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Hi, my name is John Dickinson and I am a Community Engagement and Event officer for IDEAS. I cover a large area encompassing the Sydney metropolitan area, parts of southern NSW and parts of western NSW out to Dubbo and all areas within.

For me, Western NSW is a great part of the world with contrasts in real beauty and stark

harshness of environment. It also has a population rich in diversity and friendliness.

I started my career in this area as a sales representative in the commercial space, so in a way it is like returning home, although in a totally different environment.

I have spent over 30 years in business development, financial services sales and operations spaces, so when a role in IDEAS became available as a Community Engagement officer I was quick to decide - YES that’s a role for me!

It has been an eye-opener for me around how a big part of the community, those with lived experience of disability struggle daily with either an avalanche of information or none at all.

The NDIS system, while great in theory, has taken more time than anticipated to realise positive outcomes for both people with disability and service providers in the sector. As I talk with hundreds of people on a monthly basis I hear stories of how things have changed, how choice and control is becoming a reality - these are great news stories.

However, there are still those people, both funded and unfunded who need more help than ever. I think it can be summed up by the phrase I use often “you don’t know what you don’t know”!

This is where I feel I have made a positive impact by attending events, meetings, networks and disability / community information days. I also love to drop in on community centres, libraries and those community-based places that struggle with the sheer numbers of people looking for help.

After a couple of months I was still thinking to myself, ‘Am I making a difference???’ Then I caught up with an elderly lady that I remembered talking to at an event early in my role at IDEAS. She came over to me and said, “I hoped I would find you here, because I wanted to say thank you”.

She said that after years of struggle as the primary carer of her 40-year-old daughter living with disabilities, the conversation she had with me changed her life. I was speechless (which for me is not common). She said that I convinced her to simply “ring IDEAS on our 1800 number and let us help you!” She found services, help, assistance, guidance and now she and her daughtered feel empowered and in control for the first time in their lives.

This is how information becomes powerful. Linking people with the right information provides them with choice, breaks down barriers and enables them to live full and enriched lives.

There is still a lot of work to do, with service gaps (especially in rural areas), and many people are still living isolated lives because of their disability. As a community, we need to continue to engage, talk, share ideas, challenge our own perceptions and challenge the system when you think things can be done differently and better.

May 2019
John Dickinson