Experiencing rights within positive, person-centred support networks of people with intellectual disability in Australia

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Hillman, A, Donelly, M, Whitaker, L, Dew, A, Stancliffe, RJ, Knox, M, Shelley, K & Parmenter, TR 2012, 'Experiencing rights within positive, person-centred support networks of people with intellectual disability in Australia', Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, vol. 56, no. 11, pp. 1065-1075.

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This research describes issues related to human rights as they arose within the everyday lives of people in nine personal support networks that included adult Australians with an intellectual disability (ID).


The research was part of a wider 3-year ethnographic study of nine personal support networks. A major criterion for recruitment was that people in these networks were committed to actively developing the positive, meaningful future of an adult family member with an ID. Data were collected from November 2007 to March 2011 via interviews, participant observations and analysed within the framework of situational analysis. Findings were checked with network members.


The issue of rights was challenging to network members. Subtle rights violations could have a major impact on an individual with a disability. Network members worked to protect the rights of people with ID by building and maintaining an empathic and respectful support network, developing the person's self-confidence and autonomy and ensuring that the person with an ID was an active member of the personal support network.


The maintenance of rights within a supportive environment remains a difficult task. It can be facilitated by a deep knowledge and respect for the person being supported, the promotion of his or her active participation in the planning and provision of support, and an experimental and reflective approach.

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