Di Passionate about Pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People
Be prepared for a long chat when you speak with Feros Care Community Development Coordinator, Di Chataway about the Pathways Project.
“I am passionate about equality for all people, and this project is very dear to my heart” she smiles.
What began as a project to help more Aboriginal, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander people with disability access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has become a personal journey of learning and cultural discovery for Di.
Early in 2019, as part of the project, Di began a participatory mentoring programme where she worked with an experienced mentor to understand and connect with people from these communities.
And the experience was life-changing – on both a personal and professional level.
“I have many friends who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, who I’ve known all my life. Until now, I hadn’t opened my eyes to how different their experience of the world is to mine, and how difficult it can be for them,” explains Di.
This new-found understanding has allowed Di to connect on an extra level with her friends and they now have a much deeper relationship.
A new approach to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“It’s changed my whole approach at work too,” continues Di.
“Previously I would approach communities with the best intentions, but I would already have an agenda and be focusing on outcomes. Now I just go in quietly with the intention of becoming part of the community. I ask how we can help”.
This respectful and culturally appropriate approach has been integral to the success of the project. Supported by the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnership, Mackay, this project saw Di and the Feros Care team creating partnerships with community organisations Girudala Community Co-Operative Society Ltd, Mudth-Niyleta Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation, and Marabisda Mackay and Region Aboriginal and Islander Development Association.
Rather than expecting the community to come to Feros Care, these partnerships allowed Feros Care to come to the community. And by working together the Feros Care ‘kinship model’ was developed. This model means that when community organisations are working with a person with a disability, there is a quick, easy and culturally sensitive way to support them to gain access to the NDIS.
Most importantly, the model means that strong relationships are now established, and trust is continually being built. Although you can’t put a value on relationships, a 90% increase in referrals to Feros Care suggests that value is high!
For Di, it’s even simpler.
“Our job is to take away the fear,” she says, referring to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community’s general anxiety around interacting with government departments.
And Di does that every day.