3CR’s Gavin Moore interviews Lisa Zammit, CEO of Connecting Home, about disability services for the stolen generation, and recommendations she would like to see from the Disability Royal Commission.
You can listen to the interview here:
Gavin Moore: Hi everybody, welcome to 3CR. My name’s Gavin Moore, and I’m conducting an interview with Lisa Zammit, the CEO of Connecting Home, regarding disability services within the Aboriginal community. How you going Lisa?
Lisa Zammit: I’m really good thank you Gavin, how are you going?
Gavin: Yeah, I’m well, thank you. There’s a Royal Commission happening right now, into the violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of disabled people in Australia. Can you talk about some of the issues Aboriginal people with disability face in the mainstream system?
Lisa: Sure Gav. So, we’ve been involved in submitting an issues paper about that very matter as there were calls for papers about the impacts on people with a disability, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. And some of the feedback that we received from our participants when we interviewed them, were issues around cultural safety and people feeling safe in the supports that they’re receiving. The other area is concerns around people being taken advantage of, so things like elder abuse or abuse of younger people because of their disability.
Also just their treatment. We had one of our clients talk about how they used to get support from a mainstream service, and they’d be sitting in the car with their worker and the worker wouldn’t even talk to them, like they weren’t in the car with them. And he just felt invisible while he was on the road with them. So wasn’t getting that respect that he should have been getting as well.
Other areas that we hear about is more specific for Stolen Generations and their families with a disability is around re-traumatization as well. So people being re-traumatized and feeling like they’re back in institution, if they’re somewhere for respite or living in a residential type home setting because of their disability or a combination of their age and disability as well. So taking them back to when they were institutionalized as a young child as well.
Gavin: Why is it so important to have a holistic, community controlled, culturally appropriate health and disability service to the Aboriginal community?
Lisa: I think it’s really important for a couple of reasons. One, what we see for us, working with Stolen Generations and people with a disability that were stolen or their family members, is that ability to connect back into community and to make those connections safely as well. So being able to reconnect to culture safely is really important. Also being able to have supports that work with a person as a whole. Mainstream services tend to be really geared and focused on a particular area, so disability mainstream services will only focus on the needs of the person with a disability on their disability needs. Housing would only focus on the housing needs and then mental health would focus on the mental health needs. Having a holistic service, would look after all those areas.
So we find that, for us, working with people holistically, and having the ability to provide different supports from within the organisation, helps build that trust and that safety for the person as well. Also, giving more choice and control and ownership of what is being delivered to them by way of programs and support. So our clients are the ones that actually tell us how they want to see their lives and the services they get run. And we tailor that to them as well. So that holistic and that control by the community provides that ownership and more choice to them.
Gavin: Yeah. I understand you also have other disability services such as the NDIS at Connected Home?
Lisa: Yes. So we do provide NDIS. We provide support coordination, where we help people get their plan happening and implemented, but also we have direct support workers where those workers support people to get out into the community, whether it’s participating with their own families or out in the mainstream community or attending and doing cultural activities as well. Even other things like doing shopping and attending doctor’s appointments or other appointments as well. So we provide those services through the NDIS if people pick us to help them look after their plan.
Gavin: It sounds great Lisa. What recommendations would you like the Disability Royal Commission to make to improve lives of Aboriginal people with disability?
Lisa: I think that it is really important for the Royal Commission to look at how the government, or all services, can increase the skills of the Aboriginal workforce, so that there’s more Aboriginal workers to support people with a disability. We find that there is a bit of a shortage in skill around that. But also to educate mainstream services as well, so that people have more choice about services that they want to go to and that mainstream services have a better understanding and awareness of the needs of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders with a disability.
The other thing is, for those that do need to live in a residential group home setting, recommendations about how to make those places, where people are living more culturally safe and appropriate for them so that they don’t feel re-traumatized or don’t feel like they’re being re-institutionalised as well.
And probably the other thing is to look at, I guess, the standards and practices to, I guess ensure that workers across the whole board are better trained around code of conduct and ethics as well, so that people are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve to be treated with. It shouldn’t matter that they have a disability nor should it matter that they’re Aboriginal. They should still be treated with the respect that they deserve and to be heard and have a voice on how they want to live their life and have that control over it.
Gavin: It sounds great, Lisa. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us today about people with disability and Connecting Home?
Lisa: No, not at the moment, Gav. I think that pretty much sums up everything. If people need support to either get onto the scheme and get support for that, or already have a plan, you can contact us and we’re there to look at how to support people as best as possible, to help people get the best out of their plans.
Gavin: And that’s Connecting Home. What’s your phone number, Lisa? So people…
Lisa: So it’s (03) 8679 0700.
Gavin: And I also understand that you have a website as well.
Lisa: Yes, so it’s www.connectinghome.org.au
Gavin: Great. Hey Lisa, thanks for talking with us today.
Lisa: No worries Gav, always a pleasure.
Gavin: Thanks very much. You have a good afternoon.
Lisa: You take care.
Gavin: Okay bye.
Gavin: And that was Lisa Zammit there from Connecting Home, she’s the CEO and they’re a service for The Stolen Generations. This has been an interview for People with Disability Australia. Thank you very much, bye.
Gavin Moore is a proud Wemba Wemba man from the Southern Riverina area. You can listen to his regular program Billabong Beats on Melbourne’s 3CR 855AM.
You can find out more about 3CR’s Disability Day broadcast here.