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Disability Support Awards, Emerging Leader 2021, Katy Anderson

This year Therapy Manager, Katy Anderson was one of three finalist in the Emerging Leader category at the 2021 Disability Support Awards. Katy was recognized for her vision, skill and leadership demonstrated throughout the establishment of individually lead, collaborative and adaptive therapy programs to people living in the very remote and isolated community of Wangkatjungka in the Western Kimberley. Wangkatjungka is situated 100km south-east of Fitzroy Crossing on the floodplains of the Fitzroy River. About 180 people from the Walmajarri and Gooniyandi language groups live in Wangkatjungka. Despite therapy services being available to people living in remote Aboriginal communities under the NDIS since 2018, no regular or meaningful therapy had been delivered to people living in Wangkatjungka. Katy leveraged the long standing partnership between the Kurungal Council and Far North Community Services to identify the history of the community, existing services and to ensure the behaviour and activities of therapists were culturally appropriate and respectful. Key members of the community and individuals with disabilities and their families were identified and Katy led her team in consultations with individuals to identify needs, goals and challenges. This resulted in the development of group program that interwove cultural practices such as goanna hunting, fire wood collecting, preparing kangaroo tail and basket weaving with therapeutic practices that built on the strengths of the individual. To overcome the challenge of accessing Wangkatjungka to deliver consistent and regular therapy Katy mapped out an annual remote travel schedule for the team and introduced alternative travel arrangements which saw therapists undertaking regular 3-weekly visits to Wangkatjungka. To address the cultural appropriateness of an all-female therapy team delivering services to male individuals, Katy identified the presence of the male pilot who had flown the team from Broome to Wangkatunjunka. Through training and capacity building Katy mentored the male pilot to be a qualified therapy support officer thus utilising his time in the region which had previously been spent at the airport waiting for the therapist to finish service visits. Katy trained the male pilot to recognise therapeutic strategies identified by therapists and these were then delivered to the group of male individuals.

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