Unapologetically independent. That’s the best way to describe Emelita Kaczerepa, 67. Add creative, joyful, optimistic and funny and you’ve captured her perfectly. 

A survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma, breast cancer and currently managing several chronic illnesses, Emelita is a participant in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) as she is also blind.  

Emelita Singing

Her eyesight began to deteriorate in the early 2000s, and eventually she lost all her vision. In her indomitable manner, Emelita found ways to maintain the life she’d always lived. She featured in an exhibition of blind artists, entered (and won) a braille short story competition, nurtured her musical talent and enjoyed a full and active social life. 

“I like to live life to the fullest” she exclaims. 

Joining the NDIS in 2016, her funding allowed for supports to help her move through the world without sight. Her husband Peter was her primary support, and together they continued to live the life they’d always lived. 

This changed after Peter’s death in 2017. Emelita found herself without the day-to-day support she required. She couldn’t, nor did she want to rely on her friends and family as it would change their relationship, and her independence.

Emelita describes how, in an effort to maintain that independence, she would crawl up five steps to get to her backyard washing line. As harrowing as this sounds, she is smiling and positive as she demonstrates how she now easily navigates those same steps with the safety handrails that have been installed thanks to her NDIS funding. 

It was quickly identified that Emelita required additional supports after losing Peter. Home modifications, together with assistive technology like smart doorbells, a smart watch, talking microwave and talking scales let her continue to reside safely in the home she’s lived in since 1982. 

Perhaps most important is the addition of a support worker.

“Without the NDIS I would probably be miserable in my own home” says Emelita.  

Her Feros Care Local Area Coordinator, Pauline Gallacher agrees that this can often be a risk.

“Emelita could easily have become isolated and possibly placed in an Aged Care home. 

“With the additional supports in her NDIS plan she can continue to live in her own home and participate in all the activities that bring her joy” she continues.  

Emelita has always found joy in life. 

Born in the Philippines, she was working as a court stenographer and studying at university, when she accepted a job in Papua New Guinea with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in the 1970s. It’s here she met Peter, a “handsome” Australian.   

Settling in Canberra, they raised two daughters, while they both worked full time. Emelita went into the Public Service, serving as Secretary to the Director of the Australian National Gallery.

After 15 years, she left to have more time to care for her youngest daughter, who had severe eczema. This gave her time to study as well, and she went to culinary school where, through cake decorating, she discovered her love of art. 

“I didn’t know I was an artist!” she laughs. 

Never one to do things by halves, Emelita decorated cakes competitively, traveling around the country displaying her artistic skills – and sharing the secret to her extra delicious fruit cake (replace rum with Grand Marnier).

She began working part time as a chef so she could continue to be there for her daughter. She’d still be doing that now, were she not blind. 

“People don’t trust me to cook” she grins.  

She probably wouldn’t have time, anyway. As well as becoming proficient in braille and continuing to make music – she sings in three choirs – Emelita’s next goal is to begin busking to raise money for charity. 


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