Podcast - Episode 2: Radical Inclusion

In today's episode, we're going to be talking to Treena Stock and Jen McBride about radical inclusion. What does it mean? How can you be radical inclusive?

Jen McBride is an NDIS participant who's had her own journey of radical inclusivity at Castle. Please join us as we embrace your otherness on Castle's podcast series.

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Full episode transcripts here:

Brad Webb: Castle Services operate from the lands of the Darkinjung people to the south, the Awabakal people to the east, the Worimi people to the north and the Wonnarua people to the west. I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands where we work and live. I pay my respects to the elders of these lands, past, present, and emerging.

Welcome to the second episode of Embrace your Otherness, Castle's inaugural podcast series. This is a space where we will have both casual and in-depth conversations with disability community members, leaders and activists about disability identity, culture, work and rights with an emphasis on challenging people's perceptions and raising awareness about marginalised identities.

My name is Brad Webb and I'm proud to be both the CEO of Castle and your host for this podcast series. Today we are going to talk about radical inclusion, which is as exciting as it sounds. I am thrilled to welcome one of Castle's NDIS participants, Jen McBride, whose time with us has seen her explore her creative passions and skills as well as achieve a whole lot of personal goals. Jen will share some of those with us today. Hi Jen.

Jen McBride: Hello.

Brad Webb: We're also joined by one of Castle's NDIS service managers, Treena Stock, who joined the sector from a background in health. I'm looking forward to hearing more about her ability to appreciate and bring out the strengths and abilities of our participants and to lead a team that delivers programs that compliment these strengths. Welcome Jen and Treena.

Treena Stock: Thank you.

Brad Webb: First and foremost, I guess the question is why are we talking about radical inclusion? And before we jump into that, I just wanna set the scene for you.

Inclusion is really at the heart of what Castle stands for and it's embedded in our vision. We believe in a world where every person is able to contribute to society. That means a world where everyone is and feels included. But here's the kicker, at Castle we want to be radical about inclusion. That means changing the way people think about inclusion and making sure it's more than just accessible buildings and inclusive language. It's about making sure that we deliver programs that show our community, that people with disability are strong, are smart, they're sexy, they're ambitious and they're making a huge contribution to their world.

So Jen, what does radical inclusion mean to you? 'Cause you're doing some really cool stuff in your life, aren't you?

Jen McBride: Yes, at the moment I am.

Brad Webb: What would you say is the most radical thing you are doing?

Jen McBride: So far?

Brad Webb: Yeah.

Jen McBride: Well, definitely I got myself a boyfriend recently for a year almost, but yeah, it's definitely a big change.

Brad Webb: That's huge, that's huge. What about you Treena, what does radical inclusion mean to you?

Treena Stock: I think for me it's about people being able to look at what they want to do in their life and having accessibility and not being held back by other people's perception, I guess, of a person with a disability.

So if someone like Jen, who's done some amazing things in her life, she's left school, she's being able to go and she's studied. She's been able to go and get a job, like she was saying, now she's got a partner. She's looking at the next stage in her life of being able to move in with her partner and where that takes her, whether that be marriage and children, that she's not defined by her disability, that she can actually, that her world and the people around her from Castle and also her informal supports, will support her to achieve those things and that that's just the norm. It shouldn't be different for Jen than anybody else. So I think for me, radical inclusion is definitely about being able to get out there and live the best life that she wants.

Brad Webb: And Jen I mean, it's amazing. And as soon as I met you, you made me smile and you were talking to me about Big W and the work that you do there and that you've got that reputation for dressing up. Can you tell me some more about that? Cause that sounds like that's beyond inclusion from a disability, you're radically including a whole range of people around you in your joy and your adventures. What's that? Tell me more about that.

Jen McBride: Well, when I think about like that with the dressing up and especially when it was around Christmas time, I dressed up at as Mrs. Claus. So I had a full on dress and yeah, just made all the people smile that come to me. That's all I wanted when I was at work.

Brad Webb: And do you think that rubs off, obviously customers enjoy that and smile that, but do you think that rubs off to your coworkers as well about the way they feel about work?

Jen McBride: Well, definitely I think so. We have little jokes every now and then.

Brad Webb: Cause that's a unique gift to make your coworkers smile, to make other people smile. Tell me about getting the job at Big W, was that always a dream for you to be working? When you came to Castle was that on the list of things you wanted to achieve getting a job?

Jen McBride: No, it wasn't. Most of the things that I've done weren't on the list.

Brad Webb: And how did that come to be then?

Jen McBride: I honestly don't know. I just wanted to do work experience and do some other bits and pieces. And yeah, after about six months they are doing the work experience, I asked for a job, went in with Georgia, with my support worker, I got the job there.

Brad Webb: Yeah, so that's pretty radical 'cause you came in without an idea that you were gonna get a job.

Jen McBride:  Well, yeah, since I've actually, things have gone a lot, how do I put it? Gone different places since I've actually met Georgia. So I wouldn't have thought I'd got a job, gone to TAFE, things like that, I wouldn't have thought about that. 

Brad Webb: Tell me about TAFE 'cause that was where you did your...

Jen McBride:  Floristry course.

Brad Webb: Floristry course. So was that on your list of things that you wanted to achieve?

Jen McBride: No, Castle had a thing going on for a little short course at floristry. And I absolutely loved it being all hands on. I'm a hands on person myself. I loved it and so when that short course finished, I went through to do Cert III in floristry to become a florist assistant.

Brad Webb: So your time with Castle's been one surprise after the other.

Jen McBride: Exactly, at the moment it has been.

Brad Webb: So looking back, how different is the Jen that's sitting here in front of me today to the Jen that first walked into Castle nearly seven years ago, over seven years ago.

Jen McBride: Would not have been doing this for sure.

Brad Webb: Really?

Jen McBride:  Really.

Brad Webb: That's hard to believe, tell me why.

Jen McBride: I was a shy person, I was not like this at all.

Brad Webb:  Absolutely, that's awesome.

Jen McBride: I was in my shell and just wouldn't do much at all. And thinking back then, I wouldn't have thought about doing this at all, like podcast or anything.

Brad Webb:  So what's your message then to people with disability who might be in that space themselves of going, "Oh, I don't know if I can do it." What's your inspiring message to them.

Jen McBride: The words that just come to mind is it's your life, live it the way you want.

Brad Webb: That's pretty powerful. And do you think society actually encourages that enough for people?

Jen McBride: No, I don't think, not normally, no.

Brad Webb:  So you're still making me smile because isn't that what it's about? Isn't life about just getting out there and living it.

Jen McBride: Basically.

Brad Webb: Yeah.

Jen McBride: Yeah, live it the way you want.

Brad Webb: Treena, when you hear Jen speak about that, how do you feel? What does that make you think?

Treena Stock: I think I'm extremely proud of the support staff that have come Jen's way. I'm really proud of her and how she's being able to, have those barriers there, but she's had the courage to actually take a chance and use the opportunities to get out there and make her life a better life and I guess put her life into the direction that she wants to, so take the path of her choice and she's a big success story and I can only see her having even more successes in her life.

I guess for me the measure of success is that she's happy and the smile on her face tells us how happy she is. Like you said, she makes everybody happy. That to me is the biggest measure of how you succeed in your life, happiness.

Brad Webb: And Jen, are you the kind of person that sets new year's resolutions or goals or those types of things or does life just-

Jen McBride: No, no way.

Brad Webb: What are you doing now? What exciting things are happening for you now? Have you got any more courses planned or anything?

Jen McBride: I'm wanting to do my year 12 certificate, so it's at HSC. That's one thing I'm wanting to do.

Brad Webb: Well, you've proven you can study, haven't you? With the courses that you've done.

Jen McBride: Yeah, and floristry is not as easy as you think.

Brad Webb: No, no, it's a real skill.  Thank you for sharing that. And it is really absolutely something that's why I do what I do to see that opportunities 'cause I do think everybody's got something to give and something inside that they need to express and you're living proof of that.

Treena, I want to ask you to tell me a little bit about Castle and the programs and the services we offer and how it is that Castle does things a little bit differently.

Treena Stock: So I've been with Castle now for just over 12 months. And I think the thing that comes to mind for me, the thing that I love the most about Castle is that I'm surrounded by people that have the same values and goals and are very like-minded. And the support staff that we have at Castle are amazing, second to none.

They really look at what each participant wants or needs and they support them to actually help them achieve those goals. That might be a goal related to living independently or a social goal.

Something that we do at Castle that I guess is different to anybody else comes back to that participant journey and focusing on the participant coming in at any stage of that journey, whether it's for the social inclusion or to find a job and actually helping them achieve that process from beginning to end. And that doesn't mean that when they find the job, if that's their goal for that, that we sort of say goodbye, that social inclusion is a really important aspect of what Castle do.

So I guess, yeah, there are a couple of really big things that make Castle stand out and they are definitely the support staff and the quality as well as focusing on that journey and actually being able to help people complete that journey. Jen's an example of that in I guess that process of not really knowing that that's what she wanted to do when she started with Castle, but having that opportunity to grow and learn and develop and then having the confidence to say, well, I actually think I might wanna study or I'd really like to try and do some work experience and get a job or just have that social support where she has that time to sit and talk girl stuff with a support worker that has something that's in common with her. So yeah, I think they're the things that stand out for me at Castle.

Brad Webb:  Treena's talked about the team that work with our participants and it sounds like you've had some great support workers over the time here. What do you think makes a good relationship between you and a support worker? What are the things that make a difference to that?

Jen McBride: Like with the connection? So it's about the connection, if you get on well with them and see how things go with that, it's hard to explain.

Treena Stock: I guess also not being afraid to talk about your likes and dislikes. Not everybody gets along in life and having that ability to be able to say, well, I really enjoyed working with this person, or I didn't really enjoy working with that person and having that flexibility then, but then also following that through with the consistency.

So for Jen, particularly her support staff, we sort of have two or three people that work with Jen predominantly all of the time. And if one of them have some time off, someone else can jump in but it gives Jen that consistency. It also gives her the opportunity to develop that relationship and I guess it also gives the support staff the opportunity to get to know Jen and help her develop the skills that she's interested in and nothing gets left behind.

Brad Webb: So I guess like all relationships in our life, it's that match that becomes really important. You've gotta like each other.

Jen McBride: Yeah, basically, respect, so it's the big one, the respect one.

Brad Webb: And I guess for those days when you're not quite believing in yourself, somebody who believes in you must be pretty important as well to say, "Jen, come on, you can do this, you're..."

Jen McBride: Yeah, that's basically what my support worker does. Pushes me along.

Brad Webb: Yeah, like your own personal life coach, just constantly saying.

Jen McBride: Yeah, basically.

Treena Stock: And I think it's really important as well from that informal side of things that they're comfortable with. Jen's got a great family network. So having that support worker be able to sort of be part of that informal support as well and get along with, I guess everybody, the extended version of Jen, is really important as well.

Brad Webb: As well as an amazing group of participants that I get to meet to inspire me, Treena, I think we've got an amazing group of people who work for Castle and particularly a really incredible mix of people that work in our NDIS programs. Can you tell me about some of them and particularly why you think they're perfect for making Castle a place of radical inclusion?

Treena Stock: I think the thing that I see most about the staff at Castle is that everyone's got, they've all got one common goal and that is to try and provide the best support to the participant that they're working with on that particular day or at that time. But they've all got different interests and they all come from you different worlds. And the fact that we all are able to work together and provide that support, we've all got that one common goal is definitely a priority.

We've got participants that have actually come through the DES program, support workers that have come through the DES program themselves. We got support workers that have got life experience in different things. One of our support staff for example is a chef. So what he brings to our programs in healthy living and in our Castle Cafe is amazing.

We've got support staff that are interested in being creative. People that have come from a fitness background, people that have come from an aged care background. And I think when you put all of those people into one space and you don't limit them by our barriers and saying to them, let's explore your interests and what you are passionate about and they can come to work every day and they can actually, they're interested in what they're doing because of those passions, it makes it very easy to bring that back to the participants as well. And that's what we try and do with our groups. We try and link staff up to the groups that they've got common interests in.

Brad Webb: Treena, that diversity of our employees in DES always really astounds me. We've got such a mix of people as you've said, and I'm really intrigued that we've got a real mix of gender, men and women, ages, backgrounds and experience. There are people that have disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Is that a deliberate thing or do you think people are attracted to Castle and that just brings diversity? Do you have an opinion on that?

Treena Stock: I don't think we definitely don't try to do that. I think staff that come to Castle generally tend to stay at Castle and that's something that we are celebrating quite often, the 14 year anniversary, the 10 year anniversary. And I think, especially in the support sector, that's a really huge achievement because burnout's quite high in that sector.

So, to have staff start 14 years ago and be that passionate about the place that they work at and to stay in that one particular place. And I think when you come into Castle and you see how amazing the participants are and how supportive the staff are, people decide they don't like to leave. So I think that's why when we are recruiting staff, we've generally got quite a few people to choose from. And at times we will look at a particular interest or something like that but it's not necessarily about the qualification or the particular area that they've come from. We try and keep that diverseness spread out across all of our staff, so yeah.

Brad Webb: And I think coming back to a conversation earlier with you Jen is that relationship is so important, isn't it? And now need to make sure that we've got such a mix of people because we were all human beings with very different interests and different people that we love working with and don't love working with.

So yeah, I think it's a really special part of Castle. And something that I've enjoyed is just that sheer diversity in our participants and the people who work for us. I mentioned before that the theme of our podcast series was embrace your otherness. And you can choose who wants to go first here, but I'm really keen to ask this question. When I say embrace your otherness, what does that mean to you and to you personally? So you two can wrestle over who goes first.

Treena Stock: Do you want me to go first, Jen?

For me, embrace your otherness is about being unique. And it's about being proud to be unique. So everybody's different, we're not all the same and that's something we should be celebrating. So that's definitely is what that means to me.

Brad Webb: Unique.

Treena Stock: Unique.

Brad Webb: Yeah, yeah.

Treena Stock: Yeah. I think Jen said it perfectly earlier. Live your life. Live your own life.

Jen McBride: Live your life the way you wanna live it, the way you want to.

Brad Webb: I think that’s the perfect spot to bring our conversation to a close. If people can be who they want and be unique. And can live their life the way that they want to,  I mean, isn’t that a great outcome?

Jen McBride: Sorry, there’s one thing with that. It would be a boring world if we were all the same. I have to say that. It would be a boring world if we were all the same.

Brad Webb: Perfect. On that note. I’m going to say to both of you. Thanks so very much. Not only for coming to the podcast and talking to those who are listening to us but also for taking that step of giving it a go. I’m very proud of you Jen. Thank you very much.

Jen McBride: I’m way out of my comfort zone but anyway.

Treena Stock: You wouldn’t know it.

Brad Webb: And you know, there are going to be lots of stories on our website castle.org.au of people who are embracing their otherness, of the work that we do,  of the way people can be involved with what we do, either coming to work for us or coming to participate in our programs.

I really wanna encourage our listeners to jump on our website castle.org.au and spend some time just seeing how special it is at Castle. And to both of you, thanks so much again for spending some time with us today.

Treena Stock: Thank you.

Jen McBride: Thank you.