Recently, my son, Jack, and I presented at a School to Work conference run by Family Advocacy in Sydney. It was a fantastic conference that planted many new ideas and nourished my motivation. I made and renewed connections and learned a lot.
On my return trip, I checked my emails (as one does after being away from work for a few days). I was devastated to learn that Western Australia’s Individualised Services (WAIS) are closing its doors due to a lack of sustainable funding. WAIS is an organisation similar to Family Advocacy and Imagine More. It provides resources and stories and promotes a one-person-at-a-time approach. Its closure will be a massive loss for the Western Australian community.
This news made me worry that other capacity-building organisations will be forced to close due to the lack of funding. We ourselves have been perilously close to closing our doors. In 2019, Imagine More clung on for six months with no funding. Stressful times!
Why are WAIS, Family Advocacy, Imagine More, and other capacity-building organisations critical to their communities?
Since hearing the news of WAIS closing, I’ve been reflecting on why it’s so important for families to access the wisdom and support of capacity-building organisations.
My own family has enjoyed the support of many such organisations over the years: Family Advocacy, Community Resource Unit (CRU), and Belonging Matters, to name just a few. Each one has nurtured my family’s imagination of what could be possible for our son’s life. Even now, they continue to do so.
When our son was born, we were living in Rural NSW, farming on a property (yes, I was a farmer!). We stumbled across Family Advocacy when Jack was just two years old. It was the first time people talked to me about the possibility of Jack living a life similar to his sisters. Nothing special, congregated, or segregated. It was such a relief to find ‘my people’.
I attended many workshops and was sponsored to attend a Belonging Matters conference. Over time our Vision for Jack’s life became clear, and we knew what we needed to do to help him get the good things in life.
I like to think that the work we do here at Imagine More is sparking the imaginations and actions of others to seek out the good things in life for their family member with disability.
Another critical part of our work is our investment in developing the leadership of families. Family leaders ensure that there are always people in the community with a clear vision of the good life.
We want to continue our work, but without reliable funding from the government and philanthropic groups, it just won’t be possible.
We need the government to understand that simply providing funding to individuals through the NDIS is not enough.
Funding alone doesn’t get you the good things in life.
Even if the money is plentiful, if all people can do with their funding is access traditional disability services, nothing will change.
With a focus solely on funding, governments risk allowing people with disability to end up on the polished pathway to a life segregated from community life and becoming clients of human services.
We believe that the government must invest in organisations that
- share stories that show how people with disability are embracing the good life. Stories help others to see what’s possible.
- nurture peer support so that families can learn directly from other families. This connection creates powerful communities of action-takers.
- foster family leadership. These leaders will become strong advocates for inclusion and change.
- share frameworks with proven track records. No one needs to reinvent the wheel: we can utilise methodologies that already exist.
More funding isn’t the answer: funding alone doesn’t get you the good things in life!
This article was first published in our newsletter on 29 September 2022