OP-ED: St Giles' Innovative, Inclusive Vision for State

Thursday 16 April 2021, The Examiner



The amazing work that St Giles does with people living with a disability and their families and carers shows Tasmania’s potential as a caring community where all are embraced, and everybody has a place.

St Giles works with a broad range of allied health professionals and disability support workers in Launceston, Hobart and Burnie. It provides supported independent living statewide and offers a statewide range of autism services for adults and children living with the condition.

St Giles has 400 staff statewide and provides services to more than 4,000 Tasmanians each year. Their multidisciplinary allied health teams work towards the best outcomes for participants in the areas of psychotherapy, speech pathology, occupational therapy and exercise physiology.

St Giles has a dynamic, research-led nursing and clinical care team and disability support workers in outreach and urban Tasmania. It also provides assistive technology and mobility solutions for adults and children.

They are innovators. In late 2020, St Giles and illuminate Education successfully received funding from the Tasmanian Community Fund to deliver a massive new project: the Tasmanian Disability Innovator Hub. This hub is believed to be the first of its kind in this part of the world and is an extremely positive development for Northern Tasmania.

Partnering with a number of other fantastic organisations in the community, the hub will include programs that support a Meal Worm Farm, in partnership with Self Help Workplace, a Sourdough Startup in collaboration with FermenTas and will build on the Studio Space Inclusive Arts Initiative.

These are incredibly exciting times for St Giles and I can’t wait to see what brilliant ideas and projects come out of these partnerships. As Chief Executive Andrew Billing says, these programs will “enable the children, families and people living with a disability to thrive”.

The amount of support that St Giles receives from the community also shows just how much people support their work. In February of this year, the Launceston Horticultural Society’s Cactus and Succulent Group donated $3,000 for St Giles’ outdoor therapy area, known as Wildspace. This was above the $1,000 original anticipated in what can only be described as an amazing outcome for both St Giles and the Cactus and Succulent Group.

Each year, St Giles runs its ‘Kids Can’t Wait!’ appeal, and 2021 is no different. Like being asked “are we there yet” on a long car trip, kids simply can’t wait and – especially when it comes to them and their families receiving disability-related support – shouldn’t have to wait.

A number of effective programs, including some early intervention measures, won’t fit into the NDIS. Not fitting into the NDIS makes no child or St Giles service less relevant or valuable, but it does place an enormous financial pressure on St Giles to continue to deliver the services that so many children and their families rely on.

If you can, head along to the St Giles website to find out how you can make either a one-off or recurring (tax-deductible) gift to this extremely worthy cause.

If trivia is your thing, the ‘I-Know Trivia’ night will be coming back on June 26 at the Tailrace Centre, with a table of 10 only $300. Including supper, this is guaranteed to be an outstanding evening, with plenty of prizes on offer from the Tree of Glee.

Volunteers are a much-valued part of St Giles. If you can’t donate financially, perhaps you would be a great fit for volunteering with St Giles? You might gain new skills, make new friends and have fun while enjoying the sense of reward that comes from making a difference working in their toy library or events like Niche Market or the Balfour Burn.

Fundraising, helping with day-to-day activities like the Toy Library or helping to organize an event are just some of the ways that individuals or businesses can get involved and you can always get in touch with them for more information.

St Giles remains a humble and extraordinarily relevant Tasmanian institution and I am so proud to live and work in the community that supports this organisation, and the others like it, who make such a massive difference n the lives of people living with a disability.

Their extraordinary range of preventative and early intervention programs and support services make St Giles a valuable contributor to a Tasmania where inclusivity is valued and nurtured.

I hope I’ve helped you see Tasmania through the eyes of St Giles. With you understanding and help, St Giles will continue to make inclusion happen. Let’s hope that this fantastic organisation continues for another 84 years.

St Giles’ values, its board and its dedicated workforce are integral to Tasmania as an island of inclusion, where potential isn’t limited by ability and where all are valued for their contribution.

Head to www.stgiles.org.au for more information.

Independent Launceston Legislative Councillor

Rosemary Armitage MLC

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