Communities are enriched through the inclusion of all people

Derby Ability Activity Centre Supports Employment of People with Disability


Victor Patrick and the Derby Ability Reference Group

What began as an idea in 2021 to host an event for International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD) in the remote town of Derby, Western Australia, this year blossomed into the formation of the Derby Ability Reference Group and Activity Centre.

With funding provided by Far North Community Services (Far North), a not-for-profit NDIS registered disability service provider in the Kimberley, Victor Djungadi Patrick, a Bunaba man born in the Martuwarra (Fitzroy River) in Fitzroy Crossing, is creating a safe place for people with disabilities to come together, have a yarn and learn new skills for employment.

Working in partnership with Far North, The Shire of Derby West Kimberley, Derby Aboriginal Health Service (DAHS), Numbala Nunga Aged Care and other local businesses to bring the Derby Ability Reference Group and Activity Centre to life, Victor’s vision for the Centre is to provide educational sessions, life skills training and a comfortable place for people of all ages with disabilities.

“Many people living with a disability in Derby and throughout the Kimberley face additional challenges accessing their communities. The Activity Centre is about integration with the community and it will function to provide people with disability employment opportunities and connection to their community,” he said.

Victor is no stranger to the challenges faced by people with a disability to gain equal opportunity and meaningful employment.

“Originally I wanted to become a registered nurse but instead people told me all about my disability and how I would never be able to work as a nurse,” he said.

It wasn’t until 1987 when Victor met Rita, an Aboriginal nurse working at the Quad Centre in Shenton Park, Perth, that he was encouraged to consider a career as an Aboriginal Health Worker.

“I said to Rita that I didn’t like the ParaQuad Shelter Workshop in Shenton Park I was working in at the time and she asked me if I would like to become an Aboriginal Health Worker.”

Rita introduced Victor to Dr. Joan Winch at Marr Mooditj College in Perth, a training centre for First Nations students combining traditional Aboriginal approaches to health and healing with western medicine, and in 1988 Victor started training at the College in their Aboriginal Health Workers Program.

“I remember when I first started my training, Joan sat me down and asked me if I thought I could do the course and I said yes, I can. She explained to me that if there were certain things I couldn’t do with my hands, for example CPR or giving needles, I was expected to know how to do them so I could instruct people how to go about doing that type of thing.”

Victor completed his Aboriginal Health Worker training in 1990 and worked as an Aboriginal Health Worker for many years following his graduation.

This was not the first time in Victor’s life that his skills and abilities were recognized and supported irrespective of his disability, and his vision for the Activity Centre in Derby is that it will provide all people with disability the same opportunities that he has benefited from.

“In 1976 I was working as a gardener at Numbala Nunga Aged Care in Derby. I remember the matron at the time, Sue La”lavier calling out to me and saying, what are you doing in the garden? You should be up here with me. So she got me out of the garden and up into the therapy room. I had to create a program of activities for residents and antenatal patients. So we did rug making, painting, made toys, did pottery and went on picnics,” he said.

“My career has given me the ability to speak up, to talk about the difficulties faced by Aboriginal people with a disability, to include people with a disability and their families in the conversation to create something with them and for them.”

Victor’s story is testament to the significant benefits achieved for workplaces, the community and the individual themselves when the strengths and abilities of all people are recongised and supported.

The IDPWD event in Derby in 2021 was led by Victor in partnership with local businesses and orgnasitaions attracting over 180 people from Broome, Derby and Fitzroy Crossing and connecting people with disability to service providers and their community. It reflects how whole of community outcomes can be achieved from a grass roots level when people and organisations come together to support people with disability to achieve their ambitions.

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