Personal Advocacy finds a place for all

03 Jun 2009

By The Record

20 years of making lives joyful.


Lucy, Page and Connie the Clown during Personal Advocacy Service’s 20th anniversary celebrations. Photo: Courtesy of Alan Wedd.


Personal Advocacy Service is this year celebrating 20 years since Sister of Mercy Eileen Casey started the first faith-formation support group for young adults with intellectual disability in the parish of Morley with the help of a small number of their parents.
From that tentative start, there are now 140 volunteers who work to support 108 adults with intellectual disabilities in 18 groups based in 12 parishes north and south of the river in the metropolitan area using a faith-formation program and process developed in the archdiocese of Chicago over 30 years ago.
The first of the events to celebrate 20 years of working towards the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities into the life of their local parish took place last Sunday at the Morley Recreation Centre with a concert attended by 350 people.
The Australian Army Band Perth led the way with a performance of well known movie themes and marching tunes, and were followed by Perth’s own version of the ‘Choir of Hard Knocks’ – the Spirit of the Streets Choir, led by Bernard Carney.
The Spirit of the Streets Choir was established two years ago and while its first members were drawn from sellers of The Big Issue, it has expanded its membership to include those who are homeless, who have intellectual or other significant disabilities or – as their website says – ‘for the people who do not get a seat at the table of conventional society’.
The audience’s admiration and enjoyment of both the spirit and the quality of the choir’s performance led to a standing ovation and demands for an encore.
Not only has this choir brought a ray of hope into the lives of its members, but it brought rays of enjoyment to the many people in the audience who know or understand the experience of isolation and disadvantage in our community.
The appearance of Connie the Clown provided an interlude between these two performances which were appreciated greatly by the many people with disabilities who were present in the audience and who are supported by the generosity of many volunteer advocates.
A special 20th Anniversary Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Hickey in the Morley parish church on August 16 at 9.30am.