13. Dec, 2015

NDIS - it aint about you!

So you think you are person-centred in the way you deal with people.

But are you really?

The old adage 'treat people the way you would like to be treated', would be OK if we were one big homogenous group.

But we ain't!

We are a polyglot mob us Aussies - and that comes with all of the cultural diversity that makes us who we as a collective now are.

From the First Australians, to the descendants of convicts, free settlers, refugees, and the 'modern immigrant' - we now all share in this wonderful old piece of rock that separates the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

We all love it here.

And whether we have been here all of our lives or just for a bit, we are all in-part, the product of our own particular heritage.

Sometimes, that means that apart from struggling to get to grips with what it means to be an Australian in the 21st century and getting the lingo right - there may also be specific cultural mores that can be incredibly important to us. It also means that some people may be struggling with a range of issues associated with their pre-migration life experiences - and never underestimate the impact the 'stolen generation' and other mistreatment has had on many Aboriginal Australians.

Some things that are important may be because of the trauma a person and/or their family and/or their people have been through. They may be important because of their religion, or they may be important because they are just the way some cultures do and see things - in other words, their customs and values.

It also means that culturally, the way some people understand and deal with disability may be different. The role of the family and extended family in decision-making in some cultures will also be more important than for others.

The thing is, one of the main reasons the NDIS is happening, is because of the recognition that 'one size doesn't fit all'.

So don't treat people how you would like to be treated, treat people how they would like to be treated.

It ain't about you!

The NDIS is all about individual choice and control.

But how does someone exercise choice and control in the support they receive, if the people providing that support don't understand or respect what they have been through, their religion, their language, their customs or their values?

Australia is one of the most ethnically diverse societies in the world today. And even within particular ethnic groups there can be many cultures and sub-cultures. For example, there are many hundreds of mobs among our Aboriginal brothers and sisters - and their language and customs can differ markedly from clan to clan, nation to nation. Just as those of English heritage can be different in their religion, customs and values to those of Irish heritage, or Italian, French, Vietnamese, Chinese, Portuguese, Iranian, Latvian, Serbian, Peruvian....

You get it right?

We are a not a homogenous group.

Some organisation's and people may try to use this as an excuse, after all - "how can we possibly cater for every individual religion, language, culture and sub-culture"?

Well if you think like that, then you're missing the point!


'Person-centred' means just that.

Deal with one person, the whole person - put them in the centre and take into account everything that goes into making them who they are and what is important to them.

This means learning about this one person, understanding how their heritage impacts on what is important for them in terms of their disability and in how they participate socially and economically. It's about communicating with them in their first language if that is more comfortable for them. It means involving the person's family in a way that is appropriate for them in their culture.

It's also about learning and then doing what needs to be done to support this one person in an appropriate way for them to participate within their family, within their culture, within their broader community; and to take their place as an Australian who is fully able to participate and be free from all direct and in-direct discrimination, not only because of their disability, but also because of how their heritage impacts on what is important for them.

Sure, there are some great things you can do like cultural awareness training, employing a culturally diverse workforce, engaging community leaders and elders, attending community events, publishing material in relevant community languages, providing interpreters etc. But they won't stand for diddly-squat if you don't treat each person the way they would like to be treated.

People might come to your service because you do the things listed above. But they will only stay if you treat them in a way that is right for them.

Most of us got into this sector because we liked working with people, however that doesn't mean everyone will like working with us - particularly if we are not sensitive to their individual needs.

Being culturally and linguistically appropriate isn't a course, or something you can learn from a book. It's about respect. We like to think we respect difference when it comes to disability, then why should it be hard when it comes to cultural matters?

You just need to take the time to ask, explore and understand.

Do not judge, just accept and be respectful. You will learn and be richer for the experience.

Always remember, the NDIS isn't only there for people just like you - it's there for everyone.

And as a mentor of mine once said, if we all want the same thing (person-centeredness) and we can't achieve it - then someone isn't trying very hard.

Are you trying hard?

PS - if you are an employee of the NDIA, this goes for you too!

With thanks to Eva Hussain who suggested I do a post about being culturally and linguistically responsive.

I can assist you and your organisation with the change process of transitioning to the NDIS - or you can read my other posts for free.

Be well.

P: 0412 020 478 E: scott@peregrinus.com.au W: www.peregrinus.com.au

Supporting those who provide paid supports for people with disability