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14 Dec 2017


SSI celebrates IDPwD with community, local government and business


Participants at SSI’s IDPwD celebration (clockwise from top left): SSI Chief Operations
Officer Steve O’Neill presents an award to Core Community Services Multicultural
Communities settlement worker Aylin Yokhanna; Sean Willenberg; Georgia
Zogalis; Jonathan Yung and Neill Duncan; Javier Ortiz; and Yasmin Farhat.

The theme for (IDPwD) 2017 was “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”, with the overarching principle “leave no one behind”.

The theme resonated with SSI’s values of equity and diversity and a special event held in SSI’s Bankstown office on December 5 showcased the positive outcomes stemming from SSI’s partnerships and collaboration in disability inclusion.

The event tapped into the talent, knowledge and experience of people with disabilities. It was MCed by Ability Links participant Yasmin Farhat and entertainment was provided by Jonathan Yung and Neill Duncan, both professional musicians living with a disability.

Catering was provided by ‘Syrian Kitchen’ and ‘The Magic Table Cloth’, businesses started through SSI’s Ignite Small Business Start-ups and IgniteAbility programs. 

The Hon. Lou Amato MLC addressed the event and acknowledged the importance of SSI’s work conducted towards an inclusive society in the multicultural sector.

Keynote speaker was the Chair of the Disability Council NSW, Mark Tonga, who since a spinal injury during rugby training has been a passionate and committed advocate for people with disability.

“People think of me after my accident as a lesser able version of myself,” he said. “However, I think of me as a new person, not less or more of a person just different with different abilities.”

Mr Tonga highlighted the journey that people from multicultural backgrounds go through when accepting and acknowledging disability and the role that community has in making that journey somewhat easier.

Georgia Zogalis, manager of SSI’s FutureAbility program, spoke of SSI’s expertise in supporting culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities and being trusted by government to help increase National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) access by CALD communities in NSW.

She said the FutureAbility team had been busy organising the first state conference on DiverseAbility: NDIS Inclusion on April 19, 2018, seven roundtable discussions for CALD communities and disability providers, 20 in-language NDIS sessions for under-resourced groups, an SBS radio campaign on the NDIS, and training all of SSI’s service teams on the NDIS and issues relating to CALD disability.

Sean Willenberg, Disability Inclusion Promotions Officer for the NSW Business Chamber, said with over 55 per cent of Australians with disability being of working age it made good sense for businesses and organisations to access that talent pool. The cost savings of employing people with disability could be seen through reduced staff turnover, recruitment and retraining costs, he said.

Javier Ortiz, SSI’s Multicultural Disability Inclusion and Promotion Officer, said it was difficult for recently arrived migrants to find a feeling of belonging but sports clubs, migrant resource centres, English lesson providers, service providers and community groups made the process far easier.

“Strengthening these connections so they are inclusive and accessible to everyone can make a huge difference in the lives of people with different abilities, their families and carers,” he said.

Steve Gholab, Operations Manager for Ability Links NSW, said the lived experience of a person with disability was an asset to all.

“A person-centred approach goes a long way towards creating meaningful connections and building a more inclusive community — something we can all work towards, as individuals and organisations,” he said.

Twelve non-government and community organisations, businesses and local governments received awards to recognise their work in disability and inclusion: Iraqi Australian University Graduates Forum, Japan Club of Sydney, Ahmadiyya Muslim Organisation, CORE Community Services, Capital Careers, Australian Learning Institute, Sydney Multicultural Community Services, Canterbury Bankstown Council, SydWest Multicultural Services, Blacktown City Council, Pacific Islands Mount Druitt Action Network and MTC Liverpool.

The event’s celebratory focus was underlined by Mr Ortiz’s call to action: “It will be up to you to keep this momentum going, in your workplaces, in your communities, sports clubs, in your programs and projects. Building an inclusive society for all will ensure we all benefit and no one is left behind.”

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