Above: Finale on the Araluen stage of Close to me, an acclaimed 2011 performance involving people with a disability. Photo from our archive, courtesy Incite Arts.
by JONATHAN PILBROW
Leaving school is a challenging time for any young person, but the future looks more limited when you have a disability, especially if your needs are high. It’s a problem around the country and Alice Springs is no exception.
A number of local schools, government departments, organisations and individuals are working together to try to change that.
This has been a significant issue for a number of years, and impacts on people with disability with a range of needs: intellectual disability, communication difficulties, hearing or visual impairment, or memory issues, for example.
These disabilities can create various barriers to moving into paid employment, volunteer work, post school education/training or participation in other activities that are relevant and meaningful to the young person.
The barriers include limitations on work hours, mobility issues, the need for more intense personal support to enable a young person to complete tasks, as well as the need to take time out for medical appointments or treatment.
There are a number of existing work opportunities for young people with disability but not enough to meet all of the needs.
So far, there have been a number of forums engaging stakeholders, out of which a strategy has been developed to gauge the level of need in the community and to develop some concrete solutions.
Recently Acacia Hill School Council through funding from the Department of Education has appointed consultant, Mike Crowe, to undertake a gaps/needs analysis of post-school options for young people with disability up to the age of 25. He will also identify potential long-term solutions, examining what exists locally – including by talking to as many young people, parents and carers as possible – and take a look at best practice examples around Australia.
Ultimately it would be great to see a situation where all young people have an opportunity to fulfil their potential in life. To get there, hopefully more employers and organisations in town will see the opportunity to engage young people with disability in employment or volunteering or other activities which may require flexible arrangements. The benefits will not just be for the young people concerned but for the whole community.
Jonathan Pilbrow is chairperson of Acacia Hill School Council (school grounds pictured below).