Podcast - Episode 8: The importance of peer support

In this episode of the "Embrace Your Otherness" podcast, we explore the world of peer support with Dave Belcher from the Community Disability Alliance Hunter - CDAH.

Whether you're familiar with the term or not, Dave breaks down what peer support means, why it's essential, and how you can be a part of it.

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Complete transcripts below:

Brad Webb: Welcome to the latest episode of "Embrace your Otherness," Castle's inaugural podcast series.

This is a space where we have both casual and in-depth conversations about disability, with disability community members, leaders, activists, and look at 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 honoured to be both the CEO of Castle and your host for the podcast series. Today, we're going to be talking about the power of peer support and the role it plays in community building, advocacy and assisting people access support they need.

My guest today is David Belcher. Dave is a political scientist experienced at local, state, and federal levels, a disability advocate, activist and community leader.

He has worked widely in disability support and advocacy, and understands the need to build inclusive communities where all members are valued and have an opportunity to contribute.

He is a councillor at Lake Macquarie City Council, former CEO and Community Organiser at Community Disability Alliance Hunter, CDAH, which is headquartered in Newcastle.

Dave was born with lumbosacral agenesis and uses a wheelchair for mobility.

Welcome Dave and thank you for joining us.

Dave Belcher: Thanks for having me Brad.

Brad Webb: First of all, did I get that pronunciation right 'cause I was practicing today.

David Belcher: Very well, very well. Yeah, absolutely, yeah nailed it. (chuckles)

Brad Webb: Can you tell us a little bit, before we go into peer support, just a little bit about yourself and what your journey has been, to being such a prominent activist for people with disability?

David Belcher: Yeah, absolutely. So it's a bit of an unusual one.

So, I grew up, small country town in New South Wales, Scone, up the Hunter Valley. Both parents were in the public system, they were a police officer and a school teacher. And yeah, so I'm the only person in my family with a disability, not really any history of disability in my extended family either.

So I guess the way I was raised, So I guess the way I was raised was very much not to focus on my disability.

I was born in '83, where my parents thought the best way was to, not ignore, but certainly just not focus on the disability and just be one of the other kids in the playground, so to speak.

So to that end, I attended mainstream schooling, both at a primary and secondary level, and then went to university after that fact.And it's, I guess because of that kind of just being one of the guys,one of the rest of the kids there, I shunned away very much from engaging with the disability community.

I mean, there wasn't a large disability community in Scone. Any those that were, were older generally, because they'd had acquired disability, so motorbike accidents, rugby accidents, that sort of stuff, right, so those were more my interactions with disability and so I didn't really feel a connection there.

So I remember quite distinctly, a local solicitor, who was actually a wheelchair user, who had been in a car accident and become a quadriplegic, sort of encouraging me to like get involved and joining up with one of the state, disability peak organisations at that time.

And I just didn't see myself being a part of it, I was like, "No, I don't really want to focus on my disability." So, I very much was sort of just wanting to, I guess what I would've thought of achieving on my own.

And so I went basically through my 20s, thinking around that sort of way, as well. And then I kind of had a bit of a realisation and it's really interesting 'cause I thought these things only happened in movies, like that kind of like light bulb interaction.

Brad Webb: The epiphany. The epiphany moment, exactly. And I still remember it very distinctly.

David Belcher: I was sitting at a campaign launch for a local state candidate that I was supporting, and she was there talking about her journey to becoming a candidate for state government.

And she spoke about her life, as a single mom, a young single mother, who because of the government assistance, had the opportunity to put a roof over her head and feed her kids, and allow them to go to school, and to get healthcare.

And through government assistance, also got to go to university and upskill, and become a communications officer and basically a political hack, in the best term of the word, because of these advantages. And so she saw it as her goal, to what she referred to as, "throwing down ladders of opportunity, so other people can ascend." And that phrasing and that kind of, I'd never heard it phrased that way before, and that's when it's like this light bulb moment happened for me.

It was like, "Oh, wait a minute. (chuckles) "

I had this opportunity to do the same, because I've had ridiculous amounts of legs up, and I'm struggling for a term here,

Brad Webb: But that's support, I mean, I love that term "that throwing down ladders of support. "Because it sounds to me like you awoken to your own privilege.

 David Belcher: That was it, yeah. Yeah, it probably was, there was an awakening to the but then also acknowledging that, as well. Going, "Yeah, listen, as at times difficult, growing up with a disability in regional Australia is, I still had white middle class family with parents were still married, who I could speak verbally without too much trouble, didn't have an intellectual disability, so could communicate my words in a way that the general public could understand and could advocate for myself. Like I'd built that, as well, because of the family structure around me.

Brad Webb: And I'll go out on a limb here too, to suggest that I think small regional communities are much better at looking after their own and making things possible than a larger environment sometimes.

David Belcher: Uh-huh, yeah.

Brad Webb: We share that in growing up in a small town. And I saw that on several occasions where a person with disability,needed wheelchair ramps, and so the communities got together and built them.

It was that kind of, well, we'll just get on because this is one of our own and I think you get this cloistered or filtered view of the world

that's very different to how some people can experience it in.

David Belcher: Yeah, I think that's absolutely true.

That's definitely was my experience. I cannot say enough positive things about the community in Scone, they were phenomenal.

Still are phenomenal. I go back there a little infrequently now, but they're still always checking up, "How are you going, what are you up to now?" And it's real, certainly that community was baked into it.

Brad Webb: So you have this epiphany and then suddenly realise, "Okay, I've gotta do something. What were the next steps for you?

David Belcher: It was close to coinciding with the establishment of CDAH. So that's the Community Disability Alliance Hunter, which you referenced in the introduction, which is a disabled people's organisation formed as a response to the Hunter becoming a trial site for the NDIS.

So in the initial structure or planning for the NDIS, it was identified that there was a need for disabled people's organisations to establish, to basically become a voice, the voice for people with disability that wasn't tied to service provision and wasn't tied to government.

So we kind of sit in that middle ground to being the, what I like to refer to, as the honest broker between the two where information can get freely and fearlessly exchanged without kind of anything attached to it.

So that's really important about CDAH's independence. And I was looking for something like that, that coming together of people with disability for a goal, for a shared community, which is very different to what I saw as other disability organisations out there.

Brad Webb: Well, and it's easy to be tokenistic about these things, isn't it? Where you say, "Oh, we've got an advisory group and as a provider, and we've had this chat many times about the independence of CDAH, and its importance, but as a provider to go, "Oh, well we've ticked that box, we've got advisory group, but CDAH's role is very different in that conversation, isn't it? It's actually the honest broker.

David Belcher: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And when needed, we'll call out both sides, whether it's government going, "You know, you gotta do better at this, or if it's service providers, we'll go, "You gotta do better at this. This is not the way forward when it comes to a better support for people with disability."

Brad Webb: Had something like CDAH existed before in either the Hunter context or in a broader.

David Belcher:  No, no, definitely not in the Hunter, not in Australia. There was variations or versions of it in the UK. So it does take a bit of it's DNA from UK style modeling where they'd had a similar but again, different version of the NDIS operating in the UK, as well. But no, there's a uniqueness that I really like. Our board of directors are all people with disability.

Majority of staff are people with disabilities. So it's that lived experience stuff is something that is hard to replicate. Not something I'd seen elsewhere. And there's an authenticity to everything that we do, based on that, as well.

Brad Webb: So where do you start when you presented with an opportunity like that? There's no blueprint for this. There's a bit of evidence, you'd look to the UK and what people were doing over there, but it's pretty much a blank sheet. Where do you start with that conversation? What were the kind of core principles?

David Belcher: So I was lucky, I think I was like maybe second or third staff member brought on to work at CDAH. And we'd sit around literally, 'cause we didn't have an office at that point. We'd sit around kitchen table working out, "Okay, what does this look like? What are our principles here? And it was very much, and it's become a bit cliched now within the disability space, but at its core that nothing about us without us was just a base tenant to this stuff. So don't build a policy around disability without including people with disability in the discussion.

Don't set up a new program for people with disability if you've got no interest in including them in the planning stages to that. So we would never engage in anything that we consider tokenistic. We would always be just forthright and authentic in the information that we would give and share, both to the service provider world and government, but also to our peers, as well. It's like, this is the reality of the situation. This is what it looks like. Not sugar coating anything at all. I'm just calling it out for what it is.

Brad Webb: And fast forward to today. What is CDAH, what does CDAH do? Why is it an important organization in the context of our community?

David Belcher: I've found it incredibly important in terms of, we are often the organization, that government and business come to when they want a authentic and genuine voice to people with disability. The media as well often come to us. So we had a role during the COVID pandemic where we were a bit of a go-to for information when it came to COVID for people with disability.

There was a lot of angst and and fear, and rightfully so, that was out in the community around what was happening. And we were also the voice there that was calling out failures to properly support people with disability during that period, as well. And so in those kind of areas of real crisis, I think CDAH really showed it's true value.

But even without the crisis aspect, we're an organization that is constantly doing peer support. And it's a really kind of an interesting term, peer support, right? It's hard to define for a lot of people. And when we talk about peer support, particularly outside of the disability space, there's a kind of a quizzical, like what are we talking about here? And fundamentally, peer support, as it relates to people with disability, is acknowledging that people with a lived experience of disability are experts in their own lives and bring expertise to the world.

And so that can be as simple as, a person with disability who travels frequently passing on some travel tips. Like, okay, this is what you need to do to book an airline, if you're here a wheelchair user. Make sure you're there 45 minutes before the flight. You know, make sure you're doing this, this, and this. And it can be something as simple as that, right?

But it can also be something as fundamental as peer support, opening up people's idea around them being part of a disability community. Because so often be with disability, feel isolated, and very much alone. And just thinking that everything happening to them is because of them. It's their fault, they're broken.

Because society has instilled this medical model of disability where the fact that you can't do something, it's because you are broken. It's not because the society or the structure around you don't facilitate you being engaged.

Brad Webb: So there's this social aspect 'cause at the core of peer support is relationship. So you create a social aspect, then there's the support, the education aspect, and then there's the activist piece. Do those three things sit comfortably together and for a newbie, you come into for the first time to experience CDAH, and there's a sense of, "Okay, I'll give this a go." I mean, what's that look like for an individual who encounters CDAH for the first time?

David Belcher: The beauty about CDAH is you can engage it at any level of any stage of your journey, as you want, for as little or as much as you want. So all you want to do is get social engagement, social interaction, coming to like a CDAH Catchup Crew Meeting, which is held once every Thursday at the Wicker Park Hotel. A nice little plug there. You're absolutely entitled to do that, that's it. If that's what you want from CDAH, fantastic, great.

Now if you want some training around workshop facilitation or training around what peer support is and how do I engage it, how do I do it? How do I receive it? Then there's that option there, right? And then there is a more activist aspect of it. CDAH traditionally, and I still think, so this case, we're very careful about the use of the term activism or advocacy, because without wanting to get too political about this, but it's kind of the nature of the who I am though, Brad, we've had a number of years now over a decade of government that would punish organizations who took on a moniker of being advocates or activists, right?

So we're very much about, you know, our CEO refers to it as constructive diplomacy, right? So we're willing to work with you to achieve ends. If that you wanna call that advocacy, that's fine. But it's about pushing the ball forward for people with disability. So our membership can engage on that level, as well. And there can be a staged approach or you can just pick and choose, that's the beauty about it. There's not, you must do this as a CDAH member, you can pick it.

Brad Webb: And another cliche that gets thrown around is inclusive and inclusive communities. It would be easy to go, "Well, great, there's a group called CDAH and they're doing their thing and I'm in the community, I don't need to engage with that. Why is CDAH important to that concept of inclusive communities?

David Belcher: I think we act as a good, again, I struggle to use the term broker, but I don't feel like there's a better terminology where if an organization or a group community group is nervous or wary about including disability, because that's a lot of the blockage is for people with disabilities is just this apprehension around disability.

Then they can engage in organization like CDAH, who will quite happily impart their knowledge and their expertise about how do I do this? Like how do I as an organization or as a community group, how do we be more inclusive? And they will quite happily share that knowledge and information. Because fundamentally what we want to do is build a society where people with disability could be full and active citizens, which means there's not a necessarily focused on just their disability as their primary driving force, right?

If you have an interest in the environment, then you should be able to go and engage with environmental groups and be environmental activist, even though you're blind or even though you're a wheelchair user or have an intellectual disability. You might be an artist. You might be wanting to be creative. You should be able to engage in creativity, not in a secluded separate disability creativity pocket. But as just another creative at the same and equal level as everybody else in the room.

Brad Webb: I had a recent podcast discussion and we touched on this, this concept of disability pride and moving beyond almost apologizing for having a disability and being happy with what meager offerings we're able to get and go, "Okay, we need to move to a position where we demand that, demand participation and access that in a way that opens that door.

David Belcher: And that disability pride, it's starting to gain a lot more momentum, I think. Certainly, I've seen an increase over the last five or six years around yeah, no, we're sick of apologizing, it's time for action and time for change.

Brad Webb: Do you think organizations like CDAH have played a role then in actually opening the community's mind to that conversation?

David Belcher: I do, and it may not be at a community level. As in, it may be not CDAH as an organization stepping in and going, "This is what you do and you fix it." But we're building the tools of self-advocacy within our membership who are then going out and demanding that stuff for themselves. So whilst we might be the organization that forces change, we're seeding our membership out into the community that creates that change, as well.

Brad Webb: Just before we move on to some specific examples, so how do people get involved? If somebody's hearing this today and go, "Wow, I didn't know CDAH existed, I wanna to be part of that."

David Belcher: Listen, just hit us up, via our Facebook, say CDAH on Facebook, if you search that, you'll find us. You'll also, if you just email info@cdh.org.au, you'll be able to get in contact with us, as well. We've got a mailing list, so you'll get updates on all the events that we're hosting, all the different peer groups that we are running social events, that kind of stuff.

Brad Webb: So bring it back to you, for the listener's benefit, has peer support provided an important avenue for you to make a difference in your own life? Is there an example where peer support has been a useful thing for you?

And the reason I ask that, is I think people look to you as a leader. They see what you've achieved. It would be easy to go, "Oh, that's just he's got a great personality. He's gonna achieve, which may be true."

David Belcher: Yeah, I mean, yes, absolutely. I mean, my knowledge of disability has increased via peer support. And what I mean by that, is up for better part of 30 years, I had an idea about what disability was, and it was educated, articulate person sitting in a wheelchair.

My life's experience, right? Now getting to CDAH and then when you engage at a peer level with other people, with disability, with vastly different life experiences and vastly different diagnoses, then you start to understand that your perception of disability is incredibly myopic, really narrow and that you have to look beyond that. And so if you really care about inclusion, then that means everybody's included.

Not just you because you feel ostracized and isolated, but it means everybody has to come with us, right? So that's the people with a psychosocial disability, it's people with intellectual disability.

The reason I mentioned those two specifically is because I'm often asked the question, Brad, "Has attitudes to disability gotten better over the years?" And my answer is honestly, for some yes. And that is people with a obvious physical disability like myself, yeah. Attitudes have, prejudice have dropped away. Not all, but there's significant improvement in the way people with disability, are spoken to when interacted with, except when it comes to a psychosocial disability or intellectual disability. The stigmas and challenges, and, excuse me, the bullshit is still there for those people.

Brad Webb: It's an experiment I try when I meet somebody and "What do you do?" And I talk about working in an organization that provides support for people with disability. And I ask question them, "What is disability to you? What do you imagine?" And invariably, a wheelchair user and the role modeling, and then people, they refer to Kurt Fearnley and Dylan Alcott. And they've got a picture in their mind.

And yeah, but it's those other conversations of well, and I might get to people who are blind or people who are deaf, you might get to that level, but then when you start to unpack down into deeper levels, and as for intellectual disability, people typically, don't go there. So it's really, I mean, it's a vexed question, this question of role modeling, because it's important, but it can also perpetuate expectations and stereotypes. But we need to get.

David Belcher: Absolutely.

Brad Webb: A broader representation into it.

David Belcher: I've definitely been in conversations where the words, "Oh, well it's okay for you, you can speak for yourself," has been thrown around as a bit of a, "It's okay to treat people that aren't verbally communicative differently because they don't communicate the same way as the mainstream does." But I can, so therefore, I'm different. It's this weird, nearly giving yourself permission to other, even though disability is disability. It's really interesting.

Brad Webb: And CDAH plays a big role. I mean, it's very broad in its church, isn't it?

David Belcher: It is.

Brad Webb: And, in fact, you've spoken at length to me about intellectual disability and psychosocial disability. So there's clearly a home for every conversation in that environment, which must be pretty empowering for people that haven't had that voice or perceived to have that voice, but it also could be terrifying, so how does that work?

David Belcher: Listen, I think it's great. I wanna tell an anecdote and I'm gonna try and be as opaque as I can because there's an organization that approached CDAH and said, "Hey, we want to run this retreat.

We'd love it if the people working at the retreat, because it's all about meditative and being quiet and centered and that kind of new age thinking stuff. We'd love it if the people working there were deaf, right? Because they thought deaf people were quiet because they didn't speak. And there's this whole bunch of ableist assumptions around this sort of stuff. And if you've ever been into a CDAH office on a Friday, when the deaf-blind catchup is occurring, it is the most raucous, loud just environment you've ever been to and it's fantastic.

Just the level of community that is established by people with the same disability coming together, or people across disabilities coming together, is incredibly empowering. And so the initial stages may be like, "Oh, they're different to me." But it's like anybody in the community, the more interaction and more engagement you have with the different, then it just becomes the normal at that point. So our deaf-blind crew is a great testament to that.

Brad Webb: That gives rise to the question for me that there are community members who genuinely have no interaction or opportunity to interact with family members, colleagues who have a disability, whether they are visible or not.

What can you do if you're in that situation as a community member and you go, "Yeah, I'd like the opportunity to be a little bit more educated to see the spectrum of what disability means and to play a role as an ally. Is there a space for people to do that?

David Belcher: There's not really, and I'm a bit hesitant to talk on it in terms because in a way people with disability don't wanna be your teachers either. So there's a bit of aspect of take your own responsibility, go out like on the web or there's stuff out there, just search it. If you search for disability groups or disability peer groups or disability inclusion, you'll find information out there that can start to build your knowledge.

And if you don't have any interaction or engagement with people with disability in your workplace, maybe ask those questions about why that's the case. And so, why don't we employ people with disability? Why, there's 30 of us here, why are none of us, do we have a disability? Sometimes you actually do. And that they're not feeling comfortable or safe to acknowledge that they do have a disability too, though Brad. So that's an important point to make, as well. But yeah, I'm always nervous about, I guess, people with disability being put in that role of teaching continuously.

Like I'll take that on, I'm fine with it because I understand that role and I'm happy in that space, but that's not everyone's space. So I'm asked the question often, what do I do if my son or daughter is in the supermarket and they point at a person with disability and go, "Mommy, what's up, what's wrong with him?," or whatever the case may be. And my response to what do you do in that scenario is it's always contextual.

It depends on a number of factors, which is, is the person there look like they're comfortable to engage? Are they busy? Are they like madly shopping and don't really have time to stop and describe what's happening, right there, or what their diagnosis is.

Never do that without a child, by the way, if it's just an adult approaching you to ask that question. It's just, it's so weird and wrong, honestly. But if you've got a young person there, then that's a different, different kettle of fish. But it's important to know that the interaction that you think you might have mightn't be the one you'll get. So if the person goes, "No, go away." That's a totally legitimate reaction for that person with disability to have and actually don't owe you an explanation or a teaching moment in that space.

Brad Webb:  Well, I mean, to be frank, be weird if you had a tattoo and somebody said, "What's that?" And started wanting to ask you questions.

David Belcher: Yeah, exactly.

It's the same principle. But there's an interesting aspect of disability where in a lot of ways we are public property, right? So I've been asked incredibly inappropriate questions, in public spaces, by guys who think it's okay because I'm just trying to learn and get to know you. And I'm like, "Well, why do you need to know how we go to the bathroom?" Like how's that in any way

Brad Webb: That's irrelevant isn't it?

David Belcher: Gonna help you get through life? Like it's odd.

Brad Webb: I point people quite a lot to the Black Ink publications, "Growing up Disabled in Australia" and "Parenting with a Disability. 'Cause I find, one, they're authentic voices of people telling their own story. So there's an opportunity to learn without actually being confronting and there's permission to learn from people. Then there's also, and I struggle with this personally at various levels, various shows, the "Dating on the Spectrum," and, "You can't ask that." And on the one hand, I look at that and there's a great education opportunity on the other, it seems exploitative and there's probably some truth in all of that. Do you think they're a valuable tool, is all visibility good visibility?

David Belcher: No, I share your struggle and I definitely go from one's side to the other on that. Firstly, no, not all exposure is positive, that's absolutely not the case.

There's a movie coming out soon and it's got Woody Harrelson in it and it revolves around him teaching or coaching a bunch of kids who look like they have a intellectual disability. And I'm pretty nervous about it because it's a comedy and now the young people in it do looks like they are actually people with an intellectual disability.

So you go, well, that's jobs, right? Like, that's kind of good, in a real Hollywood movie that's gonna be out. But what impact will it have on public perception or either embedding negative stereotypes or just general, not even negative, just general stereotypes or will it change people's perceptions around people in the intellectual disability. So I'm kind of waiting with baited breath on that one to see what that plays out like.

But in terms of like, "Dating on the Spectrum," if people are going in like understanding what it is and consenting to be a part of it, and as long as it's not exploitative in the worst sense, like there's always gonna be some exploitation, 'cause anytime you put people in front of a camera, there's an exploitative aspect to it, right? But it's tricky is where I'm landing on this.

I'm not really forming a hard position and I don't think I should either, because there's really an individual choices around that stuff. But yeah, what bugs me more is disability portrayed onscreen by people who don't have disability. That's the real exploitation stuff, right? There were some really horrendous movies coming around, like around people who had disability and were wanting to like kill themselves and having their girlfriend kill them. And that's pretty confronting mate. Like, that's pretty bad stuff. And when it's done by an actor that does not have a disability, that's just straight out exploitation.

Brad Webb: Yeah. I think, and it's easy. I think my yardstick is the degree to which I'm moved by pity.

David Belcher: I like that.

Brad Webb: The heartwarming story of being moved by pity. I mean veers is more to exploitation to me. I mean, if I see a portrayal or a conversation where you act clear that the person who is in at the center of that has agency and has the ability, to have their true voice heard and have it not produced and manufactured to be something else that's gonna evoke a response in people.

And some of the best ones I've seen have been in some of the that is where, "Oh God, I actually think you're awful, but you've taught me something. Because you're going, "Actually you're not the kind of person I'd hang out with."

David Belcher: No, that's right, exactly.

Brad Webb: You had something to say and you taught me something. Coming back to peer support, you would've seen a whole range of people join CDAH, fresh-faced and kind of apprehensive some fairly transformative experiences as a result of peer support. Are there any that you can share that come to mind where you think CDAH has been a profound impact on somebody's life?

David Belcher: Oh, a hundred percent. And she won't mind me saying this because it's been quite open and it's spoken publicly about it. But there was a woman, Erin, she came to us, came to CDAH, and was just about to move into a group home, was still living at home with their parents, about to move into a group home, incredibly nervous, apprehensive, very shy, wouldn't talk, was really self-conscious about her speech. And over years, it doesn't happen overnight.

It's a progressive thing, and being a part of CDAH and engaging with CDAH is now a leader within the CDAH community, sits on our board. So this woman has an intellectual disability. Sits in our board, was a convener of Speak Up Hunter, which is our intellectual disability peer group. And is just a force of nature. And she honestly talks about the transformative impact that CDAH had in showing her what she was capable of achieving. So yeah, she's been amazing.

I look at people like Susie, who now runs our training. She's a blind indigenous woman who has just found a place where she is respected and has responsibility and has a job that she finds meaningful and rewarding. And is just seen again as a leader within the disability community, established CDAH's first women's group, women's peer group, which, that's a real game changer for CDAH was these kind of peer groups around not necessarily a specific disability, but around either a shared interest or something shared about themselves as a person, as an individual.

So we have a queer peers group. We have a housing group for people who are struggling with housing issues or want to get more information around housing. Have an employment peer group. So there's a lot of these peer groups. And what's happened is each one of these conveners, as soon as they've established this thing, they've taken ownership of them and you see them just excel after that into that leadership role. And it's phenomenal to watch, it really is.

Brad Webb: I think intersectionality is a really interesting part of that conversation, isn't it? And you made reference to it before where, and, in growing up that your disability wasn't your core component by any means, yet for some people there's that perception that it is, and there's actually a whole range of we're full, varied, complex human beings with a full range of differences to others and similarities to others, and finding that intersectionality, so there's a home for that in CDAH.

David Belcher: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, we are really, really big on that intersectionality and we're starting to get more and more known around, out what CDAH can bring in that space. So for instance, Susie, has been in connection and conversation with a number of women's groups and groups around domestic violence and stuff, and sort of highlighting the issues that are specific to disability in that space, as well. And those groups are engaging with CDAH to work out how best to support people with disability, who go through those kind of really difficult life experiences.

Brad Webb: And, I think I'll know the answer to this question, but is there a set of characteristics that make a good peer support or a good convener?

David Belcher: Yeah, there kind of is, and one of the interesting aspects, is if you wanna be a convener, we kind of heavily suggest, and most do, going through our introduction to peer support, because what happens then, Brad, is it lays a bit of a base level of knowledge and information, that is shared amongst CDAH. So these are our core tenets, this is what we believe, this is why peer support is important.

These are the things that you have to bring to peer support, to be good at it, for it to be effective. And it's things like being accountable, right? Being open and transparent, being truthful in yourself and the information you're providing and meeting people at the level that they're at, at that time. So no one that attends CDAH, comes fully formed in terms of their disability politics or the way they see themselves within the community, nor do we expect that, so it's up to us as an organization to work with them, to bring them along that journey and show them the kind of the opportunities that exist when you understand that you're part of a disability community and a broader movement.

So in terms of like characteristics, I guess, so many different people, like from the outside, you're like, no, because our conveners are men, women, multiple different disabilities, different age groups. Like it's all over the place, which is fantastic. And it kind of shows the strength of CDAH in terms of there's nothing monolithic about what we're doing or modulus, it's sort of very, very diverse.

Brad Webb: I'm conscious, I mean, every time I sit down with you, I come away having learned something new, and I really value those conversations. And I know we could talk for ages. So I'm gonna ask one open-ended question before I start to wrap up. Is there anything else that you think people should know about CDAH should know about peer support that will make a difference to them today?

David Belcher:  What you should know is that everybody is welcomed at CDAH. We don't ever discriminate on disability. There's no hierarchy of disability. There is no age limit as well. So you don't have to be on the NDIS, you don't have to be a part of the system. If you have a disability and identify as a person with disability, you have a place with CDAH.

Now in that place, I believe you'll understand again, that you exist within a broader disability community that does have pride around their disability, that is strong, that has capacity beyond what is thought by the general public that wants to see real and meaningful change within their community so that the disability community are included as equal and full citizens with the same rights and and responsibilities as everybody else living in Australia.

Brad Webb: Now I really appreciate you coming on to talk about CDAH. I've watched the organization for years with a great deal of respect and seeing the kind of output into the community that the organization has made, having had the opportunity to attend some of your events, to be part of that conversation has been really educational and humbling for me as part of my journey to becoming a better and more inclusive person.

I'm going to finish by asking you the question I ask all of our guests and the theme of this podcast series is "Embrace Your Otherness." What does "Embrace Your Otherness," mean to Dave Belcher?

David Belcher: That's a great question, Brad. "Embracing Your Otherness." I think for me, it's understanding that you are an individual with quirks and interests and likes and dislikes and expertise and failings and all that kind of stuff and kind of being okay about that.

I think it'd be a really boring world if we're the same and just cookie cutter reproductions of each other. And I think that's the beauty around the disability spaces is that we are constantly seen as other and just being able to go, "Well, yeah, we are, but you are other, as well, in a different lens." So yeah, I think that's where I'm at with that embracing the otherness.

Brad Webb: That's fantastic, Dave, thanks so much again for being part of today's podcast.

David Belcher:  Thanks Brad.