliable funding for disability issues and services.
Belinda is committed to promoting equal treatment, eliminating discrimination and working in a team to take tangible steps to address the marginalisation faced by people living with a disability.
Steve is originally from the UK and has lived and worked in Australia since 2004. He has twenty years’ experience in various IT roles, including technical support, training and project management. Steve’s association with Side By Side Advocacy began in February 2008, when he answered a request for pro bono IT support. Steve first joined the Board in 2014. From 2014 -2017, Steve served as vice chairperson. Steve left Sydney in 2017 so did not renominate. Now settled back in Sydney, Steve re-joined the Board in May 2020. Steve is the devoted father of a daughter who attends primary school.
Ben has been passionate about addressing societal inequality and injustice since he was in his early teens. He has a degree in social work and has experience as a youth worker and in the aged care and mental health sectors. Ben became a member of Side By Side Advocacy before he joined the organisation’s Board. As a member, Ben co-designed and co-presented at workshops on behalf of Side By Side Advocacy. Ben enjoys being able to share and use his own stories as a person with an intellectual disability to help others to be more confident and to grow as self-advocates. Ben’s interests include bush walks, playing summer sports, creative writing, and speaking up about topics such as disability and mental health. Ben joined the Side By Side Advocacy Board in July 2023.
Kim joined Side By Side Advocacy in July 2020. She brings a wealth of experience in not for profit, commercial and government contexts. This includes a long history in the advocacy sector, leadership development and as a lawyer. Kim has been a member of numerous advisory groups, has contributed to sector journals, participated on Boards and has provided feedback to government about matters that impact on the lives of people with disability. Kim has extensive experience in co-design of projects and resources. Kim believes that good communities are made up of all people and that advocacy can play a critical role in exposing abuse and neglect and in ensuring that people with disability have access to the ordinary good things in life.
Citizen Advocacy Coordinator
Citizen Advocacy Coordinator
Suzzanne joined Side By Side Advocacy in September 2023. Suzzanne’s experience in community development has seen her recognise the importance of strong and connected communities. Whilst employed in the not-for-profit sector, she has led multiple projects and initiatives that were focussed on healthy relationships, gender stereotypes, mental health and community inclusion. Suzzanne is a passionate parent advocate and believes that every person has the right to feel respected and heard. Suzzanne has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Community Development and Sustainable Development as well as having completed graduate studies in Domestic and Family Violence Responses.
Inclusive Governance Project Officer
Bernadette has been involved with disability issues for many years, as a parent and worker in the disability advocacy sector. Her passion for research, particularly about intellectual disability, led her to undertake and complete a doctorate exploring self-determination of people with intellectual disability within family relationships. As an affiliate of the Centre for Research Policy and Practice (The University of Sydney) and vice president of the Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability (ASID), Bernadette strongly believes in the need for research to inform practice. She hopes that the Inclusive Governance Project will make it possible for more people with intellectual disability to have a real say in the decision-making of community organisations.
Preeti has an extensive work background in alternate dispute resolution. She completed her Master in Dispute Resolution from the University of Technology Sydney in 2007. Preeti joined the Board of Management at Side By Side Advocacy in 2015 and became aware of the important work of the organisation. After resigning from the Board, Preeti commenced work in the Individual Advocacy team in March 2017. She is passionate about the protection and promotion of human rights and is committed to giving people with disability a ‘fair go’. Preeti has developed strong networks including in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. She is a certified Workplace Trainer and shares her advocacy expertise with a wide range of groups including people with disability, their families, NGOs, schools and TAFE. Preeti and her family have strong ties in the community having lived locally since 1979.
Cathy joined Side By Side Advocacy in 2018 as part of the Individual Advocacy team. Cathy has been a passionate advocate in both a personal and professional capacity for people with disability, degenerative neurological conditions, and mental health issues for more than 20 years. Cathy has been working with people to navigate the NDIS and its complex intersections with health, education, housing, justice and aged care systems since the scheme’s inception. During the last 10 years Cathy’s advocacy has been particularly focused on working with people who grew up in institutionalised settings and people who communicate informally. Cathy draws on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and the principles of trauma informed practice to support people who communicate informally to assert their right to make decisions about their own lives. In addition to individual advocacy, Cathy has led multidisciplinary teams delivering information and referral, intensive family support and early intervention services. Cathy has a Masters in Bioethics from The University of Sydney and has contributed to published research projects, systemic advocacy projects and the development of multilingual resources and evidence-based consumer health publications.
Tina Huang commenced at Side By Side Advocacy in April 2020. Prior to joining Side By Side Advocacy, Tina worked in variety of roles at the NSW Tenants’ Union. Tina has a Bachelor of Arts (Gender Studies) and Bachelor of Laws. Tina has assisted in a diverse range of advocacy matters related to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, NSW Trustee and Guardianship arrangements, and housing and tenancy. Tina is passionate about supporting the rights, needs and interests of people with disability.
Inclusive Governance Project Co-Researcher
Katrina recently moved from New Zealand to Inner City Sydney to pursue her ambitions as a passionate advocate for people with disability. Katrina has been a student at The University of Sydney in the Uni2Beyond program for people with disability auditing classes. She joined the Inclusive Governance Project because she wants to understand how Boards are run and how they can be more accessible to people with intellectual disability. Her message is “Believe in yourself and don’t let your disability get in the way of anything”.
Inclusive Governance Project Co-Researcher
Will was born in England and now lives on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. In addition to his role at Side By Side Advocacy, Will works to implement bush regeneration and is a member of the Consumer Representative Group at his workplace. He is also involved in the local cricket club, managing the 2nd grade team. Will is keen for his role in the Inclusive Governance Project to help more people with intellectual disability the chance to have a say in community organisations. His message is “Focus on your ability, not your disability”.
Communications and Information Officer
Karen joined Side By Side Advocacy in February 2023. Karen has a Bachelor of Communications in Media, Arts and Production. Karen is responsible for organising and facilitating events and creating accessible promotional material. She is also involved in the development of resources for the Inclusive Governance Project. Karen believes in the importance of being able to express yourself to others and strives to accurately present and represent the voices of people with disability in all of the organisation’s media.
Kay joined Side By Side Advocacy in December 2021. She has a Masters in Business Administration and is a Certified Practicing Accountant. For over 30 years she has worked in and/or managed finance departments in various small to medium-sized organisations, including 8 years in the higher education sector and 15 years in commercial industry. She is keen to use her skills and experience to provide support to the organization as it provides support to its community.
Board Support and Co-design Projects
Chris is an experienced teacher and community facilitator and has spent all her working life working for and alongside people with a disability.
She has facilitated conversations, meetings, information sessions, workshops, formal and accredited training and has adapted resources and tools to suit. She has facilitated the codesign of training materials and resources. Chris engages audiences by being respectful of everyone and their diversity. Chris has a Master of Arts, a Diploma of Education, a Diploma of Disability and an Advanced Diploma of Community Management.
Frequently Asked Questions
We love to share information about the work we do. Get in touch to discuss possibilities.
Side By Side Advocacy originated as Citizen Advocacy Ryde-Hunter’s Hill and our citizen advocacy program continues to operate.
In 1989 a steering committee was established to investigate the feasibility of setting up a Citizen Advocacy Program to address that unmet need. One of the driving forces of the steering was John Roarty, a resident of Weemala in Ryde. He wrote forcefully about his experience of being institutionalised in his book Captives of Care. The steering committee was successful and the association, known as Citizen Advocacy Ryde Hunter’s Hill was incorporated in 1991.
In 2006 the constitution of Citizen Advocacy Ryde Hunter’s Hill was changed to enable the organisation to add a second model of advocacy. This form of advocacy is called Individual Advocacy and is delivered by members of staff, whom we call advocates. In 2006 we also changed our name to Side By Side Advocacy. The organisation later added additional projects.
We are funded by the Federal Government via the Department of Social Services.