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Co-presenting at NDS Positive Cultures regional forums

Marianna and Fran

11th April 2019

Caption: Marianna Codognotto (Senior Learning and Development Officer – Abuse Prevention) with Francesca Lee, a community researcher from the DSC Building Safe and Respectful Cultures research project

DSC is presenting on our ‘Building Safe and Respectful Cultures’ (BSRC) project at the National Disability Services Positive Cultures and the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework regional forums in Sale (April 2), Bendigo (April 11), Geelong (May 9) and Shepparton (May 14).

While the final BSRC research report is still under development, Marianna from DSC and Fran, one of the project’s community researchers, discuss the importance of community researchers in co-designing and running the project.

Fran says “We think people with disability should be at the centre of all of these discussions. This means they need to be involved at each step along the way”.

Marianna says “The involvement of community researchers has made the research richer and more meaningful. There is no doubt that co-design, collaboration and skill development takes extra time. But community researchers all have a PhD in lived experience of disability, and they were able to connect with people during the research project much more easily.”

The three community researchers (Fran, Peta and William) were paired with DSC staff researchers. Sally Robinson from Southern Cross University ran skill development workshops and the researchers used coloured cards to facilitate inclusive workshop practices. Like a traffic light system, the red was to signal the need to stop, this could mean that the person disagreed or needed to say something immediately, yellow was to ask for further clarification or offer another point of view, and green was used when agreeing. Over time as relationships of trust and care were developed, these cards were phased out as all the researchers trusted that they would give each other enough time to speak and be heard.

The BSRC research project was conducted in three different disability services. Interviews were conducted by the research team, asking questions about what it was like to feel safe, what it was like to feel cared for, what it was like to have a say, decision-making and problem-solving.

Marianna says “We didn’t ask specific questions about violence, abuse and neglect, as what we were exploring was the culture of the organisation and how things operated on a day-to-day basis. It was a real privilege to hear about people’s experiences and what needs to be in place to promote safe and respectful cultures.”

Fran says little things are the big things was a key theme in the research. “It was clear that if people didn’t notice or check in about small things that happen in a service that people with disability would be reluctant to speak up about the bigger issues. This has been true for me as well in my personal experience across the service system, not just in disability. You lose confidence in speaking up as you are totally reliant on those services.”

“I acquired my brain injury, so I know that I was treated differently before my ABI. When I was unable to speak or walk, people sometimes treated me badly. I remember one nurse shoving food in my mouth, not giving me a chance to swallow, stabbing the roof of my mouth with a fork, not checking the temperature of the food, so many times it burnt me. She wasn’t worried that I would complain because she knew I couldn’t speak and that she could get away with it.”

The BSRC project is all about preventing abuse before it starts – together. The project trialed different ways to bring people together including workshops for people with disability, families and staff about what people notice or feel like when things are not okay, and how services can make it safe for people to speak up early before things get worse.

Want to start these conversations about Building Safe and Respectful Cultures in your disability service or with your family? These are some of the questions that were asked in interviews:

  1. What does being cared for feel like for you?
  2. Who in your life gives you that kind of care?
  3. What helps you feel that people who use your services are cared for?
  4. Is there anything that makes you unsure that people care about people at your service?

The final report from the BSRC research project, and related resources, will be released in coming months.

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