By Warren Heggarty
ABOVE: People enjoying creative moments during the Recovery Forum in Surry Hills, hosted by the members of Buckingham House. PHOTOS COURTESY PETER FARRUGIA
The people who access our services are stepping up to facilitate Recovery Forums. On the 3rd of December 2018 a large gathering at Surry Hills was co-facilitated by Deonny Zaroual. Deonny is a supported employee at Figtree Conference Centre and also a member of the Community Advisory Council. Having benefited from Flourish Australia’s promotion of recovery, Deonny is now helping to spread the message to others through these forums, together with Peter Farrugia, our Peer Workforce Manager.
“We are trying to show people that they have a right to be a part of society no matter what disability they have, or what the look like, or what they can or cannot do,” says Deonny. “We remind people that everyone is important and everyone should be in control of their own lives. We let them know they are not alone and that Flourish Australia has options to offer everyone in every situation where they are having difficulties.”
Some of the tools they use to get this message across include using strength-based language, word cards, art collages, quizzes and group discussions.
“We had such a big turnout,” Deonny said. “I was not expecting so many people. I was told to expect 20, but then just over 30 people showed up. Filling the room was a big success!”
Peter said that it was good to see people from all over the region, not just from Surry Hills but from places like Ashbury as well.
“It was great to have a person who accesses our service co-facilitating, too,” he said, referring to Deonny.
“A lot of participants at first were unsure about things and just wanted to observe, so they sat and listened in,” Deonny said. “To start off with, I went around the room with a sign-in sheet to gather permission from people who agreed to be included in photos. Not everyone wanted to do that. Once things got started, though, people who had just been observing were asking if they could join in. As I always say, if anyone wants to join in, go for it. Anyone can.”
“I have never worked with Peter Farrugia before, but it was such a pleasure to be part of it. As work experience, it was fantastic. I found Peter to be very professional and I learnt so much from him, especially about using strengths-based language. This is something that comes easily for him, but something I am still struggling with a bit!
“I hope to be involved in a lot more future recovery forums. We will be visiting places such as Huskisson, Orange, Bourke, Warana, Moree, Maitland, Blacktown, Penrith, Wagga Wagga, and Griffith. I hope to see everyone there.”
What did the participants think of the Recovery Forum experience? According to feedback from the diverse range of participants, it offered them freedom to voice their opinions, gave them confidence, supported their work goals, considered their individual needs and was non-judgemental. They commented on the welcoming friendliness of the forum saying that it “made me feel special” and “part of a family” and was a way to “make friends.” It also took account of physical health supports.
Thanks to Peter Farrugia and Yasin Bagci for their assistance with this story