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“Do not be afraid to speak your mind”

Noah from rural NSW talks about his experience of being an Inclusion Advisor for our Towards Inclusive Practice project and his message for government

Towards Inclusive Practice is a national project led by Inclusion Australia with our members around the country. The project is about telling government how to be more inclusive of people with an intellectual disability.

As part of Towards Inclusive Practice we have set up a national network of people with an intellectual disability to discuss important issues and make resources for Government on inclusive practices.

Heather Forsyth and Eban Pollard, Project Coordinators at Inclusion Australia, met with Noah Endean from NSW to talk about his role as an Inclusion Advisor for the project.

Heather: Thank you Noah for taking the time to be involved in this interview. My first question is why did you want to become an inclusion advisor?

Noah: I wanted to be an Inclusion Advisor because when I was told about this it felt at first a little daunting but when I was being told about it and it felt comforting to have my voice heard.

Having my experiences, and everything I’ve that I’ve been through, throughout my life being told to others and them not judging me for it and [instead] them just going “OK, let’s use that.”

Heather: You used to work in a kitchen. Do you want to explain how things are different with this job?

Noah: I was a kitchen hand, prepping food and putting salads on dishes and passing them out to people. I never really kind of got anywhere because I was afraid, and I wasn’t really experienced in a lot of things.

After coming here, being able to talk to others, being able to express [myself] and having this heard – and it being sent to other places where they’re going to do the right thing and help others like myself and many others with a disability to have the right future – it feels good! It makes me feel a sense of freedom and pride. My words are going to be heard and I have pride in myself that I’m doing the right thing for the world.

Eban: Have you ever done anything like this before?

Noah: if you’re talking about being able to speak my mind, no this is my very first time.

Heather: how did you hear about this job?

Noah: I heard about it through a place called Kurrajong SLES. It was brought up to them that they’re looking for someone to do a one-year contract. The boss there said, “oh I know someone who might like this and might want to speak their mind”. Once they explained everything to me it looked interesting and I was like, “yeah, let’s do it” so I got into it and here I am!

Heather: You said the language in the kitchen compared to the language you use in this project was like two different languages?

Noah: Yes! It was. In the kitchen it was very fast paced and very loud and I was always kind of by myself. I was mostly doing my own jobs and limited to basically only that. But here it seems more calm, more relaxing and I get to be involved and get to talk to people and get to express what I’m going through. So yes, it’s two completely different environments and languages that I got to experience… and I’m liking this!

Eban: Can you tell us a little bit about how the project meetings work?

Noah: We started off as us getting together [in person]. Whoever couldn’t get together would join the meeting [online]. As time went by, when we saw how well Zoom was going, we started using Zoom.

At the meetings we talk about our experiences, about power and trust and what it means to us. Who would normally have it, who wouldn’t have it and what can it do to people who don’t have it. And [we talk about] the scenarios, asking us questions and our honest opinion and what we think is right and wrong. Mostly just sharing our experiences and doing whatever we can to help.

Heather: Have you found the different topics and questions easy or not so easy?

Noah: I found the topics very inclusive. You get pulled into it! Once you start talking about it and you’re learning about how it goes, you learn about what it means to you, and so it feels inclusive. It feels humbling because when you start talking about it, you immediately think you’re going to get judged. But when they respect what you’re saying and use what you say for the work it’s heart-warming and humbling.

Heather: What would you like to say to the government if you could?

Noah: When you hear about [our work], please do this. Please help people with a disability. There are people who suffer, who don’t have [opportunities]. Learn about others. Help everyone and help the world. No more corruption. Let the corruption fade.

Eban: What would you like to teach the government to do with this project?

Noah: I want the government to listen and understand and not give their opinion out first. Government is a big thing, and if the government is the first thing to give their opinion and then they say “what do you guys think” – it immediately drives everyone down.

Whereas if the government listens to everyone else [first] and then gives their idea … it gives [them] multiple ideas about the ideas, wisdom, and knowledge from the world. Just to listen and to understand.

Eban: That will be really important for our topic on inclusive consultation.

Many people with a disability suffer. Some let it take them and do bad things to them. Others who keep fighting try to open themselves out to get the world to listen.

I think what we could teach the government is … you should do this [be more inclusive]. You can [do it] and I would hope for you to do this.

We need to teach them that people with a disability have a strength and a desire to mould the Earth however they wish, as long as you give them a voice.

Heather: What would you like to say to any other self-advocate who would like to do this work?

Noah: to not be afraid to speak your mind and not be afraid of being judged. And to know that there are others who go through the same process who get that fear and nervousness and butterfly in the stomach! It’s ok to feel it [but] not let it be the thing that controls you.

It’s difficult. It’s much harder to do than it is to say, but as long as you have the belief that people like me and many other people who have it have done this – then anyone can do it.

If the people who have suffered the most still have the strength to speak their mind to one themselves up to help say their mind, anyone can do it. As long as you believe.

Heather: Have you enjoyed doing this job?

Noah: yes, I have very much enjoyed it. It was a blast! I feel very honoured and privileged and lucky to have been given this opportunity and I just want to thank you very much for the opportunity to speak my mind and express what I need to express to the world. I hope that the government listens and does all the things that we are saying.

Eban: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from the project and what are you going to take away from the Towards Inclusive Practice project?  

Noah: the biggest thing I’ve learned is I’m not the only one. I learned to be more open and speak my mind and if I need someone to listen to me, I know how to put myself out there. More often than not I’m the one who stays silent when others are talking, the moment when someone else is talking I’m the one who goes quiet and lets them speak. Now if I want to speak up, I’ve learned how.

Heather: for me as a person whose been involved in disability for a long time you learn when to speak and when to be a listener. I have learned you’ve got to be a good listener and be a role model as well.

Noah: I hope I can learn that and learn to develop that the best way I can and use that.

Heather: It’s just ‘practice, practice, practice’. Who I am today, I wasn’t when I first started. I had people like Eban and the people I work with being my guidance. Still to this day, we will have a debrief, and we will talk about how it went. I’m learning all the time from my work colleagues. I practice learning every day with them. We’re all not perfect in this world and if we were it would be a boring world.

Noah: Yes, it would!

Eban: what is next for you, Noah? Where do you want to go from here after the conversations and experiences you’ve had with the project this year?

Noah: I want to be able to continue speaking my mind. Being able to give my words to the world, if not to the world, then people around me to just be able to speak to the people around me. To give my knowledge and my wisdom and give what I can and help out the people around me.

Heather: thanks very much for coming today, Noah. We really appreciate you coming along and having this time with us.

Eban: thanks Noah it’s been a pleasure.

Noah: I’m glad I came. It was an honour!


To find out more, visit our Towards Inclusive Practice project page.