Social Futures offers life-changing support in Lismore for Margaret

Social Futures offers life-changing support in Lismore for Margaret

Photo of Margaret smiling at the camera

Fleeing war and hardship, ‘remarkable’ Margaret Poji has built a safer life for her seven sons in Lismore.

Margaret uses her hand to make the sign of a wave when explaining the ups and downs in her history. “My life,” she says lightly, “has been a little bit difficult.”

In fact, Margaret’s story is one of almost unbelievable resilience. By the time she and her husband arrived in Australia in 2008 with four young sons in tow, she had already experienced more insecurity, hardship and loss than many of us do in a lifetime.

Before coming to the Northern Rivers, Margaret had fled civil war in Southern Sudan and taken flight from violence in a Ugandan refugee camp. She had lived through assault, a serious bus accident requiring hospitalisation, and an attempt to abduct one of her children from another refugee camp in Kenya.After eight years in that camp, she and her family were accepted as humanitarian refugees by Australia. “I really felt free, finally,” Margaret said. However, the transition was difficult. “It was hard. I had no English – I could not even ask for water.”

 

 

With her traumatic background, a large and growing family – three more children came along, all boys – the family’s poor English skills and dependence, at first, on government welfare for income, life in Lismore was tough.

 

From time to time Margaret has needed a helping hand to support her in finding suitable and stable housing. This led to her connection with Social Futures in 2016. “Securing a house wasn’t easy,” explains Fiona Halligan, who now heads up the Family Connect and Support service for Social Futures.

 

“Even back then, there were not enough houses on the market, especially ones big enough for Margaret’s family. We had to do a lot of advocating and collaboration with other services to make it happen.” Ultimately, they found the family a large house in the private rental market.

 

Shortly after the family moved in, more misfortune struck. One member of the family suffered an acquired brain injury and one of her sons became seriously ill. As she was caring full time and unable to work, money was short and the family was evicted. For Margaret, the stress became almost unmanageable. “I was ready to take up the carpet of the house and spread it out in the park and go and live with my family there,” she said.

 

Again, Social Futures was able to help advocate for secure housing for the family, this time in social housing. Finding a safe place to call home is crucial, but it’s just the start in many ways. Other, ‘wrap around’ services are needed.

 

Through Social Futures, Margaret and her boys have been assisted by multiple services including legal advice, Centrelink social workers, trauma counselling, and other mental health supports.

 

Her family has also been connected to the Family Support network, health services, YWCA, vacation care, education providers and the Opportunity Pathways Program. It was through Opportunity Pathways that Margaret was able to secure regular employment as an Early Childhood Educator. She now works three days a week at a local centre.

 

Margaret is enjoying her new employment which she describes as life-changing. “My heart is full. I can now take my kids camping which they have been wanting to do.” As far as Ms Halligan is concerned Margaret is ‘remarkable’. Social Futures’ details: socialfutures.org.au

Young woman opens the door to a safer, brighter future

Young woman opens the door to a safer, brighter future

With regular shifts at a busy North Coast pub, a car, a recently acquired driver’s licence and a can-do attitude 20-year-old Sandy* is well set up for a great beginning to her working career.

But, not so long ago, Sandy’s family life was threatening to overshadow her ambitions.

Sandy lives with her mother and brother in social housing in Tweed Shire. Her domestic situation is complicated by the threat of ongoing domestic violence from an estranged family member.  Sandy lives with social anxiety and self-confidence issues.

 

Despite her mental health challenges, and although she’s occupied as her mother’s official carer, Sandy was keen to join the workforce and expand her horizons.

And it was with this goal in mind that her mother referred her to the Social Futures’ program Opportunity Pathways late last year.

Opportunity Pathways is a NSW government-funded program that aims to support those living in social housing to find training and employment. They also link participants with complex needs to a wide array of support services.

Over the following months Sandy’s program worker, Rachel, connected the family with specialised domestic violence assistance and helped Sandy to get her driver’s licence. She also introduced her to an equine therapy course that works to help participants with anxiety, confidence and motivational challenges.

Sandy says it was important to have Rachel’s support, “(she) encouraged me every time I doubted myself, telling me ‘I can do it!’”

Since working with Opportunity Pathways there have been some important changes in Sandy’s life.  Stronger communication with the family has seen them work on ways to stop the domestic violence and, with the help of a specialist agency, Social Futures saw that security at the family home was upgraded. 

And, after saving hard, Sandy bought a car.

Most exciting of all, she recently completed a trial with a well-known hotel in the region.  Opportunity Pathways supported a nervous Sandy, helping build her confidence and assisting with fuel to get to and from her house.

The trial went well.  Sandy got the job!

Sandy has grown in self-confidence too. “I feel a lot stronger than a year ago. A year ago I didn’t think I could achieve much and now I know I can.”

* Not her real name.

You can learn more about Opportunity Pathways by visiting their website www.socialfutures.org.au/opportunity-pathways/, emailing [email protected] or calling on (02) 6620 1800. 

 “I feel a lot stronger than a year ago. A year ago I didn’t think I could achieve much and now I know I can.”

Sandy

Opportunity Pathways participant

Finding a place to call home opens doors for teen

Finding a place to call home opens doors for teen

19-year-old Saphire is thinking about the future of her younger siblings, a brother aged 16 and a sister, 13. “I hope they can finish TAFE and school and get good jobs. And get their license!”

For Saphire, planning the future for her family is no abstract exercise.  For the last few months, she has been a part-time head of house for her little household of three.

It’s a lot of responsibility for a young person.  “There are sometimes when it’s tough but there are other times when it’s more rewarding,” says Saphire. After a pause, she adds, “…there are the times when I think ‘why do I have to do this?’”

Saphire has come a long way in the last few years.  Halfway through year 10, domestic violence, parental drug and alcohol problems found her without somewhere safe to call home.   In the months that followed Saphire struggled to find secure accommodation and she had to take a break from school.

Through a person she knew, Saphire was referred to Connecting Home, a Social Futures program that supports people to find stable housing.  After a short stay in a hotel, she was placed in transitional, or temporary housing.

It was here that Saphire met Connecting Home Youth program worker Lucie.  Lucie set about finding some options for Saphire that were more sustainable.

“Our priority, the goal we like to work towards is bringing families together,” explains Lucie White of Connecting Home Youth, “but in cases like Saphire’s it’s not always possible. When that happens, we can look to programs like the Rent Choice Youth Subsidy”.

The subsidy, an initiative of the Department of Communities and Justice, helps young people afford to move into the private rental market by subsidising some of the rent.

Saphire was able to secure a house through a local agent and her brother and sister were able to join her to continue their education.  Their mother now also visits regularly.

“Finding stable and secure housing is not, in itself, going to solve the kinds of problems Saphire was facing.  But without a stable place to call home, it’s incredibly difficult for young people to develop the skills they need to navigate in the community,” says Lucie.

image of house with for lease signHousing affordability is a major issue in Australia.  According to the Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot, out of 74,266 rental listings posted in April, none were affordable for people on the Youth Allowance.  Just three were affordable to people on Job Seeker. In the Northern Rivers, the situation is even more acute, with the rate of rental properties available (at any level of income) at record lows.

In such a competitive market, finding landlords and real estate agents willing to even consider a young person for housing is a challenge.

“Of the 20 young people housed through the Rental Choices Youth program in Lismore, only one young person was able to find housing on their own,” explains Lucie.  Instead, she and the team from Social Futures work to build relationships with estate agents through regular calls and visits.  Given their knowledge of the participants, they can make recommendations to the agents that carry weight.

Despite the instability in her home life, Saphire completed her leaving certificate at TAFE and went on to gain her CERT III in child care.  And now, after attending a course with ETC, an employment services group, she was offered the chance to become a full-time trainee.  It’s this kind of determination that convinced Lucie that she would be a good candidate for the rental choices program.

“We are looking for someone who has shown they can maintain a property and has shown willingness to look for training or a job,” she explains.

Lucie says Saphire can be proud of where she is, “She’s shown amazing growth and has come so far.  I’ve seen her grow up over the last couple of years and it has been a privilege to be a part of that.”

Another Social Futures program, Opportunity Pathways, has been supporting Saphire as well, including paying for driving lessons. Saphire also has regular chats with a counsellor from the Social Futures youth program, Elements.

Saphire’s grit, along with the support of Social Futures has given her the chance to fulfill her own ambitions. “In ten years I want to have a full-time job and be saving a lot.  I do want to buy a house, rather than rent,” she says.   “I’m very happy we are where we are now, compared to a few years ago.”

For more about Connecting Home see: https://socialfutures.org.au/homelessness-2/connecting-home-2/

 

“She’s shown amazing growth and has come so far.  I’ve seen her grow up over the last couple of years and it has been a privilege to be a part of that.”

Lucie White

Connecting Home Youth Counsellor, Social Futures

Young mum finds new direction

Young mum finds new direction

Mary Felton is DAISI’s newest reception and admin trainee. DAISI is a Ballina based charity that works with people experiencing disadvantage, particularly those with disabilities people who are ageing, and their families and carers. .

“Even in the short time she’s been with us, I can see Mary beginning to grow in confidence,” says Lori Kelly, Mary’s boss at DAISI.  “She has initiative and is adding to her skill set every day, we think she’s brilliant!” she adds.

Mary found employment with DAISI as a result of her work with Opportunity Pathways, a Social Futures service that supports people in social housing find work or training. 

“We are a lot more than a job placement service,” explains Lee Sherman, Mary’s program worker.  “A lot of our clients have complex backgrounds, they often lack support in practical areas of their lives, like access to computers, but also many find the job-seeking experience truly daunting and anxiety-inducing.”

Lee and the program’s approach is twofold. First, they work with their clients to build self-esteem and confidence.  This might extend to going shopping with them, helping them iron out any issues with their lives – like lack of access to transport or getting a driver’s license, to jointly writing their resume.

Then, when they are ready, Lee takes to the streets alongside people like Mary and introduces them to employers in an approach they call ‘reverse marketing’. 

Mary says that Lee and the Opportunity Pathways program have been a huge support. “Lee has been amazing. He’s always checking in and helping keep me motivated,” she says. 

Lee and Mary’s journey has been a long one.  Mary’s original plan was to become a chef. Lee helped her enrol in a Commercial Cookery course in TAFE and find a trial work placement in a cafe.  COVID-19 and the reality of working in a busy kitchen saw her look for a change of direction.

“I really don’t like to give up,” says Lee, “I knew we could find the right place for Mary if we kept at it.”

Working with APM, an employment agency, Opportunity Pathways negotiated a traineeship and wage subsidy to cover 90 per cent of Mary’s wages for the traineeship with DAISI.

Mary, who is a single mum, says her employment with DAISI has given her confidence, as well as a regular income and the opportunity to be a great role model to her daughter. Her new job is “showing her daughter that working is a part of life and if you want to get somewhere you don’t sit around doing nothing”.

Mary is undertaking a Certificate III in Business which she is enjoying and her goal is to eventually move into disability support work. 

Find out more about Opportunity Pathways by visiting the website https://socialfutures.org.au/opportunity-pathways/ or call on 02 6620 1800

Challenge and drive sees Alicia shine

Challenge and drive sees Alicia shine

Alicia had worked part-time for an Australian Disability Enterprise for five years since her two daughters were old enough to go to school, but the 39-year-old from Lismore always believed she was capable of more.

When she met Social Futures Local Area Coordinator (LAC), Laura Boorman, who helped to prepare Alicia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan, her key goal was to find work better suited to her interests and abilities.  

Alicia, has cerebral palsy which affects her physically, but not intellectually.

 

 

“Because of my disability, every day I am in pain. Something is sore every day and some days are worse than others,” Alicia said.

“I’ll have random leg spasms or tightening of the muscle – some days it’s hard just to get out of bed. And then if my whole back goes into spasm – that’s just … awful.”

Through her NDIS plan, Alicia now accesses therapies including hydrotherapy, osteopathy, and treatment through NeuroMoves, who, based at Southern Cross University, are specialists in exercise physiology for people living with a neurological condition. 

“They actually get people out of wheelchairs and walking,” Alicia said.

“It’s inspirational to see. They cater for the individual and they do tests every six months so they can reassess and ensure you’re improving.”

“From where I started – I have come a long way. Even with hydrotherapy. That has helped a massive amount, especially with the back pain.

“I’m exhausted afterwards, but it really does help.”

With her therapies locked in and physical health improving, Alicia and Laura focused on Alicia’s primary goal of finding a new job. 

“I knew I could do a lot more if I just had the opportunity,” Alicia said.

Alicia wanted greater challenges and a position that felt meaningful. She found it in 2020 with Let’s Get Support, an organisation that supports NDIS participants to manage their plans. 

Business Owner Michelle Garret employed Alicia part-time as an administrative assistant but intends to help her through plan management training.

“When Michelle told me she wants me to do plan management training I said, ‘are you serious?’, and she said, ‘yes. I am, you’re quite capable’,” Alicia said. 

“Michelle has got me doing all of the admin and invoices, so I now see the NDIS from the other side.”

Alicia will be trained to help NDIS participants to activate their NDIS Plan and write up notes to help support plan reviews. She currently undertakes administrative duties including reception work and scheduling. 

“Now I actually like going to work because I have a purpose,” Alicia said.

“I get to help people with disabilities achieve their goals and I’m really looking forward to doing training in plan management in the future.”

Michelle has offered Alicia flexible hours, allowing her to continue accessing her therapies and work from home if it better suits her.

“My new employer is amazing – I want to go to work… I enjoy going to work,” Alicia said.

“The NDIS has given me a better purpose in life. To have the support there that I’ve never had before. 

“Laura, my LAC is fantastic – she’s a Godsend. She listens and she understands. 

“Life before the NDIS was pretty crap. You just survived basically. Having the NDIS has given me more opportunity to make my goals, to do what I want to do, to actually better my life.”

Social Futures is a social justice organisation delivering Local Area Coordination services for the NDIS across more than 50% of regional NSW.

To talk to a Local Area Coordinator about the NDIS, or to find out how your school can take part in inclusion awareness programs, email [email protected] or call our LAC Hotline on 1800 522 679 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 4:30pm).    

Social Futures is a National Disability Insurance Scheme Partner in the Community.
Our Local Area Coordination services connect participants to the NDIS in regional New South Wales.

To contact your nearest LAC call 1800 522 679

Read more participant stories

Challenge and drive sees Alicia shine

Alicia had worked part-time for an Australian Disability Enterprise for five years since her two daughters were old enough to go to school, but the 39-year-old from Lismore always believed she was capable of more. When she met Social Futures Local Area Coordinator...

read more

Green shoots for Michael as the drought breaks

The recent drought-breaking rain across central New South Wales has brought smiles at long last to the faces of long-suffering landholders and residents, among them Michael Beh. “One of my hobbies is photography and since I started getting support from the National...

read more

Chesney flies the coop

For parents, Ross and Sandy Bailey the NDIS provided great relief when their 19-year-old son, Chesney had his first National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan approved four years ago. Chesney, who grew up 50 kilometres outside of Forbes on his parent’s farm, has...

read more

Rob’s come along in leaps and bounds

At 67, Broken Hill man Rob Lindsay has lived with an intellectual difficulty all his life. “There just weren’t assessments for that sort of thing when Rob was younger”, said his sister Joan. “At school, he didn’t keep up, that’s just the way it was. When he left...

read more

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Social Futures COVID-19 Update – April 1, 2021

Social Futures COVID-19 Update – April 1, 2021

Social Futures is carefully following news and updates about COVID-19.

The safety of our participants, customers and staff continues to be our number one priority.  We are continuously reviewing the situation and seeking the most up to date guidance from NSW Health and the NSW Government.

All our essential services remain open. Social Futures is working flexibly to continue to meet your needs while ensuring we keep our clients and staff safe.

However, as many of the people we serve are vulnerable, we are adapting the way we deliver some services. This may mean suspending some face-to-face meetings, moving to online delivery or talking over the phone.  You can find more specific details below.

We will inform you of any changes and their impacts as soon as possible. Our programs and teams will be contacting clients to make alternative arrangements.

To protect our customers, their families and our staff throughout COVID-19 (Coronavirus), we have implemented visitor restrictions with immediate effect:

If you are visiting our offices in the Lismore, Byron, Ballina and Tweed shires, our staff will be wearing masks, in line with NSW Health’s advice, and we would ask that you do too.  We may also ask some questions about your recent travel history.

If you have visited any of the destinations listed on the NSW Government site (or use link below), are feeling unwell or have any symptoms of cold or flu, please do not visit our offices at this time, but call instead so we can arrange to assist you in other ways.

An outline of our services and full contact details are provided on the websitewww.socialfutures.org.au

You can read the latest NSW Government news and updates on COVID-19 here:

https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/latest-news-and-updates

When your wildest dreams come true

When your wildest dreams come true

When Brad Parker was young, he loved toys. But now 26, it’s not the Tonka truck variety he is into. His dream is to work for the council driving the trucks, rollers and graders, which for Brad, is no mean feat. Brad was born with low muscle tone, which can affect not only movement, but overall health, eating and speech. Growing up, working on his grandparent’s farm, just outside of Casino, Northern NSW, Brad learnt to love the outdoors.

Like a true cowboy, he can even crack a whip and has showcased his skills at the annual Casino Beef Week festivities.“We have a really long whip – it’s called a bullock whip – the handle is so long it takes two hands to hold the whip to crack it. It makes a huge sound!” he said.

 

 

Brad has always been motivated to succeed. After high school, he went to TAFE, in Lismore, where he completed a Certificate III in Construction and also did work experience, helping in school canteens. However, what Brad really wanted was a job. It was then, he met his Social Futures Local Area Coordinator, Jenny, and got his first National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan, which focused on his goal of obtaining employment.
 
 
“Brad joined the NDIS because he was always wanting to get a job, so we looked at how he could keep his body strong and maintain it,” Brad’s mother, Judy, said.
 
 
“It was his dream to have a go, and we wanted to give him every chance. We knew he could work. He has done things on the farm and we know he has the ability and skills to work in any environment. It was all about finding a job to suit him, and we found it, which is great.”
Brad now works full-time for Richmond Valley Council. Even though he wasn’t working the day of the interview, Brad wore his freshly cleaned and pressed uniform and his face lit up when he talked about his work.
 
Young man Brad with arm around his mum, judy in a park
 
“The council job has been life changing. They are great people. I have a great boss,” Brad said. Working as a multipurpose laborer, doing traffic control and working on the roads to lay out hot mix asphalt, Brad said he enjoys any job he does with the council.“Any job I like!” he said. “I want to get more tickets with the council and get my truck license.“Also, the roller and the grader – there’s five other vehicles I want to learn to operate. I like big toys!” Brad grins.
 
 
Last summer, as bushfires raged through parts of the Northern Rivers, Brad was a part of a Richmond Valley Council team doing traffic control to keep community members out of the danger zone. When asked if he was frightened being so close to the fires, he smiled, “No! It was pretty good actually! I really enjoyed helping the community stay safe and being so close to a big fire is something I’ve never experienced.
 
 
“I saw a fireball – and then a fire that never touched the road – it went over us in mid-air! I saw an explosion – the Telstra exchange exploded! We were a fair distance away, but we could still see all the action,” Brad said. During that time, Brad was interviewed by media about his experience with the bushfires earning him the nickname of “Hollywood” by a few of the ‘boys’ at the Council.
 
 
Today, Brad is clearly enjoying his time being interviewed at his favourite Casino bakery – it’s obvious by the number of people who stop and say g’day to him, he is well known around town.
 
 
In addition to support from an exercise physiologist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, dietician and speech pathologist, the NDIS also provide social supports, which Judy says have been an important outlet for Brad. Every second Friday, on Brad’s rostered day off from work, he travels to Lismore to attend art classes, at Multitask Club Lane. Every Sunday, Brad participates in a Ten Pin Bowling Competition with his team, The Pokémon Three. “I’ve been bowling for nearly three years,” Brad said. When asked how good he is, and how many strikes he gets, Brad’s laughs and says “professional!” and “almost all of the time!”
 
 
Now Brad has achieved his goal of full-time employment, his next NDIS plan will address another aspect of his life. A couple of years ago, Brad met his girlfriend, Jasmin. His next goal will look at increasing his independence and moving out with Jasmin into a home of their own. “We want outcomes that see him and Jasmin happy and healthy with good relationships and a strong connection to their community. We want to set them up for a good future,” Judy said. “Our experience with Social Futures was really great from the time we walked through the doors and met our LAC. They made us feel comfortable and answered all our questions. “The NDIS is an excellent program. It gives them a lot more confidence in themselves, helping them with everyday living in an environment that is safe for them. “It’s a good feeling, because you know, we’re not going to be around forever, so it’s wonderful to know the NDIS is there to help get them where they want to get to and to see them succeed.
 
 
“Could I have imagined when Brad was younger he would end up with a full-time job, working for Richmond Valley Council? Not in my wildest dreams! It is all these programs now being funded by the NDIS that allows people with disabilities to achieve their dreams.”
 
 
If you would like more information about Social Futures Local Area Coordination for the NDIS, call our LAC Hotline on 1800 522 679 between 8:30-4:30pm Monday to Friday or email [email protected].
 

Social Futures is a National Disability Insurance Scheme Partner in the Community.
Our Local Area Coordination services connect participants to the NDIS in regional New South Wales.

To contact your nearest LAC call 1800 522 679

Read more participant stories

Challenge and drive sees Alicia shine

Alicia had worked part-time for an Australian Disability Enterprise for five years since her two daughters were old enough to go to school, but the 39-year-old from Lismore always believed she was capable of more. When she met Social Futures Local Area Coordinator...

read more

Green shoots for Michael as the drought breaks

The recent drought-breaking rain across central New South Wales has brought smiles at long last to the faces of long-suffering landholders and residents, among them Michael Beh. “One of my hobbies is photography and since I started getting support from the National...

read more

Chesney flies the coop

For parents, Ross and Sandy Bailey the NDIS provided great relief when their 19-year-old son, Chesney had his first National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan approved four years ago. Chesney, who grew up 50 kilometres outside of Forbes on his parent’s farm, has...

read more

Rob’s come along in leaps and bounds

At 67, Broken Hill man Rob Lindsay has lived with an intellectual difficulty all his life. “There just weren’t assessments for that sort of thing when Rob was younger”, said his sister Joan. “At school, he didn’t keep up, that’s just the way it was. When he left...

read more

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* indicates required



Different on the Outside, same on the Inside

Different on the Outside, same on the Inside

Social Futures is challenging stereotypes about disability in Central Coast schools. ‘Different on the Outside, Same on the Inside’ is a free program for primary school aged children aimed at breaking down misconceptions and social barriers and encouraging awareness and inclusion for people with disability.

This program is facilitated by Social Futures Local Area Coordinator for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Maree Jenner.

As a person of short stature or dwarfism, Maree engages young people and speaks to her own experience of difference and the challenges faced by “growing up little” in a world built for average height people. 

“I am so passionate about this program. Because I have a physical disability, I am different,” Maree said.

“It is such a good opportunity to go in and talk to children, because they notice things, they are learning. And the earlier you talk to young people, the better. Young people have questions about disability, they are curious about difference. They want to know why that is, and to understand.”

“Having contact with me and becoming familiar with disability helps to remove awkwardness. Through this program we support young people to feel comfortable with difference and open avenues toward understanding and respect,” Maree said.

Children with disability, whether physical, developmental, intellectual, emotional, or sensory, are at increased risk of being bullied, which can result in poor mental health, anxiety, depression and even suicide.

“Sadly, bullying happens frequently in our country. But bullying occurs often as a result of ignorance and misunderstanding, and this program wants to rectify that,” Maree said.

Maree is supported in this by Sam Millard, National President of Short Statured People of Australia. 

close up headshot of Sam Millard smiling“The work that Social Futures will be doing through this program will give Short Statured people of all ages a greater opportunity to participate freely in the community without feelings of isolation and angst that a lack of understanding can cause. We also hope that the focus on school-aged children will allow us to continue to tackle the complex issue of bullying together as an organisation and as a community,” Mr Millard said.

If your Central Coast primary school is interested in participating in the Different on the Outside, Same on the Inside Program, contact Social Futures on 1800 522 679.

This program is funded through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and delivered by Social Futures. Social Futures delivers Local Area Coordination services for the NDIS across more than half of NSW, including the Central Coast.  

To talk to a Local Area Coordinator email [email protected] or call our LAC Hotline on 1800 522 679 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 4:30pm). 

Download the program flyer here

Sports Ability

Sports Ability

Sports Ability is a fun, interactive and free program being delivered to schools in Northern NSW.

Paralympian David (DJ) Johnson engages young people with his achievements as an elite athlete and stories from the Sydney 2000 Olympics, speaks about bullying and inclusion, and teaches key skills in custom designed sports wheelchairs.

Students are encouraged to ask lots of questions with an aim to remove awkwardness, break down assumptions and misconceptions, and open avenues for understanding and respect.

Programs such as Sports Ability have been shown to increase awareness, foster inclusion and improve attitudes toward disability.

“Sports Ability is all about inclusion. So, maybe if these young people have a friend who has a disability, they can modify the game, or choose another that can include everyone from the start,” DJ said.

“We’ve come a long way, but more education is definitely needed.

“Children learn so much from speaking with someone who has a disability. They can find out all the things they been able to achieve in their lives, and not be so quick to judge and make generalisations when they next see or meet someone else with a disability,” DJ said.

Call today to talk to us about delivering the Sports Ability Program for your school – 1800 522 679.

Download the program flyer here

Check out the video with Paralympian David Johnson below.

Anita – I’m telling my story because more people need to know

Anita – I’m telling my story because more people need to know

Life took a dramatic turn in 2015, when 53-year-old Byron Bay woman, Anita Carden, went hiking in New Zealand with her husband.

“We were walking back from a glacier. Easy. A really easy walk. And I rolled an ankle. That’s all. I didn’t sprain it,” Anita said.

“I didn’t realise it at the time, but at that point my nervous system had malfunctioned and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) set in.”

 

 

Anita said CRPS is a chronic nerve pain condition, usually affecting the arms, legs, hands or feet. It can occur after injury or trauma, and is believed to be caused by damage to, or malfunction of, the nervous system.

“It’s one of the most debilitating and difficult to treat of all chronic pain conditions,” she said. 

“I woke up the next morning and couldn’t bear weight. It had changed colour, and it was a done deal at that point. Though I didn’t know it at the time.

“I thought I must have strained it. My husband looked at it and said, ‘It looks like it’s broken’, but I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t even really remember hurting it, it was such an insignificant injury.” 

Two days later the couple flew home.

Anita sitting beachside“My GP thought it might be a blood clot because I’d been flying, but the tests came back clear.

“I went to another GP, then another – five GPs in total for different opinions. Then I saw a Neurosurgeon, but he didn’t know.

“I went to a Vascular Surgeon, and he was concerned. At that point my leg was cold and blue.

“Next, I saw a Rheumatologist who said, ‘I think that might be CRPS’. I said ‘What’s that?’”

Anita said she spent the next six months going back and forth to a Lismore pain clinic, but there wasn’t anything it could do.

“By the time I left the clinic, my leg was bleeding. It was basically dead,” she said.

“I then travelled to Adelaide where a doctor performed a sympathectomy, injecting anaesthetic into the sympathetic nerve in my spine. It didn’t work.

“The doctor then tried a sciatic nerve block. It didn’t work either, so I was referred to Sydney’s North Shore Hospital where doctors performed a spinal cord stimulator – a $50,000 treatment – but again, nothing.

Anita said at this point, having exhausted all other treatment options, she realised her only course of action was amputation.

It was after her leg was amputated, and she was left with a lifelong disability, her journey with Social Futures and the NDIS began.  

“My Social Futures Local Area Coordinator, Winston Guymer, was absolutely brilliant,” she said.

“What I love about the NDIS is that they have compassion for the individual.

“There are so many people needing help, you worry that you could become a number, but the NDIS hasn’t made me feel that way. I feel I have been treated with respect all the way along.”

Anita sitting on a bench with crutchesIn May, the NDIS funded the best microprocessor knee available for Anita.  

“It was a really big claim Winston put in” Anita said. “I thought I don’t know if I am going to get this, but if I didn’t get that knee, I really felt my days would be over,” she said

“I’m a really active person. I’m at the beach most days, jumping over rock pools. I want to go back to New Zealand and hike glaciers. I felt if I didn’t get the waterproof knee, my active life would’ve been finished, but Winston and the NDIS understood, when they looked at my life, they could see it was what I needed. That is compassion and empathy.

“I wanted to do this story, because more people need to know the NDIS does actually care about people. I don’t feel like a number. Too many people complain about the NDIS – I think it’s great.

“Losing a leg is life-changing,” Anita said. “I thought I’m in my fifties – will I ever regain my mobility again? The answer is yes. I am almost there, and I have had a great experience – our NDIS is second to none.

 

“Many disabilities are invisible, and some people hide their disability, but not me. I want people to see this is what can happen, but with the right help, you can transition back into society and be able-bodied,” Anita said.

Social Futures delivers Local Area Coordination services for the NDIS across more than half of NSW.

To talk to a Local Area Coordinator email [email protected] or call our LAC Hotline on 1800 522 679 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 4:30pm).

 

Using her NDIS plan 

Anita’s NDIS supports have helped her achieve: 

  • independence and mobility
  • the chance to live the active life she wants to

Social Futures is a National Disability Insurance Scheme Partner in the Community.
Our Local Area Coordination services connect participants to the NDIS in regional New South Wales.

To contact your nearest LAC call 1800 522 679

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