Growing up and moving in with your mates is a rite of passage. But for some young people with disability, it’s not so simple.
December marks 12 months since Lara, Matthew, Andy and Wayne moved into their own Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) in Glen Waverley, run by non-profit aged and disability services organisation VMCH.
December is also the month we celebrate International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) – which increases public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrates their achievements and contributions.
The story behind how the four came to live together is unique, and a testament to the love and tenacity of their parents, who advocated for more than 15 years to ensure their children were able to live together in a home that fostered friendship, fun and family.
The families – Sue and Colin Chinner, Jill and John Cole, Kitty David and Karen Everett – met at Glenallen specialist school when their children were aged six. Over the years they became friends and discovered they shared a dream of seeing their children live in a place that was more than supported accommodation, but rather a home surrounded by people with similar values.
The process hasn’t been simple. Ordinarily, people with disability need to apply for accommodation that, while practical, doesn’t necessarily provide for their social and personal preferences.
The four, now aged in their thirties, had been attending VMCH’s day program and staff knew of their dream. With support from VMCH and the introduction of the NDIS (making the process for finding appropriate accommodation easier) the dream became a reality in December 2019.
“Andy, Matthew and Lara were like the rat pack at school, they were thick as thieves. I’m really happy because I never thought it was going to happen,” says Sue, Matthew’s mum.
“It’s (the move) been incredibly positive and I would love to see this for the future; for friends to be placed together.”
Lara’s mum, Jill, says living with her friends and having the support of their families is invaluable for her daughter.
“Lara loves it because she’s very social and when the other families come in and talk to her, they know what’s going on in her life. They’re not saying ‘hello’ to be polite, they have meaningful conversations.”
Kitty says her son Andy, who loves horror movies and the Bombers, is “very happy” at the Glen Waverley home.
“They’ve known each other since they were little so he’s very comfortable and very happy there. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Living with his mates is incredibly important for music-lover Wayne, says his mum, Karen.
“This is his extended family. He was quite proud to move out of home and live there.”
Ensuring their children are safe and happy as they age is also a motivation for their parents.
“One of the best things is the siblings of the four friends also know each other as they’ve been to all the celebrations over the years,” Jill said. “The next part of the dream was knowing there would be support there when we’re not, through their siblings.”