Angela Cox, Principal of Special Voices, is a lawyer and disability advocate who lives in the Port Phillip area of Victoria.
Her dedication to protecting the rights of people with disability started at age three, when her brother Andrew was born with severe Down syndrome. Her parents were founding members of the Slow Learning Children’s Group and Catholic Care for Intellectually Handicapped Persons. These groups (now called ACTIV and Identity respectively) have evolved to become major service providers to people with intellectually disability.
Angela grew up witnessing the effects of Andrew’s disability, and her parents’ endless struggles with bureaucracy to obtain the health, education, recreation, respite and later employment and accommodation services they needed to create a decent life for Andrew.
When she started studying law in 1989, Angela’s mother suggested that she become a lawyer for people with disability and their families ‘they need so much help working through the paperwork and all these complex systems to get any help’.
Fate had other plans. After obtaining her law degree from the University of Western Australia in 1994, Angela worked in the private sector in Perth for six years, advising insurance companies on motor vehicle, workers compensation and public liability claims. In 2002, she moved from Perth to Canberra and completed a Master of Arts degree in Middle East and Central Asian Studies at the Australian National University. While in Canberra, her career turned to public policy and for five years she worked in a variety of legal, policy, international project and Ministerial adviser roles in the immigration sector.
Since moving to Melbourne in 2007, Angela has worked as a senior lawyer at WorkSafe Victoria, Transport for Victoria and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). At DHHS and the Department of Education and Training, she also worked as a senior policy adviser on the development of the legal and policy frameworks of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for the Barwon launch of the schemed in 2013, the full scheme implementation of the NDIS in Victoria and the development of the NDIS quality assurance and safeguards framework.
Angela is also a writer and passionate believer in story-telling to advocate for people with disability and their families. In 2014, with a community grant from the Macedon Ranges Shire Council and the support of the local community, Angela published a book entitled ‘Me and My Brother’ which told the stories of people with disability and their siblings, living in the Macedon Ranges. The publication of the book was also accompanied by a photographic exhibition throughout the shire in the summer of 2014/15 and a community event to celebrate families (not disability!) on the International Day of People with Disability at Kyneton in 2014. If you would like to purchase a copy of the book, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was through this community project and getting back to the ‘grass roots’ work of talking with families about disability, at the time the NDIS was being trialled in Barwon and other Australian sites, that reminded Angela of her mother’s urging that she ought to be a lawyer and advocate for people with disability and their families!
After all these years, I realised my mother was right. I became determined to set up Special Voices, as an innovative, professional and independent legal and advocacy service to help local families. I believe that the NDIS is a good system, its fairer than its predecessor. It has been proved through the NDIS trials and the rollout to date, that the NDIS is changing the lives of people with disability and their families for the better….IF families have accurate information and advice about the system, and are supported through the maze. This is what Special Voices aims to provide.