Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Youngcare Turns 10 But There's More To Do.

10 years ago today on April 21st 2005, Shevaune and David Conry with the support of close friends established Youngcare. Shevaune was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in her mid twenties, and by the age of 33 was forced to live in a nursing home, because as hard as her family tried no one could provide the physical support that she required. Two and a half years after Youngcare was founded, in December 2007, Youngcare opened a two level fifteen room complex in Brisbane's Southwestern suburbs: the very building I live in now.

Youngcare first came to my attention back in 2007 when both Shevaune and David were profiled on Australia's 60 Minutes program. I can remember watching it with both my parents so vividly, because there was absolutely no way that anyone could possibly forget that story. The love and respect between the couple was so genuine and heartfelt. I remember thinking "I wish I could live there, but I don't have an acquired disability, so I have no chance."

Turns out I was wrong, although I didn't know it until five years later. Unfortunately, Shevaune passed away before I arrived, so I never had the chance to thank her for creating an organisation that has saved my life. Although Shevaune's story and her experience was the initial impetus for Youngcare, the creation of the organisation was the ultimate unselfish act. Youngcare is no longer just the basis of one story, but a vitally important organisation that is designed to change Australian society for the better.

At the moment there are currently 770,000 young Australians between the ages of 18 and 65 who are living in places that they should not be in, either in aged care, or with the support of a carer who has insufficient resources. For the past two and a half years I have made it my mission to share this important statistic to anybody who would listen.

In an environment where the NDIS is (unfortunately) government policy, it is great to give people with disabilities and/or their carers access to funding theoretically, but there are questions that arise in terms of infrastructure. In an ideal world, the NDIS would aim to provide independence to those 770,000 people, but even if they were to supply funding to half of those people, what accommodation do you provide so they can use their funding appropriately?

There is a clear shortage in this country of accessible housing for people with disabilities. Although Youngcare has another complex open on the Gold Coast, two more to come in Brisbane's northern suburbs, and a further one being developed in Western Sydney, these sites only go a short way to addressing this housing shortage. Though Youngcare will always continue to do fine work, and I will continue to push the cause for as long as I live, the larger problem of the overall shortage is one of the central public policy challenges in this country, and both State and Federal governments have not even begun to address the issue.

Now that I am safe, secure and happy my next quest is to continue Shevaune's legacy. Like she did I realise that now my dream has been achieved, my job is to ensure that others can live their dream too.

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