Yasmin Farhart, an empowered, south west Sydney-based Lebanese woman living with disability, is a professional public speaker, educator, activist and advocate for diversity and inclusion.
She has establish herself as a member of numerous local advisory and reference groups, including Bankstown Recovery Support Network (BRAS), Universal Access Reference Group, SSI FutureAbility National Multilingual Advisory Group, and the Inclusive Communities Network.Most recently, Ms Farhart has been informing the workforce of disability service providers with Our Voice, an SSI pilot project that draws on lived experience to deliver tailored learning sessions in English.
The project aims to build the capacity of mainstream disability services to better respond to the access needs of people living with disability from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.
Held this year on December 3, International Day of People with Disability aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions in society.
In recognition of the day, we caught up with Ms Farhart to hear about her work as a Lived Experience Educator (LEE) with Our Voice and how the project has assisted her professional development, as well as work towards changing the current landscape for people living with disability from culturally diverse backgrounds.
“It’s great to know that I can positively influence people working for disability organisations to deliver more accessible services to people with disability from CALD backgrounds,” said Ms Farhart.
While Our Voice provides many opportunities for mainstream disability service providers, the project also provides a number of professional development opportunities for 11 LEEs.
"With Our Voice, I have delivered several learning activities that have enabled me to enhance my public speaking skills,” said Ms Farhart. “I have gained a lot more confidence in speaking publicly and addressing large audiences.”
A passionate ambassador and disability advocate, Yasmin says it was the project’s unique approach that inspired her to apply to become a LEE.
"Our Voice is unique because, unlike other disability-centred efforts, it uses the power of lived experience to help shape attitudes and break down stigmas,” said Ms Farhart.
“Often the best way to bring about change is through sharing lived experience. Our Voice is a great opportunity for organisations to learn about people’s cultural differences and the challenges that we endure through listening to our lived experiences.”
The barriers experienced by people with disability from CALD backgrounds are complex and far reaching, as evidenced by the low participation rate in the workforce, the NDIS and the wider community.
One of the biggest challenges that Ms Farhart faces is finding employment. Such challenges inspired her to start her own business: Yasmin Farhart -- emcee, public speaker and disability advocate.
Our Voice has provided Ms Farhart with opportunities to promote her business to new audiences across the Sydney metro area and beyond, and also to generate independent income as a self-employed Lived Experience Educator.
Through the project, she was referred to SSI Ignite Ability, an initiative that assists people with disability from CALD backgrounds develop their business.
"It is tough to find a job if you are a woman with living with disability," she said.
"I hope that the message that we are delivering through Our Voice gets through to the community. Hopefully more organisations are able to increase their understanding of the barriers that people with disability from CALD backgrounds face every day, and implement strategies to reduce those barriers.”