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Entrepreneur challenges stigma around people living with disability and employment

Published On: 9 November 2020Categories: NDIS, Stories

50-year-old Samford local Gary Allen is a proud father, husband, advocate and entrepreneur who has spent much of his career advocating for people with disability.

Gary, who lives with Multiple Sclerosis, was forced into a career change due to his health, but quickly found his feet in the world of research and ethics. Gary currently works as the Senior Policy Officer at Griffith University, a consultant at Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services (AHRECS), and advocate for The Hopkins Centre and MS Queensland.

“My former life was as a ministerial advisor, and I was forced into a career change in 1996. A job was advertised at QUT, and I applied. It got under my skin, so I started my Doctorate in Social Science,” Gary said.

“I’ve been passionate about research ethics and integrity ever since. I’m still a Senior Policy Officer at Griffith University, and I’m hoping to keep working until 2024.”

More recently, he launched a new project alongside his business partners, which aims to address the flaws in the dominant approach to disability and work.

“We offer mentoring, peer support and resources to clients. We might help people with a business idea to turn that into reality, or someone who has had to retire due to their disability who has marketable skills and wants to use them. In the hobby space, we want to help people make money off their hobby and look at ways to monetize their knowhow.

“We look at what a person wants to achieve and how can we help make that happen. If they make $100 per month with our support, that’s great, but it’s about social engagement and finding different ways to engage.

“We also offer micro-courses from Griffith University, such as how to write a pitch or business plan. This will help upskill, create social engagement and opportunities for people to interact with other students and academics.

“I get a lot of genuine pleasure out of my work. One of the ways I use my NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) support is I use Monday.com for managing various consultancies, and I was able to access that through my plan to help me with my memory. I also use Zoom to deliver workshops and meetings, which has enabled me to work from home and continue to work.

“I also use support workers as I have issues with manual dexterity, so having someone around is helpful, for example, if I drop something. Like most people with MS, my heat intolerant worsens as the temperature increases, so I purchased a fan that heats and cools, plus cleans the air, which is good for my lung function.

“I’ve worked from home for 12 years, and before the NDIS my family would help me. I’m very fortunate that when I wanted to lean less on them, the NDIS came in and it was a fairly seamless transition across.”

Carers Queensland can support you to find out more about the NDIS, to apply for funding and to help you get started with the NDIS. If you have a disability but are not eligible for the NDIS, Carers Queensland can help you identify and link to options for support in your community. You can contact Carers Queensland on 1300 999 636, or cq.enquiries@ndis.gov.au