All Abilities Expo showcases bright futures for Seymour students and families living with disability
Forging a pathway to a fulfilling life beyond school for students and families living with disabilities was the focus of the inaugural All Abilities Inclusive Pathways Expo held by Our Place Seymour and Seymour College last month.
The Expo was a first for the region in bringing together fourteen local service providers that offer support for social engagement, volunteering, ongoing education and employment, with around 25 of the College’s Inclusive Education school leavers and local families.
Our Place Community Facilitator Deb Kaak, who organised the event from an idea proposed by Inclusive Education Assistant Principal Kristy Luckman, said it was designed to help ensure that the opportunities available to Inclusive Education school leavers and others in the community were made available and accessible.
“It was an incredibly valuable event to assist students and their families with the planning of what the next steps are once school is finished – what is possible locally, who can support them and what are the processes,” Deb said.
“Once school is over, students can feel disconnected, isolated, and unsupported. The services brought together at the expo assist people living with disabilities to lead full and happy lives, build meaningful relationships and offer opportunities to make valuable contributions in their community which impacts their general wellbeing enormously.
“It’s so important for school leavers to receive the appropriate supports to build their capacity for a positive future. Services can offer everyday living assistance, social connection, supported further education, volunteering and employment opportunities.
Local services in attendance on the day included WDEA Works, Intereach, Nexus Primary Health, Goulburn Options, GOTAFE, The Salvos, The Seed Project, Gnarly Neighbours, The Centre, Services Australia, Goranwarrabul House, Yooralla and Interact.
Madison Whiteman, Youth Engagement Officer at GOTAFE, said the services came together to provide as much support and information as possible.
“The families in attendance seemed to go to every stand to collect information (so often I attend similar events where people are straight in and straight out) – there is a real sense of community at Our Place,” Madison said.
The Inclusive Education students from Seymour College provided the catering for the event, showcasing their culinary skills whilst gaining invaluable experience.
“To see how proud these students were of what they had created was really heartwarming,” Deb said.
Bringing services and families together created an opportunity to improve barriers to connection, enabling families to access the right services more quickly.
“We identified a family who were keen to enrol in a course for next year. The enrolment process required a doctor or specialist to complete and sign a section as evidence of their disability. This makes it difficult for families due to long waiting lists to access allied Health Professionals and the extra financial costs involved,” Deb said.
“Given that all children attending inclusive education already have documents providing evidence of their disability, I enquired whether the school could sign the service enrolment or provide copies of the specialist letters they already have on file,” she said.
“This change was accepted by the service provider and means it will now be much easier for families to enrol.
“This is a great win – and a great example of system change that can make a positive impact.”