Churchill Fellow helps find a voice for people with disabilities

Churchill Fellow helps find a voice for people with disabilities

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Mental Health and Disability Advocacy Senior Lawyer Eleanore Fritze.
Mental Health and Disability Advocacy Senior Lawyer Eleanore Fritze.

Mental Health and Disability Advocacy Senior Lawyer Eleanore Fritze is undertaking an international research project that will reach behind closed doors to find better ways of protecting the rights of people with disabilities who are detained for compulsory treatment.

Eleanore’s passionate contribution to the field of mental health and disability advocacy will see her travel to New York, England, Vienna and Budapest next year after a successful application for a Churchill Fellowship.

The prestigious opportunity, which funds overseas travel for research that cannot be readily conducted in Australia, will see Eleanore investigate ways of helping people with disabilities and mental illness who have been detained for compulsory treatment and need a strong advocate.

Innovative legal services to help protect rights

People with psychiatric and cognitive disabilities who are detained in psychiatric units, secure forensic hospitals and disability treatment facilities are often denied freedom of movement, treated unequally, unable to make their own decisions and forced to accept treatment because of the risk they pose to themselves or others, despite not being criminally responsible for their actions.

‘My project will reach behind closed doors to better protect the human rights and dignity of these individuals through the use of innovative legal services.’

Eleanore’s work in mental health and disability law

At Victoria Legal Aid, Eleanore’s work focuses on advocacy and outreach legal services for people with psychiatric and cognitive disabilities.

She has also been active in law reform, strategic advocacy and community education projects to help improve outcomes for people with disabilities. Eleanore frequently presents at disability and mental health conferences and events.

Helping inform Australian mental health and disability law

Eleanore said travelling overseas to conduct this research is important.

‘Not only is rights-based advocacy far more entrenched in Europe and the US but disability legal services have existed for longer and have advanced practice wisdom.’

She hopes that her research will benefit both the people receiving direct legal assistance and other Australians with a disability who are detained for compulsory treatment.

With the Victoria Legal Aid Mental Health and Disability Advocacy program expanding and the recent introduction of new mental health laws, Eleanore’s research will directly inform and benefit our own program and other related services.

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