Hi, I’m Cathy and I have the great pleasure of managing the Windmill Program at Royal Far West. Windmill is our National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) program, a therapy intervention service for children with disability who are living in rural and remote communities and cannot access the services they need locally.
The shortage of services in those areas, particularly those that specialise in disability, means that our service, including our support and informal network for isolated parents and carers, is in very high demand.
How long have you been here? Have you seen any changes in the sorts of issues children have during this time?
I’ve been at RFW for just under two years, and during that time the concerns that parents/carers share with us with have changed. It is no surprise that the impacts of the bushfires and COVID-19 mean new concerns are emerging. These major events have put added pressures on children and their families, many of whom were already struggling with long-term drought. With our experience at RFW in trauma-informed practice, we are well placed to support our families through these enormous challenges.
What led you to work at RFW?
The values I live and breathe are inclusion and sustainability. When I saw this job come up at RFW (apart from the amazing location!) I saw an opportunity to guide a rapidly growing program towards a sustainable future.
Having worked for 10 years in supporting and employing adults with disability, I understand the difference between those adults with disability who have received therapy intervention as a child and those who haven’t, and why it’s vital for these kids to get the support they need, when they need it, and for as long as they need it.
The very long-term goal here is to see these kids develop into happy adults, living as successful citizens in well-rounded work, social and community environments.
Describe your typical day
Working from home for most of this year has given me the opportunity to get into some good routines. I’m able to go for a walk most mornings before starting work and have even weeded the garden a couple of times while on phone meetings! I’m now back to working a couple of days in the office and a couple from home. It’s a good mix and one I’m happy to continue in 2021.
With regards to my work – a typical day is very different from one day or week to the next. With a constantly evolving and growing program, most of my time is spent ensuring we have procedures and systems in place to support changes and improvements, working with clinical teams to meet demand, answering curly questions, budgeting, reporting, and planning. My team members are the main point of contact for our families, but when I get the chance to talk to a parent, even if it’s a curly question, I really love that contact!
What’s the best thing about working with families from rural and remote Australia?
I really admire our families and their very strong sense of community and resilience. Parents, carers, teachers, and community members all go to enormous lengths to seek out support for a child in need. It’s truly impressive!
What do you think makes RFW unique?
Our ability to adapt throughout this year has been incredible. Within a very short space of time we moved to a work from home model, shifted face-to-face families to online services, created new services, moved school appointments to home and then back again.
Having clinicians who are specialised to work with children with disability is unique. The outcomes they have achieved with the kids speaks volumes.
Share some positive outcomes
We ran a Windmill Camp last year in Manly with kids and parents from all over NSW. There were 12 children aged 9-12, each accompanied by one parent/carer, and the kids enjoyed activities such as rock climbing, surfing and group therapy (LEAP – Learning, Emotion, Attention and Play). None of them had met prior to the camp, but as the week progressed, they all got on very well.
We had fantastic feedback at the end of the camp, with parents reporting that they didn’t have many other families with disability in their local area and finally felt like they were able to connect with other parents who understood the challenges and wins.
Some of our lovely feedback included this note from one of our client Mums:
“Thank you for the most incredible week last week. We got so much out of your support and education. I am still so overwhelmed how incredible your Camp was. We would love to enrol in your next Camp.”
As we went into lockdown and reconnected with some of our previous Camp families (to trial an online recreation program), we learnt that this group of parents and kids still connect regularly online and support each other. Some of the kids are great friends. It is a great feeling knowing that we started that!
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