As a result of COVID-19 and the continued lockdowns experienced by many Melbournians, 2020 and 2021 have been challenging years. I have observed first-hand how these significant changes have had an even greater impact on the lives of people with disabilities, like my brother Luke. Luke has been a regular participant at Inclusion Melbourne since 2019. Attending 2 days per week provided Luke with a purpose and a sense of belonging. Prior to this Luke was not engaged with his community and experienced isolation. There was nothing he felt out there that met his learning and social needs. This was until we heard about Inclusion Melbourne. When Luke and I first went and met the staff and participants at Inclusion Melbourne and saw the bright, modern, and inviting premises in Malvern, we got a good feeling. This was reinforced when we observed how professional the staff were and the respectful way, they treated and supported participants with their learning and attainment of goals.
Throughout the continued lockdowns, Inclusion Melbourne have attempted to maintain a level of routine and structure for my brother (and others) by running regular online sessions. The consistent emails and communiqué from the wonderful trainers, Robert Wilson and Elizabeth Hunnekens and the organisation, has meant as a family, we have been able to establish a routine for Luke which involves attending these online classes and connecting with his peers. Whilst the learning has continued, albeit in a different way, I have been impressed and appreciative that a focus of these online sessions is not just about literacy and numeracy, but also about maintaining and nurturing the caring, positive and healthy relationships formed by participants and staff attending Inclusion Melbourne.
Luke’s mental health has at times been greatly affected by the current situation as a result of COVID-19. Having an intellectual disability has meant he has had difficulty understanding why life cannot go back to normal. This is why it has been so humbling for my family and I to see the positive impact the genuine support and care shown by staff at Inclusion Melbourne has had on Luke. The fact Robert and Elizabeth have continued to check in with him, and us as a family to see how we are all going demonstrates Inclusion Melbourne’s commitment to always putting the participant at the of all they do. Luke recently received messages and pictures from the class and trainers saying how much they missed him when he took some time off. This not only brought a huge smile to his face but let him know he’s not alone and that Inclusion Melbourne is committed to supporting people with disabilities like my brother to live a good life!