Luke Nelson speaking into a microphoneLongtime member of VALID and current employee in the Mainstream and Me project, Luke Nelson, attended the 19th Having a Say Conference in February. Having been along to many HAS Conferences before, he found this year to be a stand out and loved “seeing people with a disability coming together to have their say, learn and have fun”.
A highlight for Luke at this year’s conference was “a program stream dedicated to the work that we do at VALID.” This included a session profiling the Mainstream and Me project which was led by Inclusion Australia involving presentations from all 4 states participating in the project.
Mainstream and Me is funded through the first ILC National Readiness grant and has employed 26 Peer Educators with intellectual disability to work across New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland. The Victorian part of the project is focusing on sport, recreation and tourism and is actively targeting mainstream providers to raise awareness and build their capacity to support people with disabilities. Luke is one of 7 Community Educators working with VALID in Victoria.
For Luke the work has a strong local flavour. “My specific project is working with local libraries and Neighborhood Houses in Yarra Plenty and Watsonia to create resources to support staff to better include people with disabilities and to develop a range of new programs and services. Libraries are already great places but Mainstream and Me is about making them even more accessible and friendly to people with disability.”
The chance to connect with other states was also a highlight for Luke. “Listening to the presentations from the other states was interesting and inspiring. One project that stood out for me was the Tasmania project and their work with child protection. I also enjoyed the Queensland project focusing on inclusive employment and creating video CVs.”
The last day of the conference gave the national Mainstream and Me team the chance to re-group and share ideas. “Having the meeting was fascinating. We were able to go into more detail about the work we are all doing”, Luke said.
The Having a Say conference is over, but the Mainstream and Me team have been inspired and are back, hard at work linking with the mainstream. As Luke said, “I am looking forward to continuing the great work and hopefully inspiring the broader community and mainstream services to be more inclusive and accessible to people with a disability”.