The Office of the Public Advocate was formed as a state instrumentality in Victoria in 1986. It was given statutory powers to protect people with disability from maltreatment, and to advance their rights and interests. Its functions included advocacy, adult guardianship and visiting of residential services. The Office‘s origins, establishment and development are investigated through an examination of key sociohistorical processes, actors and events. This is the first scholarly history of the Office. A range of sources were used. Primary sources included Australian Labor Party archives, newspaper reports, and official archives. Office publications and archives provided key material. Oral history interviews were conducted with over twenty former and current officials, activist, staff and volunteers. Oral history data, shaped by the participant‘s experiences, insights and evaluation of events, informed the analysis of the source documents. The first Public Advocate emphasised advocacy. The political and social context of the Office changed after its establishment. Deinstitutionalisation, an ageing population, and increasing individuation and social complexity led to greater demand for guardianship from the Office. The subsequent public advocates adapted the Office to these changed social conditions. During the 1990s the public advocates also had to manage the changed political context shaped by the neo-liberal government of this period. Vigorous public advocacy was de-emphasised as the constraints of its quasiindependent nature became more apparent. The government context changed again after 1999 but the new public advocate was still largely occupied with the demands of guardianship. The thesis explores these and other influences upon the development of the Office.
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.
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