Meeting Karin and Mathew 

As well as meeting organisations in Austrialia I am also meeting individuals who are leading and disabled.

Why?

Because I acknowledge there can be a difference between leading organisations and leading individuals. In some ways an organisation gives a structure to lead from which can be easier than seeing a gap the needs leadership and filling it.

That being said if you ae leading on an issue you dont necessarily need people to follw you to be considered a leader especially if no one else is doing what you are. Leadership in and by organisations is more challenging as you have to bring other people along with you and form a vision which reasonates.

I’m also meeting with individuals in acknowledgement of the inaccessibility and deterents there are to gettig involved in disability rights work with organisations.

Mathew and Karin

In Brisbane on recomendation of QDN I met individually with Karin Swift and Mathew Townsend

Karin

Karin is a member of staff at QDN  who leads on consultation work with the organisations members. She is also a board member for WWDA a Disabled women’s organisation working accross Australia.
Karin was awesome to talk to talk to and I learned a lot from her about how leadership development happens within QDN & WWDA.

The biggest message I got from our meeting was the importance of feeling valued and being given support to access opportunities which are slightly out of peoples comfort zones.

zara and karin at qdn

Mathew 

Mathew is a young member of QDN who is very politically active and woking part time for Brisbane council supporting community based enviromental work. We had a chat about the barriers to political participation that face disabled people. Mathew told me the work he has been doing making his local green party more accessible and inclusive. For Mathew there was a strong belief that if disabled people are goin o realise tier rights it is importnt to wok with mainstream political movements.

A key thing that supported Mathew`s leadership was having a social network who understood his needs and offered fiendship and support.

zara and mathew at a brisbane cafe

 

Meeting QDN

Last week I had the privilege of meeting with Michelle Moss & paige Armstrong  at QDN . From the outside QDN is an unassuming building in the suburbs of brisbane but on the inside it is a hive of activity. QDN is the leading dpo for queensland as I mentioned in a earlier blog DPOS in Australia currently  receive funding from local and national government to carry out representative functions around disability and this is how qdn gets money.

As a result all around its  meeting space are graphics photos and evidence of consultation. 

It was really interesting to hear about some of the emerging challenges and opportunities facing DPOS in Australia particularly around competition from the private sector and adoption of the language of independent living by the government without full comprehension of what that looks like in practice.

My key learning from my meeting were

1) use membership 

QDN have a large membership at least by UK dpo standards and they actively engage with there membership providing them with opportunities to understand and use their rights. The volume of easy read materials was particularly noticible.

2) NDIS

Talking to Michelle I learned a lot more about the new national disability insurance scheme which is the roll out of direct payments and personal budgets  in Australia it’s big, relatively new and has teething troubles but has massive potential. Organisations like QDN are making sure that all disabled people are aware of the opportunities for choice and control the scheme offers. QDN is doing some really interesting to ensure that people with learning disabilities are not left behind.

What I found slightly surprisingly and depressing is Australia has a long history of institutionalising disabled people and is still struggling with deinsitutionalisation particularly around small group homes.

3)training the trainers

To support QDNs development of leaders they run training of trainers for any disabled people that  want to get involved in projects.in fact they build it into all project programmes to ensure that it’s not just the usual suspects taking part.

4)representation vs advocacy

There is a big divide in Australia between representative dpos and organisations that do collective and individual case advocacy. The roles are  separated which surprised me as most organisations in the UK do both. 

Me meeting with Michelle from QDN

Brisbane as a wheelchair using visitor 

Brisbane sign in front of the skyline
Brisbane sign in front of the skyline

Brisbane is our second stop on our Winston Churchill memorial fellowship. Brisbane is the 3rd largest city in Australia and it’s definitely underrated. 

I’ve met some amazing people and organisations here but that’s different blog  (which will follow) however even without the people I’ve  met in would definitely recommend a short visit should you  be coming to this part of the world. 

Central brisbane is easy to navigate and city itself is kind of organised in themes you have the business area, the cultural area and the shopping area.

In comparison to Sydney I’ve found it to be more chilled out and more accessible both in terms of being a tourist and being a wheelchair user. The transport is as easy to use and accessible as Sydney but not as busy.

While here Kate and I have strolled along the south bank  which feels quite similar to Londons southbank (love it or loath it they have followed the same architectural style – lots of  concrete)  but also has a beach and rainforest walk in addition to the theatre and concert hall. We have visited the art galleries which are both very accessible and engaging.  

In fact we’ve found  very  little we can’t get into for whatever reason there are less steps here than Sydney.

Travel tips

1) go to the galleries and museums in southbank they are free and fully accessible.

Queensland art gallery interior
Queensland art gallery interior

2) brisbane has lots of shops if you want a cheap but good quality eat look in the shopping centre food courts in wish the UK had such variety. 

Hidden gem

The brisbane museum  well hidden in the town hall it is free to get into and gives a good introduction to the city.