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Eleanore

Eleanore Fritze

Year of Award: 2014 Award State: Victoria Legal > General
Social Welfare > Disabled And Disadvantaged
The Jack Brockhoff Foundation Churchill Fellowship to better protect the human rights and dignity of people with disabilities, who are detained and subjected to compulsory treatment in closed environments, through the use of innovative legal services - USA, UK, Hungary

Eleanore Fritze is a mental health and disability rights lawyer and her 2014 Brockhoff sponsored Churchill Fellowship explored how lawyers can best protect the human rights of people with disabilities who are detained in closed environments for compulsory treatment. She interviewed almost 50 people in the United States, England and Hungary, including lawyers, academics, psychiatrists, judges and people with experience of compulsory treatment. She also visited hospitals, observed court hearings and attended conferences.

The stark differences between the limited availability of legal services in Victoria and the situation in New York and England were some of the most striking observations from her research. She also discovered the necessity of strengthening the human rights culture within services, the importance of collaboration to achieve systemic change and truly valuing the unique perspective and expertise of people with lived experience of the issues at hand.

The Churchill Fellowship was, according to Eleanore, ‘a unique opportunity for me to take time out from my busy, day-to-day work to learn, travel, connect with others and reflect on the big issues confronting our field.’ She writes in her report that it opened doors and gave her access to the people she needed to meet for gathering information essential to her research.

Afterwards, Eleanore’s employer created a new role for her within the team to increase and lead their strategic advocacy work. This work aims to improve laws and practices that have a detrimental impact on a cohort of people, rather than just individuals, which enables her team to make a broader impact with their limited funding and help to protect the rights of more people with disabilities who may not have been able to connect with a lawyer directly. Other recommendations from her report have also been taken on board by her employer or are being explored in developing better ways they deliver services to clients.

Eleanore has presented her findings from the Fellowship research to many people in the sector, locally and beyond. This has created opportunities to engage in constructive dialogue about important issues affecting people with disabilities in these settings and her report provides evidence for making the case for change.

Reflecting on her Fellowship experience, Eleanore appreciated ‘the enduring connections and relationships that it created.’ She goes on to write: ‘I now feel part of an international network of people working to address these issues, which is truly amazing.’

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