Community service organisation Social Futures is challenging stereotypes about disability in New South Wales Central Coast schools.
‘Different on the Outside, Same on the Inside’ is a free program for primary school aged children aimed at breaking down misconceptions and social barriers and encouraging awareness and inclusion for people with disability.
This program is facilitated by Social Futures Local Area Coordinator for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Maree Jenner.
As a person of short stature, Maree engages young people and speaks to her own experience of difference and the challenges she faced “growing up little” in a world built for average height people.
“I am so passionate about this program because I have a physical disability. I am different,” says Maree.
“It is such a good opportunity to go in and talk to children because they notice things, they are learning, and the earlier you talk to young people, the better.
“Young people have questions about disability, they are curious about differences. They want to know why that is, and to understand.
“Having contact with me and becoming familiar with disability helps to remove awkwardness. Through this program we support young people to feel comfortable with difference and open avenues toward understanding and respect.”
Maree says children with disability, whether physical, developmental, intellectual, emotional, or sensory, are at increased risk of being bullied, which can result in poor mental health, anxiety, depression and even suicide.
“Sadly, bullying happens frequently in our country, but often it occurs as a result of ignorance and misunderstanding, and this program wants to rectify that,” she explains.
National President of Short Statured People of Australia, Sam Millard says he supports Maree and the work she’s about to embark on.
“The work Social Futures will do through this program will give short statured people, of all ages, a greater opportunity to participate freely in the community without feelings of isolation and angst that a lack of understanding can cause,” he says.
“We also hope the focus on school-aged children will allow us to continue to tackle the complex issue of bullying together as an organisation and as a community.”
Central Coast Member for Parliament, Leisl Tesch, is also enthusiastic about the program.
“As a wheelchair user and a Member of Parliament, I expect to be included in all aspects of our community, and I’m determined to help Social Futures to make inclusion for all a reality across the Central Coast and beyond,” says Leisl.
If your Central Coast primary school is interested in participating in the Different on the Outside, Same on the Inside program, contact Social Futures on 1800 522 679.
This program is funded through the NDIS and delivered by Social Futures.