Sally Richards today joined ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Minister for Community Services Joy Burch in turning the first sod at the site of the Getting A Life intentional community, which is being built in Alsop Close, Philip, ACT to house Jackson and two other young men, Daniel Connaughton and Ben Pattrick. You can read the press release from the Chief Minister's office here.
Sally gave a speech at the event, the text of which is below:
My name is Sally Richards and I speak on behalf of the triumvirate – Karen Connaughton, Cheryl Pattrick and me. We are The Getting a Life Family Governed Group and this Intentional Community is our dream. We with our families and a lot of help and support have created it not only for our sons, Jackson, Daniel and Ben but for the others who will live here.
As you have already heard this intentional community will provide homes for 25 families, couples or individuals. Our sons Jackson, Dan and Ben who all have a disability will have one home each and the other 22 will be for ACT Housing tenants. We do not know yet who the other tenants will be but we are working on that with the team from Housing ACT. The community will be diverse with a mix of people from many walks of life and of many ages – much like any other small community in the ACT.
The key and defining aspect of this intentional community is that our sons Jackson, Dan and Ben will be here first. Their houses have been allocated and designed specifically around them, their wishes, their abilities and their needs. They will each hold the key to the front door (metaphorically in Jackson’s case but literally for Dan and Ben), they will be the head tenants and they will decide who to invite into their homes. Equally they will decide who to ask to leave. This puts them in a position where they have the power to decide much of what happens in their own home – these are their homes first and foremost. And this community will be their community.
Getting to Maybe states that “Social innovation begins where the individual and the system meet. It takes courage to engage and stay engaged: it takes courage to act in the absence of certainty and clarity.”
This Intentional Community is a perfect example of the individual and the system meeting and creating social innovation. Each person, each organization and each department I am about to mention has shown courage in supporting us in our quest; more than courage you have shown great trust in us.
First and foremost the Chief Minister Katy Gallagher (who was then Minister for Disabilities) who supported and encouraged me in this venture from day 1.
And following in her footsteps supporting and encouraging us has been Ms Joy Burch and her then off-sider Neil Finch.
Martin Hehir, the ED of the Community Services Directorate has always been a staunch ally. My impression (although I don’t know this for sure) is that he worked quietly behind the scenes championing our cause. Another champion is Lois Ford from Disability ACT.
Maureen Sheehan and her team have worked with us now for some years – we thank you Maureen, Peter Johns, David Collett, Richard Baumgart, Shaun Kelly, Mike Hanley, Ken Williams, Frank Frino. With your experience, guidance, expertise and unwavering patience (which I suspect you needed at times) we are going great guns now.
AMC Architects have been a joy and a delight to work with. Alistair MacCullum, Dean McPherson – you and your team impressed us with your professionalism, your attention to the tiniest detail, your willingness to listen to us, your responsiveness. And to our astonishment and relief you understood the concept so quickly.
Eric Thauvette from Hartley Lifecare has taken risk after risk with us. We have not let him down yet and we don’t intend to in the future. He is a shining example of an Executive Director of a non-government organization who listens, responds, innovates, enables and supports.
Ric Butt from Strine Design gave us invaluable help and our previous coordinator Johanne Beirne was also part of this whole venture.
Hard work has got us here and like all fabulous achievements – and this is one hell of a fabulous achievement - it has only happened because of these many positive mutually respectful relationships and partnerships and because of the support and help we have received from all of you.
But the work is not over – not by a long shot.
We women look forward to developing this intentional community so that it is a warm, friendly, neighbourly community where people help and look out for each other. We will build it so that it is strong and supportive and rich with relationships and laughter and care. Not care with a capital C but the ordinary everyday care of humans caring for other humans.
And this will be every day work. It will never stop. The challenge for all of us it to create, develop and maintain this community.
We want it to be a model for others, an example of just one way of providing homes for people with a disability. We hope that no-one else has to work quite this hard to establish homes for their sons and daughters so that they can live independently from their parents.
And before I finish I would like to acknowledge Jackson’s father and my husband of 29 years, Mac West. He would have been delighted in this achievement and he would have been extremely proud of me. He would have been here today celebrating with a great sense of relief and the expectation that - finally – he and I would have a life that we might enjoy together without the relentless constraints of having a totally dependent, profoundly disabled adult son.
But he is not here and we are. And we WILL celebrate. So congratulations everyone and now let’s turn that sodding great sod.