by Sandy Masayko
This is the fifth post in a series from Australia
Transition, reconciliation and innovation were the focus of my last two days at Northcott on February 16 & 17. I continued to share many of the activities with Cristen Reat of Easterseals Houston.
Transition: Vocational Services for Young Adults & Links for Families
Services for young adults who have left school and who are developing employment skills and links for families who need help with their children’s development are the focus for support in two of Northcott’s programs. As in the US, many students have difficulty finding employment after leaving high school and need assistance to identify their passion and to develop work skills needed to succeed. We joined Penrith Vocational Skills for some of their group lessons and a delicious barbecue at their site. In the afternoon we met with Link workers who provide support to families of children up to age 9 with developmental issues. Thank you to Michelle Budden, Office Manager for these programs, for introducing us to these fine programs.
Reconciliation: Inclusion of Aboriginal Communities
Many group meetings in Australia open with a statement acknowledging the Aboriginal people who were the first people in Australia, and one meeting I attended began with a welcome by an Aboriginal artist, speaking in her first language. Northcott is committed to reconciliation, or building “an inclusive society where people can live a life they choose.” This includes acknowledgement of Aboriginal culture and ensuring that Aboriginal people are able to fully participate in the programs offered by Northcott, as employees and as customers. We had an informative and frank discussion with Debbie Frail, an Aboriginal woman who advises on Aboriginal and Torres Strain Islander Programs at Northcott. She shared the Reconciliation Action Plan with us, the agency’s plan to address recognition of the cultural heritage and perspectives of Aboriginal people.
Innovation: Step Climbing Wheelchair
Innovation is being addressed at Northcott in an independent agency that is wholly owned by Northcott: Northcott Innovation. Sam Frain, an OT, directs the program that has developed many new designs including an add-on to a power wheelchair that allows the chair to climb one step. See the YouTube video here for a demonstration of this amazing invention. It is not yet commercially available. Apps, adapted equipment and orthotics formed from 3D printers are also in development at Northcott Innovation.
The commitment to providing excellent services, empathy, and professional knowledge are evident at Northcott. Even though the agency is going through some adjustments because of the new National Disability Insurance Scheme, which turns people with disabilities into customers who have control over their funds and how they will be spent, the staff members were upbeat and welcomed the change. I want to thank all the people who spent time with me the past week explaining their programs. We did a lot of talking in the cars as we traveled western suburbs of Sydney. I especially want to thank Nichola Midgely who arranged my visits with the professionals and added some extra meetings to meet my curiosity about programs.