Julie Haraksin, Disability Information Support Hub

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FOCUS caught up with Port Macquarie’s Julie Haraksin to talk about disability, empowerment and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Hi Julie. How does your lived experience of disability inform your role as a volunteer with the Disability Information Support Hub – DISH?

I have a genetic disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, commonly known as brittle bones. This impairment requires that I use a wheelchair, and access support services. As a result, I am acutely aware of the importance of meeting my needs in order to live independently and actively as part of my community.

I have had a lengthy professional career in the public service. When I moved to Port Macquarie with my husband in 2015, I decided a volunteer role that used my personal and professional skills would be a great way to quickly feel part of the community. So I spoke with the local office of Disability Advocacy NSW and was asked to establish a DISH in Port Macquarie.

What does DISH have to offer to people with a disability, their family, carers and friends?

To live an inclusive, fulfilling and purposeful life, through the use of services and equipment, one needs to be informed and empowered. DISH’s aim is to help people with a disability achieve this through our monthly support group. DISH is under the umbrella of Disability Advocacy NSW, so we are also able to support people in instances where they need an advocate. Our motto is to Connect, Inform and Empower.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is your focus at the moment. Can you explain what it is and who is eligible?

Prior to the NDIS, disability support was administered by State Governments, so it differed from state to state. The NDIS is administered by the Federal Government, meaning eligible people across Australia all receive support under the same model.

The driving principle behind the scheme is empowerment. It is about people with disability working out their individual goals and deciding the most appropriate ways to achieve them. The NDIS acknowledges the unique needs of each person and works with them to put a plan in place to support these.

Eligibility is open to anyone with a developmental delay, or a permanent impairment that significantly affects their ability to take part in everyday activities – mental or physical. You need to be under 65 and a permanent resident of Australia. Disability Advocacy NSW can help people to find out if they qualify.

The NDIS will become active on the Mid North Coast from July 1, 2017. What do people need to know so they can get the best outcome possible?

People need to know they are in the driver’s seat. They can decide what goals they want to achieve and the types of services they want and need. You can choose anyone to provide services – you don’t necessarily have to use only the ones registered with the NDIS.

The process begins with an interview. My most fervent piece of advice is if you get a phone call, request a face-to-face meeting. This is your right. You need the opportunity to make sure they understand your circumstances because once your plan is in place, it can be difficult to change.

So, the NDIS will write a plan for you that will be reviewed each year. There is a trick to getting this right, and that comes with working out your short, medium and long term goals to live a more fulfilling life, and framing these in a way they can be funded.

Some service needs are relatively easy to work out – assistance with showering, eating, cooking, cleaning, shopping, modifications to your home or car, and assistive technology including wheelchairs and walkers. Then there are social goals to get out and be active in the community and be as independent as possible. You might decide you want to get a job, use public transport, volunteer, or learn to swim or drive. Parents and carers of children might identify a need for speech or physical therapy, or even getting ready for school.

The NDIS won’t pay for anything any parent or person would pay for if they didn’t have a disability. So in the example of a car, they won’t buy you a car, but they might modify a vehicle – as long as it meets their criteria. You can find out more at www.ndis.gov.au or of course, contact us at Disability Advocacy NSW.

How can DISH help?

The strength of DISH is that we share experiences and support each other with advice and strategies to ensure people get what they have a right to. We have three goals: to connect people, to inform and educate, and to empower. DISH supports people to be better advocates for themselves or their family members.

There is so much information out there about the NDIS. People are absolutely overwhelmed and don’t really know what their rights are, and this is where we can help. We can advise on how to apply and also assist with pre-planning for your interview, to ensure the plan you need is the plan you get.

DISH and Disability Advocacy NSW are housed within the Mid North Coast Community Legal Centre building at 30 Murray Street, Port Macquarie. We are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, and I volunteer there each Wednesday.

DISH meets on the third Tuesday of each month in the Community Room at the Port Macquarie Library. We start off with tea, coffee and biscuits at 12:30pm, before we move on to discussion between 1pm and 2:30pm. Our next meeting is on June 20, and we welcome anyone with a disability, or who is in a support role, to come along.

To contact DISH, phone 6580 2100, go to www.da.org.au or DISH –  Disability Info Support Hub Facebook page or email Julie on davolunteer1@da.org.au

Thanks Julie.
Interview Contributed by Nikala Sim.

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