Young man in Cowboys merch standing in front of a white car withe Feros Care logo on it

Jack Thornton is kicking some serious life goals – he’s meeting new people, trying new hobbies and looking to the future on a daily basis.

Jack is 18 years old, and lives with an intellectual disability. He and his mother, Alison Thornton, are based in the small rural North Queensland town of Bowen.

With the support of the NDIS, Feros Care and community agencies, Jack is now beginning to discover freedom and autonomy within the local region – like going to a Rugby League game for the first time this month to cheer on his team, the North Queensland Cowboys.

Selectability, a Townsville-based, NDIS-supported mental wellbeing and suicide prevention organization, took a busload of footy supporters up to the game, and Jack was “very excited” to attend.

“I like it because he had a great time with his mates, he’s gone away and done something different,” says Alison, Jack’s mother.

“He’d never been to a footy match before – that was his first time. I had to get him a shirt. And his team won, which was a huge deal for everyone in this community!”

Taking steps together

Alison has been prescribed lifelong medication for epilepsy, and the severity of her condition means she isn’t able to drive. Bus routes in the area are also limited, making travel challenging for both her and Jack in their rural environment.

An Feros Care Local Area Coordinator (LAC) worked to build a plan and advocate for Jack, ensuring that it included support for him to get out and about – which Alison says has really helped with his independence and confidence.

Jack also attends NDIS group activities at Selectability every Tuesday and Wednesday, giving him a regular, reliable opportunities in a comfortable setting to meet new people. He can take some time out to connect with friends his own age and try new hobbies.

Activities over the past couple of months have included cooking meals, arts and crafts and studying online.

“I am glad I am on the NDIS and look forward to Tuesdays and Wednesdays to be with my new friends and have fun,” Jack says.

Previously, he felt isolated in his ability to connect with other people his age in his rural community; however, now Jack shares meals with his new friends and plays games. “I like to hang out with my friends and I like drawing.”

“It all encourages him to interact with his friends and it gives him his independence,” Alison says. “I think it’s good for JJ as it gets him out with people his own age. They go out on the town, go out for a feed … it’s interactive for him.”

Young man and middle aged woman hugging and posing for picture outside

Looking to the future

With support from Feros Care, Jack is also starting to consider employment options, and he’s thinking about a possible future as a mechanic.

“He loves welding and grinding, and he has in the past helped his dad fix cars, caravans and utes,” Alison says. “It’s a great skill to have. I’d like him to go to TAFE and get his welding and grinding certificates.”

Di Chataway is a Community Development Coordinator in the Mackay region and has been proud to support Jack throughout everything that he’s doing.

“I've seen Jack really enjoy his activities, he's really blossoming,” says Di.

“It’s hard in a rural town. Him going onto the NDIS has given him great support. He has real goals now and is set to achieve them, whereas before they were just dreams.”

Di has been based in Bowen for a year, and prides herself on her ability to connect and work within the area. As someone who is embedded in the community, she knows exactly how to reach the services that will be the best fit for an individual.

“I sit in the Bowen Neighbourhood Centre, and people can just drop in or come up and see how we can assist them in accessing NDIS or seeing what services are available.

“It’s important to dig deep and be a part of things. Ensure no empty promises, be there when you say you’re going to be there. Go where people are comfortable. Speak to families who may be struggling.”

Di points out that in rural environments such as Bowen and nearby Collinsvile, people often can’t access transport. She goes out to meet individuals such as Jack and really ensures that the trust is there.

“You have to really get to know people. And you have to be part of a township where everyone knows everyone, everyone looks out for everyone.”

To find out more about how Feros Care can support you, including in rural communities, click here. 

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