Podcast - Episode 3: Investing in inclusion

It really is a pivotal moment in Australian politics, as we launch into both the budget and the election campaign, and it will shape the face of disability services of NDIS, of employment services for years to come.

Join us as we explore the implications of both the budget and of the election for the future of disability services in Australia with Participants Support Coordinator from Castle, Nikita Killen and from the National Disability Services, Karen Stace.

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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 their Elders of these lands, past, present, and emerging.

Welcome to the latest 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 perception and raising awareness about marginalised identities.

My name is Brad Webb, and I'm honoured to be both the CEO of Castle and your host for this podcast series. Today, we are gonna be talking about federal politics, and more specifically, two very important events that will shape the coming years. Joining me today is Karen Stace, Senior Manager of State and Territory Operations for the leading peak body, National Disability Service, or NDS. I am so grateful that Karen agreed to share with us her experience and the work of NDIS at this pivotal time for both the NDIS, and people with disability. Alongside Karen is Nikita Killen, Castle's Participant Support Coordinator who has a very unique insight into NDIS and how it impacts our participants.

I'm really looking forward to learning more about Nikita's views on NDIS, and the importance of it to Australia. Welcome Karen, welcome Nikita.

Nikita Killen: Thank you.
Karen Stace: Thanks, Brad, great to be here.
Brad Webb: Wonderful to have you both. Before we dive into the nitty gritty of today's episode, Karen, I was wondering if you could tell us more about NDS and your role?
Karen Stace: Yeah, sure. So NDS or National Disability Services is a peak body for non-government organisations, large and small. We've been going for over 75 years, so we've got a really long history of working with some fantastic providers. So our members, we have over around 1,200 across Australia.

Our members, as I said, range from large and small. So there are organisations where all they do is disability, through to organisations where it may only be a very small but important part of what they do. And because we're very lucky to have national presence, that means that we get to support organisations in metro areas, but also in really remote and very remote.
I was just really lucky just to have come back from our office in the NT in Darwin. So that was a real privilege to be able to go and meet up with some of members who are working in some really different circumstances, and I guess circumstances that are not necessarily ones that I'm really used to. So that was one of our, one of the great things I think about National Disability Services.
So as a peak body, I guess we do a whole range of different things. And really our reason for being is to work with providers like Castle and others to support them so that they can deliver fantastic outcomes for the people that they support. So it really is about providing resources, it's about advocating, which is one of the things that we'll be talking about today is what does that advocacy look like on behalf of NDS federally, but also at a state level? So it's around advocacy.
It's also around providing the resources, and supports, and projects, and learning and development that providers are telling us are things that they need, or our members are telling us. And I guess, you know, really relevant today as well is that we also think that it's part of our role to support our members, to think about the future, to be thought leaders, to think about innovation, to think about what that looks like, to challenge a little bit about whether the ways that we've always done things are the ways that we need to do them into the future, which is I think really relevant for today as well.
Brad Webb: Karen, you raise a couple of really important points there. One was the longevity of NDS, 75 years strong. You'll have seen an incredible array of change in the landscape for disability service providers over those years, and most specifically in the recent years around NDIS. And I think the other thing that you really highlighted for us was the diversity of the sector.
I think it's easy when you're in your own space and doing your own thing to see your problems through your own lens. But when you're expanding that out, you've, as you say, those unique challenges that face providers, say in the NT, what's your role at the NDS, what do you do?
Karen Stace: Yeah, so one of the things that I'm very lucky to be able to do in my role is to support all of our state and territory operations. So as I said, we have a state and territory operation and a presence in each state and territory of Australia. And my role is really to support our managers on the ground to really think a bit about some of those differences that we talked about, but also really highlight some of the similarities.
So when do we come together as a peak body and represent all of the differing views across our members, and how do we do that with one strong voice, I guess, so with one united voice, I think particularly, you know, you highlighted around some of changes, and I guess one of the most significant changes has been that move from some very state-based funded systems through to the NDIS, which is really a national system. So in some ways, you know, a lot of what we're doing now has that much more of a national focus. And I guess one of the challenges for me in my role is to make sure that we don't lose some of those differences as well.
You know, that's really important that we understand that operating in, you know, Newcastle, is not the same as operating in Burke, is not the same as operating in Darwin, or in remote communities. So we need to kind of keep a track of that, but also identify where there's similarities.
The other role that I have, which is a really important one with NDS is I actually look after and support our New South Wales members. So that means that I get to speak with members all the time, I get to go to, well, pre-COVID, I used to get to go to where they operate. So I always used to sort of say that, you know, that one of the great things about my role is I get to sort of meet providers and our members metaphorically where they're at, but also physically where they're at. And that's a real delight, you know, you get to meet the people that they're supporting.
You get to meet their staff, you get to hear stories, you just get to get that sense of where they are and how they exist, and, you know, pick up things about their culture, and about what's important to them as organisations. So I'm just trying to think, I think they're probably the main things that I do. You know, I do get the chance to work on things like our submission.
Brad Webb: Yeah, and I think we will see the quality of that submission later in the discussion, but it's actually born out of those conversations with providers, as you say, meeting them where they are. And Castle is really proud to have just hit 30 years as a member of NDS. And I know that as a leader in the disability sector, our peak bodies play such an important role in elevating the voice, not just of organisations that provide support, but most importantly to our participants themselves and amplifying that voice and advocating for change, which leads me to ask you, Nikita, tell me about what a participant support coordinator does, your role at Castle, and what drew you to that role?
Nikita Killen: Yeah, so I feel extremely fortunate to be the participant support coordinator at Castle, because it's such a privilege to be able to meet with participants who are coming into our supports for the first time, and to learn a little bit about who they are, what challenges they face, and how we can support them to meet their goals.
So, I was drawn into this role, or into disability services in general, through various life experiences that I've had. So I actually grew up in a home with a father who lived with quite chronic disability. So I know firsthand the toll that disability can take on all aspects of not only the individual's life, but the lives of the people in their support network and family as well. And then had the privilege of volunteering for a camp for people with intellectual disability when I was in my early 20s. And that was life changing for me, because some of these people, obviously this was prior to the NDIS, some of these people had reached the age of 40 years old and had never had a night away from mom or dad, had never made their own, buttered their own toast. And having the opportunity to support them and to empower them to do these things for themselves for the first time was absolutely life changing for me to see that, you know, that little bit of support for people, the absolute difference that it can make in their sense of self, their sense of self-efficacy and you know, the opportunities that they have their life.
So, yeah, I feel really passionate about what we do at Castle. And as I said, just having that moment of meeting a new participant, seeing where they're at, seeing where they wanna go, and working with them to line them up with the right supports for them. And, you know, whether that employment capacity building, whether it's, you know, some social and community access so that they can make some new friends and broaden their horizons. Yeah, it's down to the individual and what they want, and I love being a part of it.
Brad Webb: Thanks for sharing that with us, Nikita. I think that you bring that really unique perspective, and being participant-focused, but that empathy that is really so important for us when we're delivering services to our participants, and we're very lucky to have you.
Nikita Killen: Thank you.
Brad Webb: I said before that we would be talking federal politics, and I was hoping that we've still got listeners after mentioning that, but I'm gonna hone in on two really important events that are coming up in the next two months. Normally the federal budget is delivered on the first Tuesday in May, and this year it will be held earlier than usual, on Tuesday, 29th of March. And the reason for that is Australia will be heading to the polls for the federal election no later than Saturday 21st of May. And for the political junkies amongst us, I'm anxiously waiting for that date to arrive. Karen, we will come to the election shortly, but before we do that, in relation to the federal budget, NDS has been doing a lot of work. Can you tell us some more about the submission that you made in January?
Karen Stace: Yeah, So I think as you said, Brad, you know, one of the things about, that's great about working for a peak body and being part of a peak body, and also having that connection to members is that we do really get that opportunity to distill some of those core issues. And I think for the budget this year, you know, we were very keen that there was a real focus, I think, on the NDIS making sure that that's sustainable, and we'll certainly talk a little bit more about that shortly.
We were really keen, I think, to touch on the role that a peak body can play, and I think I touched a little bit on that earlier. But one of our core asks was, you know, please, government let NDS actually help government deliver some really strong quality, great services to people with disability via our provider network. And I think one of the things that NDS is particularly good at, and why we were asking for that funding is that, you know, we do have that opportunity to embed and to actually bring to life a whole range of strategies and initiatives.
One of our other things was to really look at workforce. So clearly, you know, you're great to have the fabulous Nikita, and we sort of need to clone, I think almost 200,000 of you, or at least 80,000 of you, so that like, Brad, wave your magic wand, and if we could do that for the sector, that would be fabulous. But workforce is such a hot issue as well, and I think when we look at some of the strategies and some of the activity that's happening in terms of trying to meet those workforce challenges, we've really been, you know, we were arguing very strongly in our budget submission that not only are they appropriately funded, but that the provider sector is actually supported to take advantage of those fabulous campaigns that we're seeing.
So some of you would've seen, or some of your listeners, would've seen A Life Changing Life, really great campaign, really looking at attracting new workers into our sector. But one of the things that we know is that, the sector itself, or providers actually need to be ready to make the most of those campaigns. I think linked to that, and one of the things that we hear all the time and, you know, it'll be interesting to hear what Nikita thinks about this one, but you know, one of the things that we hear all the time, which is an issue with the NDIS and pricing, which we'll talk about a little bit more later, is that there's just not enough funding there to support staff, to help them with their learning and development, their professional development, to make sure that those support and supervision structures that we have in place are there, and that they're working really well for staff.
We have two really big issues. You know, we have an attraction piece where we're not getting enough workers or new workers entering our sector, but the other really big issue is our attention piece. You know, what's important about retaining fabulous staff like Nikita in our organisations. You know, it's a very tight labor market. So one of our budget asks, I guess, was A, to make sure that strategies are well funded, that we are actually tailoring some strategies for particular areas like allied health, positive behaviour support practitioners, you know, which really help people who, you know, need some strategies to make sure that they can enjoy their community safely, well, get the advantage of being included, all of those sorts of things, but that we also tackle that retention piece.
- I think that one of the challenges I see when people talk about the NDIS, particularly government, when it talks about, it talks about the cost of NDIS, as opposed to talking about the investment that we are making both in the capacity building of people with disability, but also in a workforce. And if you have a workforce that is constantly churning through the quality and the ability to deliver services to participants, and enrich their lives and is limited as well. And so we need to shift that language from cost, which almost implies a burden, almost implies a sense of, we need to be worried about these running away costs with NDIS, and talk about the investment that that can make. Was there anything that resonated in what Karen had to say with you Nikita as you were listening?
Nikita Killen: Yeah, I think that that's really, it is something that's so fundamental and particularly with the, a lot of the participants that I see in my role, that continuity of support workers, that continuity of having someone that they can build a relationship with, like that makes such a difference in the opportunity that they're able to harness from their supports, because when you've got someone who does take a while to warm up to somebody, or to build that trust, and then that person leaves, and they've got somebody new in, it really does break down the capacity that they're able to build in that sort of support in that period of time, and is so fundamental.
Brad Webb: COVID, and this is really an appropriate time to give a shout out to all those workers that were in aged care and disability support workers, because they were at the frontline in some of the most terrifying of those early days of what was was COVID and what did it mean? But they were showing up every day to provide supports to participants who were terrified, being terrified themselves in a work environment where the level of funding and wage levels are lower than they should be.
Karen, was there any detail within the budget submission about what really we need to see in the change of the funding for NDIS and the investment that they make?
Karen Stace: Yeah, so really we were asking for, you know, for some real regard to pricing. Within the NDIS a lot of the pricing is based on what's called the Disability Support Worker Cost Model. And what that does is that that breaks down actually the wages of somebody, the wages of a disability worker, some of the training, some of the time that they spend directly working with people, but also that they might need to attend doing notes, or support and supervision or those sorts of things. So it breaks that down. And one of the things that we were really arguing for is that that model needs an uplift in cost of around 10% is what our modelling has told us, that would be really necessary to ensure that we are, A, able to keep workers, attract workers, that we can actually really focus on that quality improvement, you know, delivering services, thinking a little bit, that reflection, you know, about how are we doing things, and how do we do them better? And that happens at a worker level, but also at an organisation level. So I think they're the sorts of things that we think are really important in terms of getting that pricing right.
There's some real, some real basic disconnects as well, just in terms of things like workers compensation. So we all need to pay, or providers need to pay an amount of money to make sure that workers are safe, that they can actually provide support in the horrible, hopefully ever unlikely event that anybody gets hurt. But those things are really fundamental. And the actual cost modelling doesn't even come close to some of the workers' compensation premiums or insurance that providers like Castle would need to pay. So there's a few no brainers in there as far as we're concerned in terms of just, difficulties or problems with that cost model.
Brad Webb: And as a provider, we concur completely, and you referenced innovation. Improving what we do all the time is critically important, but you do need time to reflect on practice, and to think about practice, and to revise practice. The other area that's critically important to retaining workforce is training, not just training to do your job all day every day, but also stretching people, giving them new opportunities and providing that. The cost model as it stands now doesn't provide us with a lot of scope in either training or in innovation. So we really welcomed that recommendation within the submission.
The submission also had a reasonably clear focus on employment and employment services. And of course, in addition to NDIS services, Castle is a disability employment service on behalf of the federal government. Why is employment such an important part of any request to government?
Karen Stace: Yeah, well, I think there's a whole range of reasons for that. And I think, you know, one of the things that when we do talk a little bit about the election, I'll touch on that investment versus return. And I think when we think about why do we, you know, why on earth would you invest in employment for people with disabilities? Well A, you know, the research is clear about just health and wellbeing, and general outcomes for communities, not just individuals, but we also know in terms of economic stimulation, and economic contribution to Australia, having people in work is something that's incredibly important, and it's also an area, I think, which you guys would be very aware of, is it's an area where Australia's not doing great.
You know, our level of getting individuals with disabilities into employment is not fabulous. So we need investment in that, we need to be really looking at what are the sorts of national policy and employment policy models that are actually gonna work and deliver outcomes for people. And, you know, one of the big pieces of work is that the government is really looking at new ways of structuring supports for people who are, people with disabilities, who are requiring a little bit of support to find work, to remain in work, to be happy and fulfilled and have meaningful careers. And, you know, one of the things that we called for is look, you know, that needs to slow down. You know, we need to make sure that we get this right. Like it's so important.
I think the other thing I just probably touch on a little bit in terms of employment is, you know, I was touching before on some of our own workforce issues in our sector. And one of the things that we've been advocating for is, you know, to ensure that some of the strategies that we have in place around attracting and retaining staff in our sector and the care and support sector generally, actually has a focus on people with disabilities.
Brad Webb: Yes.
Karen Stace: You know, there are really, you know, we know we've got, you know, we know we've got people with disabilities who are looking for work, who would like more work, who would like different work, who are after careers. And we know we've got this sector over here, which is a large sector that's got opportunities. And we just have been, you know, really arguing, I think, and advocating for the fact that whatever we're doing in terms of this attraction and retention into our sector, actually has a focus on people with disabilities. How do we get more people with disabilities working in our sector?
Brad Webb: I just saw Nikita nodding vigorously in affirmation there. What was going through your mind then, Nikita?
Nikita Killen: Yeah, so something that you probably don't know about me, Karen, I actually have multiple sclerosis. So I am an NDIS participant myself. And the reason I say that you wouldn't know it is because to look at me, I look fine. It's very much an invisible illness. And that of course, played a part in my role in, well, my decision in getting into this industry as well, because I know firsthand how much of a difference the NDIS makes in people's lives. And I can tell you hand on heart, without the NDIS, there's no way that I'd be working full time. It just, it's something that's so important to me to be able to do, but it's something that I know that I would not be able to do without the support of the NDIS in my life.
Karen Stace: And we've certainly within the submission, but you know, not just in this submission, but for many, many years, and, you know, and certainly providers have as well, you know, I think that is one of the critical areas of making sure that we actually get those pricing models and the funding right. Because exactly like you're saying, Nikita, you know, having people working full time, it just has so many flow on effects. Like it's, you know, it's unbelievable really, you know, like what that adds on so many different levels, not just personally, but more broadly, you know?
Brad Webb: Well, the NDIS is an insurance scheme. It's predicated on participation, and increasing that social and economic participation. And we need those elements working hand in glove with each other. And I mean, I welcome the fact that we've had the National Disability Strategy 2021 to 2031 has been released, and embedded in that is the employment strategy, Employ My Ability. But what we need to see is then the backing in of that with the investment that's required to make that work. And on behalf of organisations like Castle, thank you for also noting that if we are gonna reform a system, and there is no doubt as we've heard from the Disability Royal Commission, and from other reports, there is a need to work at the edges of the system and get it right, but let's not rush that process.
Let's take our time to get that in place properly. Just a bit of a shout out for the previous two episodes that we've recorded of the podcast, we've had the privilege of hearing tremendous stories of transformation for people that who have worked through our services and had employment opportunities and social participation opportunities that have transformed their lives.
So we know the system can work and does work. It's just, how do we scale that up? And you reference very early in your conversation, Karen, the diversity of providers across Australia, and a system that needs to factor in that diversity, but also let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let's make sure we keep the very best elements that we can.
Karen Stace: Yeah, and Brad, you're absolutely right. I mean, I think it is one of those things where, you know, we really do want to work with government of all persuasions, state and federal, to sort of say, well, what is working well? You know, as a provider sector, I guess one of the, you know, fabulous things and of being at NDS, but also being like from the provider sector, is this is a sector that will come with issues, but they will come with solutions and strategies. And I just think it's incredibly important that we have that sort of conversation with government around, yes, we get we need to tinker things, we might need to tweak them. We also, we might need to do some wholesale improvements, absolutely. But work with us around this.
And you were mentioning before about some of this, you know, significant changes that have occurred. And I was lucky enough to be working in the disability sector in Newcastle, prior to the NDIS, and then ended up working with NDS in the trial site. And that was one of my key sort of roles. And, you know, I was there to see basically, providers, and the community, and, you know, everyday Australians, whether they had an experience with disability or not, step up and say, we don't think that how disability supports are funded are actually delivering great outcomes and inclusion and those sorts of things for people with disabilities.
So, you know, I always like, it's always important, I think, both for government, but also for all of us, you know, not to lose sight of that significant role that providers, the community, people with disabilities, whole range of different stakeholders played in actually getting the NDIS in. You know, it's really critical. So I think when we talk a little bit more about the election campaign, you know, that's one of our key asks is, you know, come to us, work with us around solutions. It's one of the things that we can bring.
Brad Webb: Look, I think, as a sector, there's no greater sector that's mobilised really with common purpose around what NDIS is about, what it's capable of delivering, and the absolute importance of that. And we will come to the election campaign in just a second, but I do commend NDS on its submission to government for the budget. I'm really looking forward to hearing how government responds to our sector in regard to funding, 'cause that will set the tone for the election campaign, but also the next years that follow.
And for those who are interested in looking, we'll provide a link to the federal budget submission, and to the NDS work in general, because I think it's a really great document that covers the holistic perspective of what providers and participants need out of a well-functioning NDS.
But let's launch into that discussion around federal election. NDS has had a strong eye towards, once the budget's over, we're in election mode effectively. And you've launched a new campaign called Teamwork Works. Can you tell us some more about that please?
Karen Stace: Yeah, yeah we have. We have, so again, you know, in collaboration with our members, and with the sector, and with people with disabilities, their families and carers, we've launched Teamwork Works. And it's really fundamentally about recognising that there's a team around people with disability. And a bit like you was saying, Nikita, you know, it's around making sure that that team is there, that it's well supported, that the funding is there to ensure that they are able to continue to support the person with disability and their family and carers, which are always at the middle.
So, I mean, we've, I mean, I'd really encourage people to go and have a look at the site. We've got some great stories of people with disabilities and their families who are very diverse. So we've got a very young person, about a child that's getting support. So we've got somebody who's a little bit older, we've got somebody who's working remotely. So we've really got some great stories there about how those people with disability actually work with their team around them to actually make things work for them.
So it's a really, it's a call to arms or a call to action, I should say, around, you know, we want an NDIS that's sustainable, that's viable, that actually recognises the importance of having people around someone with disabilities. The other thing just as part, which might be of interest to people is, as part of our election campaign, the Teamwork Works campaign, we commissioned a report from an organisation called Per Capita. And conservatively, what they are saying is that every dollar invested in the NDIS yields something like $2 and 25 cents. So it goes back to that investment. And that investment is about full-time work for people with disabilities.
It's about full-time work for, you know, some 270 odd thousand people. And of course, if I'm in work, then what does that mean? Well that means that I pay taxes, and I use money, and I have, you know, I have a mortgage, and I go to the supermarket, and I do all of those sorts of things. So there's all of those indirect benefits as well. So I think, you know, one of the calls again, is to really take us back to that investment piece. You know, we're called an insurance scheme for a reason. That was about investing in people upfront, early on, really, you know, really comprehensively, so that they make that economic, or they have every opportunity to have that economic and social contribution to their communities, 'cause we know communities are better when that happens.
Brad Webb: It is so important that we shift this language from cost to investment, and I've read the Per Capita report, and you mentioned that it is conservative. I mean, it is, it's not, these aren't numbers that have been plucked from nowhere and are squint through and expand the number. It's a real number, it's concrete, and that investment yields returns. So Karen, you are calling on people to do a couple of things with the campaign. What are some of the things people can do if they're inspired by what you've said to take action?
Karen Stace: Yeah, so we do have a couple of opportunities. So one of them is definitely, we have a number of open letters that workers, people with disabilities, their family, community members and providers can sign. And that's really about recognising that this is, the NDIS is life changing for people, and we need to continue to fund it appropriately to make sure that it remains life changing for people. Those letters are there to just really encourage politicians, not and you know, local members, you know, not to lose sight of that, that actually we need to keep a focus on this, we need to take action.
The open letters are asking representatives or candidates in every seat to make a commitment to a strong NDIS, because as I said, that's incredibly important for our communities, let alone individuals. You know, it's really about that. We are also asking people to, so to pledge their support, we're asking them to tell their stories, to complete a survey.
So I'd really love, Nikita, who I'm sure has already done it, and I think Brad was saying before, you've already signed up.
Nikita Killen: Yes.
Karen Stace: That's why we need to clone you, clearly. So I think, you know, we're really asking for people to sign up. We're asking for people, for workers to tell their story. How does their team work? How are they working with their participants who are obviously in charge of the team? But how are they involved in the team around people with disabilities? And the other thing that will be coming up, and people, if they go to the website will see is, we're also looking at somewhat we're calling, you know, virtual town hall forums, Days of Action.
So please keep an eye out for that. And of course, as individuals and as providers, you know, we're asking you to trot along to your local member, your local candidate, knock on a door, and actually talk to them about the benefit that their electorate, that their community around the NDIS, and really ask them to commit, to keeping the NDIS strong.
Brad Webb: And there's a great website, teamwork.org.au, and a Facebook page, which I think is Teamwork Works NDS on Facebook. We'll share those links in the podcast as well.
And Nikita, you did sign the most recent open letter. We were talking about that. What motivated you to do that?
Nikita Killen: I think it's just so important. As Karen was saying, they've got like a range of stories of people that are being shared. And I think it's so important to capture that, because I think so many people have sort of a stock standard image in their head of who an NDIS participant is, and the ways in which they are supported.
And I think it's so important to capture that it makes such a difference in so many different levels for so many different peoples, in so many different ways. And like, for me, as I said to look at me, you would never look at me and think that I was an NDIS participant. And, you know, I would say the reason I look like I don't fit the box for, you know, the stock standard box that the public might have for a NDIS participant is because the NDIS works for me. Because I can tell you, there were weeks where I didn't have, for different reasons, particularly during COVID, where I didn't have NDIS support.
And I can tell you those weeks, the person that I am in those weeks is not a person who would be working full-time, is not a person who would be sitting here having this conversation today. It makes such a very, very big difference in life to the point that you know, of a nighttime, a decision between, do I have a shower or do I do homework with my kids? You know, I'm having to make those decisions. Do I cook dinner or do I have a shower? Do I put on a load of washing, or do I read a story to my children? Because you know, the capacity that I have when I don't have support is so much lower than what it is and my quality of life. And, you know, what I'm able to bring to the community is so much lower than what it is when I have that support. I think just really communicating to people that the difference that it does make in so many people's lives, and the difference that that in turn makes to society, and to the community, and to the economy.
Karen Stace: And that's what makes it real, you know, that's what makes it real. You know, I think hearing people's stories, actually seeing those outcomes. You know, people can read a budget submission and please do, but I think it's those stories, you know, that just, that's yeah. To me, that's like the exciting, and, you know, the fantastic part about anything like this, the more opportunities we give people to really understand those differences, then the more likely we will actually see great commitment to the NDIS. So it's, you know, it's incredibly important that we have those, you know, real life experiences available for people to talk to.
Brad Webb: And it's those stories that bring to life, that Per Capita evaluation of that real return on investment, and you're a living ample of that, Nikita, in terms of the value proposition that this investment that we are making as a nation in NDIS is generating for the benefit of society. And of course, again, without going on and on about our podcast series, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't, the stories that we are hearing and telling through both Embrace Your Otherness, and Dare to Ask, have just been extraordinarily humbling, and testament to the transformative nature of NDIS, so it's, yeah, we've got a good fight ahead of us, and we're going to keep fighting that.
I was gonna ask you, Nikita, to share with us some of the life changing things that NDIS has delivered for people with disability. Are there any other examples you have of where you've really, you've seen a transformation, or you've seen a value that you think our listeners would like to hear?
Nikita Killen: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, one of my favourite parts of the day in my job is we have something on site called Castello House, and we have participants come in and they learn some hospitality skills, and it's such a great program. And it's literally one of the highlights of my day when the participants do a walk through of the building in the morning to take our lunch orders and our coffee orders.
And you can just see some of these people who I've met, who have been, you know, quite isolated, you know, not doing a lot, not leaving the house, don't have any real friendships at the time, and then they come in and they sign up to these programs, and they're learning things, they're gaining this confidence, they get so excited, and, you know, the benefit that it's adding to their lives, and the value that it's giving them for what they're capable of, you know, it's just absolutely amazing. And like, these are some really capable, confident, amazing young people who would've been, you know, slipping under the radar, if not for that support, and you know, having access to those sorts of supports and funding.
Karen Stace: And I think it's one of the fundamental things, isn't it, it's around which you touched on at the very beginning, Nikita, which is around those as expectations, isn't it? You know, it's really around challenging some of the assumptions that we have in our community, and actually saying, "Well, what are we expecting "from people with disabilities?" Because we should be expecting, you know, the best, and we should be expecting for young people, you know, I certainly had in my mind that I was gonna get work, and you know, do work experience, and probably have a part-time job, and do all those sorts of things. And really those, it's kind of honouring those expectations, you know, and I think that's probably, you know, one of the calls or one of the things in our budget submission really is, is around we need to have those expectations.
But what we need to do is we need to look at all of the factors, like create those enabling factors that enable people to take the most of those. You know, some people need a little bit more support to do something, some people need a little bit less, some people need more. But it's not, it's not that they can't. And it's not that the expectation should be lowered.
Brad Webb: No, and it's not doing service to those expectations if we don't put the building blocks of supports in and around people to help them realise that potential, and to deliver on those expectations. That's so true.
The theme of the podcast is Embrace Your Otherness, so I'm going to, we can relax a bit and think about otherness, and what does embrace your otherness mean? And you can fight for the right to talk about this, or I can assign the right. What does embrace your otherness mean?
Karen Stace: I can go first. So, I mean, I think it's fabulous, you know, it's a fabulous reflection, isn't it? So what does this really mean? And, you know, and clearly it is around, you know, embracing that uniqueness, it's about all of us. It's about, you know, appreciating, this for me, it's about appreciating that uniqueness that we all have different skills, experiences, attributes, values to bring, and they're all equally as valid as anybody else's.
I guess the other thing I was thinking a little bit about in terms of embrace your otherness is it's about us embracing our own otherness, but as a community, it's actually embracing the otherness of individuals as well. Because again, you know, one of the things about the new Australia's disability strategy is that it's talking about that community attitudes, which, you know, sadly, I think is still, you know, one of the most significant barriers for people with disabilities as they go about their day to day life.
So, you know, to me, I guess the other part of embracing your otherness, or our otherness is also about saying, well, when we've got a really diverse group of people, we've got a diverse community, we've got people with a whole range of different experiences. They bring that to bare, and we give them permission, and allow them to bring, you know, in our old age, you know, you bring your whole self, you know, it's like your authentic self. You don't pretend to be anything else, So I mean, I'm incredibly clumsy, so everyone gets that.
You know, you're just lucky in the studio here, guys, that like, no damage has been done. I just thought that I'd put that out there. But you know, it's about bringing all of that to the community, to your work, to your organisation, to whatever you do, because that just makes our communities more creative, more diverse, more sustainable, more innovative, you know? So to me, I think it's also about embracing my own, but also everybody else's otherness as well.
Brad Webb: Nikita, what about you?
Nikita Killen: For me, embracing your otherness, it reminds me of that quote, that life is all about how you handle life. Plan B. Lost the ability to speak now. And for me, you know, Plan B, definitely didn't think that I would be 30 and diagnosed with MS, but, you know, make the most of the hand that you've been dealt. And as I said, for me, the NDIS is a very important factor in me being able to do that and to make the most of, you know, being a mom, having young kids, working, life. Yeah, so just embracing it through the supports that I need to be able to live a normal and a good life.
Brad Webb: Yeah, that's wonderful. I think about this a lot, obviously, that this concept and what that means to me, and I think it speaks a little to what Karen had to say around diversity. I think our society is all the richer for listening to a wide array of voices, and to having our minds open to a wide range of experiences. And whether we're talking about inclusion for people with disability, whether we're talking about reconciliation, whether we're talking about gender, whether we're talking about refugees, it's actually snapping ourselves out of this reality we construct around ourselves, and this world that we think is our world, and being open to the fact that it's actually so much bigger than that.
It's so much more wonderful than the worlds we confine ourselves to. And I think that's the essence of embrace your otherness, and we've had a chance to hear those stories from others along the way, and we've heard, Nikita, your story today. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. And I really do appreciate how much you did share because it just brings to life what the vast potential of NDIS is.
Karen, thank you for sharing with us, and the fact that NDS is actually out there collecting some of those stories, and telling those stories, and amplifying those stories, because the more we hear, the less likely it is we can ignore the voice and the power of people with disability. We've gone through a lot today.
We've talked across a range of things. It really is a pivotal moment in Australian politics, as we launch into both the budget and the election campaign, and it will shape the face of disability services of NDIS, of employment services for years to come. So I can't underestimate the importance of people engaging with that political process. We've given you lots of tips today for our listeners on what they can do to engage, to tell their own stories, to encourage others to tell their stories, to lend their voice of support towards the campaigns that we have in place with the NDS, and all those links will be provided in the podcast.
I really do encourage people to engage in that process because individually our voices are small. Collectively, they're a roar, and that roar has the power to change the system. And that's what we're fundamentally talking about here, changing the system and making that system workable for us as we go forward.
Nikita, Karen, thank you so very much for your time today. Really enjoyed our conversation, and look forward to continuing that conversation perhaps off-air afterwards. Thank you.
Karen Stace: Cheers
Nikita Killen: Thanks for having me.