Rebecca was a 25-year-old university graduate prepared to start her master’s in art therapy when she became a victim of family violence. Her stepfather assaulted her with a claw hammer in 1998, resulting in a severe brain injury. Now Rebecca is known for being an advocate and speaker for people with disability. She has been involved in many NDIS conferences, information sessions and forums to help the NDIS reflect the experiences and concerns of the people with disability. She also supports and facilitates peer support group for the Physical Disability Council of NSW. Sydney Community Services and our clients are lucky to work with Rebecca in our Social & Recreational Disability Program.

What is your experience of being a person with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

While honestly I admit having a TBI has been challenging and sometimes painful both physically and emotionally, I have been fortunate enough to tap into my resilience.  This opened up a world of new possibilities  to use my skills and abilities to empathise with, and encourage, other people with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)  and other disabilities too. I have been assisted by some unofficial mentors whom inspired and assisted me on my journey including Nick Rushworth from Brain Injury Australia and Liverpool Hospital BIRU. Having opportunities to  assist my fellow ABI survivors and mentor others through the hope and expression that Art opens up  such as the one I’ve been given here with SCS Social & Recreational Disability Program (previously “BIRDS”) means a lot to my  identity and self-esteem. I was encouraged  enough to introduce the Art Gallery of NSW Disability Inclusion and Action Plan for the next 5 years and run a main stream Artist lead  discussion on Artworks in the Rembrandt and Dutch masters exhibition last year.

What do you think is poorly understood about people with disability?

Society in general doesn’t understand disability from the perspective of the person with disability. The majority of people with a disability wish to be acknowledged for their abilities rather than the few things they are unable to do or that must be done differently. People with disability want to be included in mainstream society. We may require assistance but we are not ‘special’.

What do you suggest to improve the quality of life of people with disability?

As a facilitator I  hear of  about many  challenges for people with a disability. One of the main ones is  access to good , reliable transport. The other is   a lack of suitable  employment for people with disability. This is why day programs such as SCS Social & Recreational Disability Program is so important as  everyone is respected for their individual abilities  and  interests.  There is an encouraging social peer environment like the one you might find in a work place or mainstream social environment.

 

Rebecca facilitating an art class with the Social & Recreational group of  the SCS DisAbility Services