President: Svetlana Holman
I am a first generation Australian from a non-English speaking background, with a disability (I am legally blind). My first language is Russian and my fifth is English, which I learnt when I started school.
I have five adult children scattered around this country, from Mount Gambier to Gladstone, from Wodonga to Canberra all pursuing amazing lives and careers. My husband and I live in a rural setting with our three dogs and a menagerie of chooks and ducks. I love to cook and grow as much of my own food as I can. Although drought and bushfires have limited this, I am excited at the change in conditions and expect this winter’s harvest to be more abundant. My other interests include crochet, monster trucks, fishing (especially reef), my grandchildren, science (particularly biology, and increasingly epigenetics) and definitely the ocean where I find my peace.
My active role in community engagement began in 1980 as vice chairperson of the Fairfield City Youth Committee where we had a budget and engaged a Youth worker and a Youth Development officer in a diverse and somewhat disadvantaged community. There were many programs including programs and snow trips for disadvantaged youth, and camps for refugees through SEACA (South East Asian Community Aid) as we did have an influx of refugee families from Vietnam and Laos in our area in the late seventies and eighties.
I was also involved with Russian Scouts in Exile as a senior youth, and junior leader. When I moved to Wollongong to study, I worked as an English tutor for AMES (Adult Migrant Education Service). While I spent 25 years as a stay at home mum, I served on several P&C committees with eight years as vice president or president and was instrumental in establishing new programs including a P&C funded fresh fruit program at our primary school. During this time I was also involved in our local church as an elder (even chairing the elders' group for several years) and I was also involved in mothers’ programs and our youth group. I was also part of Vision Australia’s Speakers network and have had many public speaking engagements throughout our community and beyond through this connection.
I have spent the last two years studying again and have completed a Diploma in Community Services. I plan to gain employment in this industry soon. I was honoured to be invited to join the FOCAS board and I am excited about the future as this agency grows into a new phase. I understand the transition (particularly to NDIS) has been a bit difficult, but it looks like FOCAS will continue to set its own standards for disability support for the foreseeable future and that is fantastic news. I am proud to be a small part of that for now. I have met many of the support staff and I am encouraged by their commitment to provide a quality service for FOCAS consumers.
Thank you for having me and I look forward to meeting you in person.
Vice President: Kelly Wrightson
I am Kelly Wrightson. I am a FOCAS and NDIS participant. I live with Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral (meaning brain) Palsy (meaning weakness or problems using muscles) is a Neurological Disorder that effects muscle tone, movement and motor skills.
My story began when I was born prematurely. My Cerebral Palsy (CP) was detected at approximately 2 years old when I was not meeting my developmental milestones as a result of damage to my brain at birth. I was a country baby at The Spastic Centres Country Children’s Hostel, also known as McLeod House and The New South Wales Hostel for County Children. McLeod house was a purpose built centre at Mosman and then Allambie Heights, Sydney. It operated from 1948-2007 and provided residential services for country children. McLeod house was run by nurses and a group of volunteer mothers who lived in for two weeks at a time. I resided here permanently for my childhood between the ages of 4 and 10 years. These years were played out by set a routines, treatments, therapies and education. I only returned home every second weekend or for holidays.
The Cerebral Palsy Alliance quotes Allambie Heights as being ‘a home away from home’ for country children. The truth be known children like me were there because parents were advised by doctors what to do, how to do it and where we should live. Most of us were not given a choice or were made wards of the state.
Following my return home to live with my family at Empire Bay, on the Central Coast. I continued my education in the Special Unit at East Gosford Public School then Henry Kendall High School. I finished school at 16, being denied the ability to graduate with my higher school certificate like mainstream students. I was compelled by these challenges and I applied myself to completed a Certificate of Employment Skills and Business Management Course at Wyong College of TAFE, Disabilities Unit.
My CP affects my ability to maintain balance, posture and mobility. I require a specialised wheelchair and wheelchair accessible van in order the access the community. Still wanting to maintain a positive outlook on life and only let my disability be a part not all my life, I joined the Coast Wide Community Transport Committee in 1990. I spent 22 years progressing from a general member to Vice President and finished as a Director in 2012.
I independently founded an organisation which coordinated social calendars and events from Woy Woy Community Centre. This group was called G.L.A.D or Greater, Leisure, for Adults with Disabilities. I was selected for an ADEC committee, giving advice for projects to empower people with a disability, their carers and families. I also have attended and volunteered as a Support Liaison Officer at Camp Breakaway, Sanremo since 1989. I am now active member of Vincentia Red Cross Branch.
Cerebral Palsy is a disorder that can impact any and all of my life but it does not define the person I am. The world should see the person first, not disability. I have been receiving NDIS since 2016. The NDIS has allowed me choice to reach my individual goals and live the life I want. As the Vice President of the FOCAS committee I aspire to advocate for consumers.
I aim to be a voice, give wisdom and support to others living with a disability by allowing them to discover that they can achieve.
Secretary: Frances Morris-Clarke
I am a parent of an adult with a mild intellectual disability, who suffers anxiety and has type-one diabetes and celiac disease. His journey has been an intense one and while being in the front line of the battle, I have attempted to ensure he remains healthy, and functions competently in a just, fair and equitable mainstream community and disability based supported employment. At one point in time, when he was three years old, he was supported by many professional people in an intensive early intervention program i.e. educational therapist, special education teachers, preschool teacher, teachers aide, speech pathologists, physios, occupational therapists ophthalmologist, optometrist, GP, pediatrician, physician, social workers. Then began the ‘round about’ of specialized educational classes (infants and Primary school), combined mainstreaming and special education classes in high school setting, all of which accompanied extra curricular therapy sessions. Sound familiar?
My initial training as a Mathematics and Science high school teacher quickly utilized and transferred my skills to the special education setting, i.e. working at Havenlee Special SSP as a casual teacher, Job Coach and Transition Education Coordinator across three school districts (Transition Education Program). I also spent many evenings working at the Kip McGrath Education Centre and Bomaderry TAFE teaching adults COMPIC – a pictorial communication program that supported students with severe language communication disabilities
I gained a position with Essential Personnel in Wollongong, as an Individual Supported Jobs (ISJ) Coordinator – working with high support needs clients (physical, sensory and psychiatric impairments) in finding and keeping a job in the open employment setting e.g. retail, administration and hospitality.
For four years I was employed by Shoalhaven Advanced Industries in many capacities which include: Employment Support Officer, Human Service Manager, Project Manager for the GATE Program, Service Manager at the Open Employment Agency - Workplace Shoalhaven.
Following my studies in Certificate IV and Diploma in Disabilities, I worked as a Work Place Assessor with Illawarra TAFE, Bomaderry, conducting onsite RPL assessments for work based Trainees and was a classroom Facilitator and Tutorial support teacher for students studying– Certificate III and IV in Disabilities.
After moving to Queensland, I was employed at Tropical North Queensland TAFE in Cairns, conducted RPL Assessments for disability industry based workers (Certificate III and IV in Disability Work). Far North Queensland gave me numerous opportunities to assess and train Indigenous disability industry based workers. I completed my Bachelor of Education at James Cook University in 2011 with a special education and indigenous study focus.
One of my most interesting positions was working as a Counselor at Lotus Glen Correctional Centre, assessing prisoners at risk of self-harm, providing counseling session, supporting individual welfare needs and facilitating prisoner Induction Programs.
As you can see from this blurb, I must be very old to have worked in so many places…. YES…it is true and now I am a very busy and happy retiree and I look forward to supporting the FOCAS program in the position of Secretary in 2020….which is proving to be a very challenging year.
Treasurer: Margaret Perkins
I am a retired Pharmacist who has lived in the Shoalhaven for 40 years. I ran my own pharmacy in Sussex Inlet for over 25 years, before transitioning to work part time in Nowra until my retirement. Experiences I had as pharmacist and business owner have well equipped me to understand the business aspects of FOCAS, which has been beneficial in my role as Treasurer.
I am a mother of three adult daughters, one of whom, Rosa, is supported by FOCAS. In my spare time, I am a keen traveller, bushwalker and swimmer. I enjoy classical music and am a member of 2 singing choirs.
Hi, my name is Kate Brookes and I am a full time Case Worker at the Shoalhaven Homeless Hub. I was born in the Philippines and moved here in Australia in 2007 after meeting my husband in 2005. We have 3 children and has been living in the area since then.
I learned about Community Services in 2011 while I was working as a Site Supervisor at David Berry Hospital in Food Services. I met a Social Worker and saw how he touched our patients lives and gave them their dignity back even in just the simplest way. I said to myself "That is what I would like to do!" So I studied Certificate IV in Community Services in 2019 and finished my Diploma in 2020 at TAFE Nowra. I have learned so much, gained a lot of experience and a bit of a deeper understanding in the Community Services field whilst learning.
What I love about the sector is that, all organizations work hand in hand to be able to provide the best service possible for each participant. Advocating for each individual and helping them have the quality of life that they deserve.
I am so honoured to be a committee member of FOCAS Shoalhaven because I believe in their work and what they have to offer. As a worker, I have seen different kinds of people with different needs coming from different walks of life. It could be challenging sometimes for us to help the individual with their specific need due to lack of resources. But with hard work and perseverance, I believe that in the near future, all of this will change for the better.
FOCAS is governed by a management committee which is responsible for corporate governance of the organisation. The Committee meets monthly to discuss and consider present and future considerations concerning services offered. Individuals, families and supporters with industry experience make up the majority of the management committee. The committee stresses the importance of the provision for a service that authentically addresses the needs and aspirations of individuals and continuously strives for improvement and value.