31 May 2021

Since joining Northam SES as a volunteer, Peter is the happiest he has even been.

When NDIS participant, Peter, first came to APM Communities he shared his desire to become more involved in the local community.

Through the Valued Roles in the Community program, APM Communities were able to work closely with Volunteering WA Wheatbelt to find a suitable volunteering role for Peter.

Peter who was born deaf communicates primarily through sign and written word.

With over 35 years-experience in emergency services as a trained and registered volunteer ambulance officer, Northam State Emergency Service (SES) was identified as being an ideal organisation for Peter to be able to utilise his skills.

While exploring suitable opportunities with Northam SES, some challenges were identified in how members would best communicate with Peter, especially when so much communication in emergencies happens verbally.

This presented a challenge, but Northam SES were ready to support Peter.

APM Communities and Northam SES worked together to bring about Auslan and deaf awareness training for their members. The training was delivered by Access Plus WA Deaf.

Additional benefits were also identified for providing this training for SES members and the wider community by improving their skills and ability to be able to communicate non-verbally in an emergency situation.

Incorporating disability awareness training was something Northam SES Branch Manager Cheryl Greenough had wanted to do for a long time.

She understands the advantages for the deaf community in receiving emergency support from a unit now trained in Auslan.

“It’s a wonderful feeling and something I have thought about for many years. I think that it must be very hard to be amongst the community and not be able to communicate. If we can help just one person in our whole lives who may be hard of hearing or unable to communicate, then I think we can look back with pride and I am sure that one person would be extremely happy that someone took the time to communicate."

The Northam SES team has also experienced the benefits of being a more inclusive unit.

“Peter has brought great joy and purpose to our unit. He is always there to lend a hand and always with a smile and a cheery hello. He helped us realise there was a part of us missing, a part of the communication and connection with the community” said Cheryl.

The APM Communities Valued Roles in the Community program aims to support community clubs and social groups to remove barriers to participation and welcome people of diverse backgrounds and abilities.

“Being a member of a community is important for people to develop connections, friendships and a sense of belonging” APM Communities Local Area Coordinator Katie Leeder said.

For Peter being part of Northam SES, helping to raise awareness for Auslan and sharing his skills with other SES members has assisted him in developing connections with others and develop a greater sense of belonging and purpose.

“Everyone learning Auslan is great. It is easy for me to understand. I feel like we take care of people and that has included myself.” Peter said.

“In first aid, we can all work together and communicate with each other and check what we need to do.”

His experience has inspired him to want to help other people in the wider deaf community to get involved.

“I’d like to go to Perth and work with the Deaf Society to teach them how the SES works and how I have been fortunate to join and try and get other people involved.”

“I am the happiest I have ever been… and it is something I want to continue doing for as long as I can.”

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) is now exploring similar training for other hubs throughout WA that will benefit the deaf community, whether they be seeking a volunteer role or be in need of emergency assistance.

You can download the DFES Disability Access and Inclusion Plan from their website to find out more.

As part of the NDIS Partners in the Community program, APM Communities help people with disability in several regions in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to access support.

Author

Natalie Woodbridge

For media enquiries, please contact

adrian.bradley@apm.net.au

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