I am here to remind you, not to teach you …

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Standing beneath a huge circus tent you have to wonder how they put it up. For someone who struggles with putting up the family tent each Christmas on our annual camping holiday this tent it is unimaginable, how they not only get this it up but that it is still standing days later!

We are standing not sitting as we are not watching a circus. We are standing as the rhythms of Afro Moses demand that you are on your feet moving, something that thankfully does not require too much skill. Our family is spending the weekend at our ‘funky little festival’.

One line from Afro Moses reminds me of the week I just had, 3 days in the Hunter/New England region talking to people with disability and their families about their transition from school student to employee in the open labour market. How to use their NDIS School Leavers Employment Support funding to choose a provider which will support them into a job of their choice. No one said that they wanted to be a afro/blues singer but they all had aspirations to have a job; including a graphic artist, a mechanic and a teacher.

In talking to people with disability and their families about work in the open labour market; about the opportunity for people with significant disabilities not to be reliant on the DSP, to be able to afford the ‘extras’ that working people take for granted; about the opportunity to build skills for independent living , to be able to travel by themselves; to have the opportunity to make friends through working with a wide range of people; I am not telling them something new. When our children are born we all have expectations and hope for them. Without an awareness of what lies ahead we plan a future of happiness and being part of their community. As the years roll by hopes are dashed as our daughters and sons are constantly reminded of their deficiencies and what they will not be able to do because they have a disability. They are separated from their peers and so do not see themselves reflected in the expected activities of their community, work, sport, music, etc. All manner of people, teachers, therapists, social workers, government agencies, etc, tell them that they are different, not different special like Afro Moses who has an enormous talent for music, not like the special people who put up this enormous tent, but special because they cannot do …

The choice of our daughters and sons to be a graphic artist or a teacher reminds us of our first hopes and aspirations. Wanting to be like their brothers and sisters reminds us that we all live in our community and we should all be fully in it. Wanting to have a job that pays well and is interesting reminds us that service providers have a responsibility to make choices happen, not to remind people of the low expectations of the past.

From now on I will open my talks with the phrase, “I am here to remind you not to teach you …”

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