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Shelly’s Blog

In March, 2004 when I arrived at Dundaloo I knew a lot about managing human services but I knew very little about running a disability service, and back before 2004, I said I would never work in a disability service as I did not want to be a “patronising sod”.

The Sods were people like me, who potentially would, due to our own discomfort behave like a condescending nitwit on meeting a person with a disability.  Thankfully, I have improved; fair to say that many years on I am a bit wiser and a bit smarter.

My two mainstays throughout my time at Dundaloo have been Kishna and Liza, two exceptional women.  They were (are still) very important to me at the beginning of my Dundaloo journey, they guided me, believed in me and promoted me to both participants and family members.
I remember in around 2006, when I proposed the revamping of the Men’s and Women’s Hostels to two non-gender specific hostels; Machin House and Cedar Lodge.

Liza as the Team Leader of the Women’s Hostel was completely supportive but warned me that I might be in from some heat from family members.  Well to the credit and forward thinking of people like the Lord and McCaffrey families, and some key members of the Board, we made the decision to transform and, shall we say the rest is history.

The most important outcome of this move was that the younger crew had a new lease of life; there was a sense of freedom for them, a sense of creating their home.  It was incredible, the joy, the elation was tangible. Such exaltation is a great gift to people like me – reminding me of how important inclusive decision making is and the absolute need to uphold each person’s dignity.

In about 2010, with the support of Kishna we again made a bold move and with the developing relationship with Community Housing we took over the support and management of what we now know as Bukalbi (Biripi for seed of the Oak tree).

I so vividly remember that Board meeting, when I was suggesting to the Directors that yes we should take over a block of 15 one bedroom units in the Bushland area.  It took a bit of convincing (I literally had my fingers crossed) but in the end it was approved.

On the first day we supported eight people to move into the units, I stood on the footpath all day and introduced myself to all our new neighbours; we needed to debunk any concerns about who we were and to embrace the community we were entering.  Respect and relationship building have been the mainstay of much of what we do and how we operate. I am pleased to say that today, with the support of employees like Kristy and Marianne, who were there when it all began, Bukalbi has provided much needed accommodation to many local and vulnerable people.

So, my wish for all of us at this time of Christmas and new beginnings, we will all be well, wise and happy; for those of us who are faced with difficulties at this time, please know that you are loved and cherished.

Peace to all.