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Systems Advocacy

A selection of Irene Opper's systemic advocacy experience:

Presented in terms of the advocacy goal, Irene’s roles and strategy and the results.

  1. Multicultural Action Plans of Queensland Departments and Authorities
  2. Consumer input into Queensland Health
  3. Culturally Responsive Service Delivery

1.  Multicultural Action Plans of Queensland Departments and Authorities

Advocacy goal: Influence departments to adopt effective and far reaching Multicultural Action Plans.

Roles and strategy:

  • Creating and coordinating an advocacy team with members from key agencies
  • Strategy development
  • Writing reports containing policy analysis of every department’s Action Plan
  • Developing specific recommendations
  • Gaining input from the multicultural sector
  • Influencing in meetings with Multicultural Action Teams
  • Relationship building
  • Providing advice on how agencies could do more in their Multicultural Action Plans


  • Report recommendations were implemented by several departments. 
  • Examples include Queensland Health, which adopted 24 recommendations from the report Multicultural Action Plans – Towards Best Practice in their Strategic Plan for Multicultural Health 2007-2012. The Justice Department used the report as a template and asked each section to indicate which recommendations they will commit to and developed their plan on that basis. 
  • The value placed on the advice provided is indicated by an increase from 4 to 18 of the number of government departments and agencies that sought input from the Ethnic Communities Counicl of Queensland during the period that Irene Opper was providing the advice.

"Irene authored a series of reports which reviewed each Queensland Government Department's plans to implement inclusive service planning and delivery. Irene's high level conceptual ability and strong research skills resulting in these reports being presented rationally and logically, with a focus on evidence and achievable steps forward. Queensland Health was able to improve its approach to multicultural health by implementing a number of recommendations make in these reports. I consider that Irene has directly impacted on improvements in inclusive service planning and delivery by Queensland Health through her advocacy work."

Manager, Queensland Health Multicultural Program, Queensland Health

"The Queensland Health Strategic Plan for Multicultural Health 2007-2012 incorporates many of the recommendations of the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland’s review of all departmental 2005–2006 Multicultural Action Plans. Twenty four “good practice” examples identified in the review have been included in this Strategic Plan. In addition, the Plan also addresses each of the ten recommendations made in the Council’s review of departmental 2006-2007 Multicultural Action Plans."

Uschi Schreiber, Director General Queensland Health, Queensland Health Strategic Plan for Multicultural Health 2007-2012

Irene Opper was the Multicultural Advocate for the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland from 2005 to 2008.

2.  Consumer input into Queensland Health

Advocacy goal: Increase input of a consumer perspective to Queensland Health.

Roles and strategy:

  • Identifying all consumer representatives on committees relating to the health system
  • Surveying consumer representatives on their views and needs
  • Organising a conference for consumer representatives from all around the state
  • Being the Master of Ceremonies at the conference and presenting survey findings
  • Designing and facilitating workshops to collaboratively develop solutions and recommendations
  • Developing protocols
  • Writing a report The New Players: Consumer and Community Representation in Queensland’s Health System
  • Developing and delivering a 4 session training program to meet the identified training needs of consumer representatives
  • Designing a consumer friendly submission form to encourage consumer input into a consultation on a proposed ‘Code of Health Rights and Responsibilities.’
  • Providing submissions into reviews of Queensland Health structure and operations.


  • Consumer representatives from all over Queensland particpated in the conference and contributed to the development of recommendations relating to consumer input into the health system.
  • Training participants reported increased skills, knowledge and confidence after completing the training program.
  • The consumer friendly submission form was used in 79% of consumer submissions and in 64% of all submissions received by the Health Rights Commission.

Irene Opper was the Advocacy Development Worker for Consumers Health Advocacy from 1994 to 1996.


3.  Culturally Responsive Service Delivery

Advocacy goal: Increase the cultural responsiveness of mainstream community services and government.

Roles and strategy:

  • Development of a guide Culturally Responsive Service Delivery – Information for Service Providers, providing a framework, information and resources on how services can become culturally responsive to the needs of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants
  • Dissemination and evaluation of the use of the guide
  • Design and delivery of training on how to achieve culturally responsive service delivery
  • Partnering with QCOSS, who organised some of the workshops
  • Outcome evaluation one year after the training


  • The guide was used by organisations throughout Queensland as a training resource, as a resource for policy development and organisational review
  • The guide was used by some Queensland government departments as a resource for the development of Multicultural Action Plans
  • Training reached over 200 professionals, who all developed action plans
  • Training participants reported increased knowledge and commitment to carry out changes in their organisations. A wide range of actions were reported on when outcome evaluation was performed one year later, indicating that the training resulted in positive improvements in cultural responsiveness in some of the participants organisations

“Irene has produced some really valuable resource materials on advocacy “Culturally Responsive Service Delivery”, and “Changing the System- What Works?” - I still refer to these, and refer others to them also."

Lalita Lakshmi, CAMS Co-ordinator  (Community Action for a Multicultural Society)

Irene Opper was the Multicultural Advocate for the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland from 2005 to 2008.