Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Yooralla program teaches personal safety

Disability organisation Yooralla has introduced a new program to teach people with disabilities about how to address inappropriate behaviour.

MONIQUE FREER February 5, 2014 4:20am

Disability organisation Yooralla has introduced a new program to teach people with disabilities about inappropriate behaviour and how to address it if it occurs.

The ‘Life Skills’ program will educate people over the age of 16 with a disability on how to keep safe and speak up when something does not feel right.

Yooralla chief practitioner Jeffrey Chan said the program was developed by Yooralla in response to the Joyce Report in 2012.

The independent inquiry into Yooralla’s management of allegations of assault was commissioned following reports of substantial incidents of abuse within the organisation in late 2011.

Two serious sexual misconduct allegations at its Benalla centre were made in the past three years.

Dr Chan said that through the Life Skills program people with disabilities could see a way forward to make their issues heard.

‘‘The Life Skills program is about empowering people with disabilities to know they can raise any issues they have without fear,’’ Dr Chan said.

‘‘The intent is that after attending the training, participants will establish communities of practice and become self-advocates and champions of their rights.’’

Life Skills represents a new direction in disability services, aimed at encouraging people with disabilities to ‘speak up’ in order to keep safe and have their opinions and feelings heard.

‘‘Building self-advocacy enables people to become stronger self-advocates and will help establish a leadership bank for people with disability,’’ Dr Chan said.

The key lessons from the program revolve around relationships and trust, individual rights and safety, making complaints and being heard, and asking for help.

‘‘Previously the focus in the sector was largely around educating disability support workers. Some minor programs were available to focus on client awareness,’’ Dr Chan said.

‘‘This focus has broadened and enlarged the program of client focus, to include the education and empowerment.’’

The program is expected to be introduced in Benalla during the next 12 months.

‘‘Life Skills has been trialled predominately in the Melbourne region with over 200 graduates having completed the course to date,’’ Dr Chan said.

‘‘It is intended that the program will be rolled out across Victoria over the next year.’’

An accredited fee for service model is being developed to extend the program to individuals who are not clients of Yooralla.

This will broaden its availability and could become a template for the welfare of young people with disability across Australia.

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