President's Report

It has been another incredible year for CDAH, as we continue to build the peer movement in the Hunter region and to be a strong national voice in increasing choice and control for people with disability. Our membership has continued to grow, with 111 full members and 31 associate members at the end of June 2018. Our members are at the heart of all we do at CDAH and we really look forward to all CDAH members actively contributing to and shaping our work in the coming year.

Peer support is really flourishing and CDAH continues to offer a range of innovative opportunities to connect peers and share the wisdom that comes from living the experience of disability. Between July 2017 and June 2018, CDAH facilitated 38 peer support events, attended by 556 peers. This included the ongoing success of our Planning Cafes, where peers shared stories, advice and experiences on topics such as getting the most out of the NDIS, engaging effective supports and peer mentoring. Building social connections and friendships is a really important part of what we do and our regular Catch Up Crew, where CDAH takes over a local pub one evening a month, has been a great way to bring people together to share a meal, company and laughs. CDAH peers have also really honed their skills in facilitating good quality training in peer support, regularly delivering packages such as the Introduction to Peer Support and Peer Mentoring Training. We’ve built opportunities to connect with peers living in Large Residential Centres and facilitated innovative training to help people living in these centres to be more involved in regular home meetings.

It has been a privilege for CDAH to work with a range of peer groups including Wellness Warriors, Hunter Deaf Blind Peers, Stories Circle, Maitland Peers, The Hive and Hunter Deaf Peers. New peer groups are continuing to emerge and have a life of their own in our region, with peers coming together around areas such as creative arts, health and diverse experiences of living with disability. Speak Up Hunter, a peer group for people with intellectual disability to have a strong voice, had a fantastic year, culminating in the production of the hip hop film ‘This Is My World’ which was recently awarded first prize at the Real Film Festival short film competition (Living With A Disability category).

We’ve built strong partnerships that have given us opportunities to develop new projects. NSW Department of Family and Community Services has been an important partner, supporting us to deliver our core peer work. We have worked in partnership with Department of Fair Trading to connect with Aboriginal peers to build knowledge about consumer rights in the NDIS, and we continue to collaborate closely with other peer organisations across Australia to build resources to improve and increase the uptake of peer support. CDAH has been auspicing and providing support to our peers on the Central Coast to develop a peer network there. We offer our congratulations to the members of Voices for Central Coast Disability (VOICCD) for having such a successful year in setting up a dynamic and committed group and for becoming a strong local voice in such a short time. VOICCD has been delivered with support from Ability Links, who we also worked with to deliver the Smart Arts in schools project, alongside Octapod, which was a valuable opportunity to draw on stories and creativity to promote inclusion. We have had a strong political voice, developing the skills of peers in campaigning and advocacy and contributing to campaigns such as ‘Stand By Me’ to continue funding for disability advocacy.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with a committed and talented Board over the past year. I thank Debbie, Kristy, Joseph and Ros for their ongoing contribution, for their ability to recognise and work to their strengths, and to nurture the strengths of others in the peer network.

The achievements of the past year are the result of a powerful network of passionate peers. They are also a testament to the hard work and efforts of CDAH staff who have been tirelessly building relationships, promoting peer work, delivering innovative events, managing projects, advocating, campaigning, communicating and making sure that the organisation runs smoothly and in a way that reflects our values and principles. Thank you to the fantastic CDAH team.

This year is shaping up to be just as productive and exciting as the last. We will have a real focus on peer mentoring and peer support. A Peer Mentoring Network has been set up, so that our trained Peer Mentors can stay connected, share ideas and refresh their skills. We will shortly be recruiting Peer Mentees to connect with Peer Mentors to work on goals, to revitalise our great work in peer mentoring. We will be sharing information among peers via workshops, Planning Cafes and other forums, to build knowledge on how to get the best out of the NDIS and how to exercise choice, voice and control. We will keep working closely with peers at the Large Residential Centres to build connections.

I call on all of our CDAH members (and future members) to get involved. An organisation such as CDAH only works when we each play an active part. How will you ‘pay it forward’ in the coming year? How will you share your experiences, knowledge and strengths to help others? Let us know how you will contribute, by signing up to help out in one of the following areas (or let us know if you have other great ideas):

* Planning Cafes (help us design and coordinate our monthly Planning Cafes)

* Catch Up Crew (help plan, promote and run our monthly Catch Up Crew events)

* Communications (media, social media, promotions)

* Membership (recruit and welcome new members, get more members involved)

* Peer mentoring (train to become a peer mentor, be part of the Peer Mentoring Network or register to be mentored)

* Peer support group (join or contribute to an existing peer group or start up a new group – CDAH can help with advice and resources)

* Campaigning and advocacy (use peer power to have a voice in important issues)

* Administration (help out in the office)

* Connecting and supporting peers (think about ways that you can help your peers feel confident and comfortable to be a part of CDAH)

I thank all of our partners, peers, staff, Board and members for contributing to a fantastic year and look forward to continuing our exciting work together.

David Belcher, President of the CDAH Board