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In August, the Dundaloo Foundation celebrates its 70th anniversary – meaning it's been helping people with disabilities in its local area for an incredible seven decades. We spoke with Colin Steber to find out more.
Dundaloo: Empowering Individuals with Disabilities for Decades
In 1953, a group of families in the Manning Valley wanted to help their family members with a disability to live life to the full, play a meaningful role in the community and find fulfilling work.
The Foundation started life as a school operating out of a Methodist Church, and the name Dundaloo – which means ‘happy place’ – was adopted in 1956. A new school was built, and a competition invited people to suggest names. Dundaloo, of course, came out on top.
“The school and hostel were the first of its kind in this community,” explains the Foundation’s Colin Steber.
“Since then, it has greatly expanded in the size and variety of services it offers, supporting people of all ages, with a wide range of disabilities of all sorts, who receive funding from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).”
Today, Dundaloo operates in its traditional Manning Valley base, as well as Great Lakes and Gloucester, providing a range of services, including independent living in Dundaloo residential houses, and community access and participation support services for people in their own homes. They also provide day programs for both over-18s and under-18s, work programs and school leaver support, coordination of support and plan management, and allied health services, including psychology, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.
And it’s a service that’s much needed.
Colin explains, “The area serviced by Dundaloo – the Manning, Great Lakes and Gloucester communities – has a higher percentage of people living with disabilities at 8.2 per cent, compared with the NSW regional average of 5.4 per cent.”
“We’re committed to supporting people in all aspects of their life,” says Colin.
“We build relationships that provide just the right amount of support to allow our participants to make their own decisions to achieve their goals and dreams, participate in meaningful activities and build social relationships.”
The Foundation works with a raft of other organisations to deliver services to its network, including other registered NDIS providers, non-registered NDIS providers, allied health services, mental health professionals, behaviour support practitioners, government agencies, community groups, medical professionals, plan managers, schools, sporting groups and local businesses.
A common challenge – which many people living in regional Australia will relate to – is attracting specialised professionals and practitioners, as well as accessing the therapies they provide in a timely fashion.
Creating Inclusive Workforce: Dundaloo Enterprises
A new initiative within the Foundation, meanwhile, is Dundaloo Enterprises.
“Dundaloo Enterprises has a focus on generating income and finding employment for people with disability, and collaborates with other local businesses and local community groups,” explains Colin.
“These include Pacific FMS, Mid Coast Council, Football Mid North Coast, and Club Taree, while we also participate with the Forster Tuncurry Business Chamber.
“Dundaloo Enterprises continues to grow and create employment opportunities for all abilities. We rely on the community to support us through utilising our services such as catering, supporting the Football Mid North Coast canteen, and purchasing our products and produce. This enables us to grow further and provide more opportunities.”
Creating opportunities has been the reason for being for Dundaloo for seven decades, and in terms of making a genuine difference to the lives of people in our communities, Dundaloo does that in spades.