SSI News Blog

After months of hard work since its inception in July 2014, the start of 2015 saw almost 20 launches of the Ability Links NSW program, culminating in the major Parramatta and Wollongong events. SSI is proud to be funded by the NSW Government to implement this program in partnership with UnitingCare and St Vincent de Paul throughout NSW; a program that will help change the lives of people with disability, their families and carers.

SSI General Manager Peter Zographakis speaking at an Ability Links NSW launch.
SSI General Manager Peter Zographakis speaking at an Ability Links NSW launch.

The NSW disability sector, through the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, is undergoing major changes, including an expansion of the service system; greater emphasis on person-centred, strengths-based approaches, promoting choice and self-directed care. This has led to the development of Ability Links, which empowers people with disability, and those involved in their lives, to direct decisions about what they want to achieve.

Ability Links coordinators, known as Linkers, support this process by linking people to their community, as well as supporting communities to be inclusive. Whether the person’s goal is to participate in sport, education, volunteering or other activities, the participant remains at the centre of decision-making about how they want to lead their life. These principles fit well with SSI’s mission of assisting individuals and families to reach their potential, and it is why we applied for funding to run this program.

The importance and value of a program like Ability Links cannot be overemphasised. Earlier in my life, I watched as my cousin dealt with a spinal injury following a car accident that put her in a wheelchair. She was 16 at the time, and from a small country town in North Queensland. She went on to marry a terrific man who, in effect, became her Linker, helping her keep her connected to education, the community and many activities. My cousin has led a full life raising three children, who are now adults. Obviously not every person with a disability has a close family member able to fill in the support gaps like my cousin’s husband. This is why the work that Linkers do is so vital and welcomed by many in the community.

SSI is also proud to be able to provide culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) expertise for Ability Links. The ability to meet the diverse cultural and linguistic needs of people with disability in NSW is a cornerstone of a truly person-centred service delivery.

Previous investments by governments into culturally appropriate service providers did not reflect the proportion of people with a disability from CALD backgrounds. Almost 20 per cent of Australians experience disability, and about one in four Australians with a disability are from a CALD background, making people with disability from CALD backgrounds the second largest groups with disability (Diversitat Disability Findings Report 2014).

People with disability from CALD backgrounds have not been accessing traditional disability services to the extent that they are needed. So SSI is delighted to be the pioneer of this reform in the sector, which will ensure that people with disability from CALD backgrounds will be able to choose and set goals to meet their personal dreams and become active members of their community.

Fifty-eight Linkers have already been employed by SSI, to deliver the program across more than 60 Local Government Areas. Thirty of these employees are multilingual, covering a total of 26 languages. We look forward to continuing the development of this program as the year progresses.

We are also proud of our involvement in the recent NSW day of action – Standing Together. On February 24, more than 1000 people across 10 different locations joined to show their support for cultural unity at Standing Together events run by member Migrant Resource Centres. Read more about this here.

Speaking of ‘standing together’, NSW providers of Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) for asylum seekers – SSI, Australian Red Cross, Life Without Barriers and Marist Youth Care – also got together during February at SSI to share knowledge about best practice service delivery for our clients. Read more about this here.

And another area we’ve been doing a lot of work on is establishing a large new SSI office, in Bankstown. Find out more about this here.

Warm regards,

Peter Zographakis
SSI General Manager

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