We lost an outstanding advocate for people with disability with the death of Jane Fraser in May. Jane was one of the leaders amongst the parent advocates who became very vocal in the 1980s in pursuing a good life in the community for all people with disability.

Jane FraserFrom 1983 to 1999, Jane was executive officer of Action for Citizens with Disabilities, the families based advocacy group in Northern Sydney. Led by Judy Elllis and then Jane, Action was a key advocate for the paradigm shift in government policy towards people with disabilities that occurred through the 1980s. The Richmond Program in NSW and the Commonwealth Disability Services Act 1986 said that people with disability should be supported to live normal lives in the community rather than being segregated in large institutions.

Jane also supported countless individual families who needed help or had grievances with service providers about the quality of the support their son or daughter was receiving.

Jane’s role at Action led to her being in high demand to be on the boards of other organisations. She was a founding board member of the Intellectual Disability Rights Service (IDRS). Jane did not shirk challenging situations in her commitment to the rights of people with disability. This included her involvement in a Family Court case that challenged the sterilisation of people with disability. Ultimately, the High Court of Australia agreed with the view that Jane, IDRS and NSWCID had taken that sterilisation was not lawful except where it was approved by a court.

Jane was also the first Chairperson of Family Advocacy, a Board member of NSWCID and a member of a nationwide group of parents who initiated the National Parent Information Project.

The broad respect for Jane’s work was reflected in her being appointed by the NSW Government in 1988 as Chairperson of the Disability Council of NSW. Jane skilfully chaired the Council, whose members came from diverse backgrounds and interest groups, so that the Council was a very cohesive and productive body.

A key issue in the early 1990s was the development of a new human rights based Disability Services Act (DSA) in NSW. Each state was required by the Commonwealth/ State Disability Agreement to pass a DSA but most States passed Acts in very general terms. In NSW, there was broad community feeling that the DSA needed be strong and needed to be complemented by an independent complaints, appeals and monitoring system. Jane took a central role in persuading the Government to go down this path. The results were easily the strongest DSA in Australia and the landmark Community Services (Complaints, Appeals and Monitoring) Act 1993.

In 1999, Jane retired as executive officer of Action for Citizens with Disabilities. However, she remained involved in the disability advocacy sector and was a part-time member of the NSW Guardianship Tribunal from 2002 until her death.

Jane has left her three children, Andrew, Anna and Juliet, who all spoke movingly at the celebration of her life in May. Jane’s husband John died before her.

Jane Fraser was an outstanding advocate for people with disabilities for over 35 years.

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