Ruby uses NDIS supports to drive inclusion revolution in Gladstone community

Published On: 9 March 2023Categories: NDIS, News
Special Olympics swimmer and gold medallist Ruby has temporarily hung up her goggles to embark on a new journey to promote the importance of inclusion as a board member of Special Olympics Australia.

As part of her role, the 28-year-old Gladstone local has been selected to deliver a presentation about inclusion in her community at The Global Athlete Congress in Berlin this year.

The international meeting, held during the World Special Olympics (SO) competition in June, enables athletes from around the world to exchange ideas and develop new leadership skills.

The aim is for athletes to return to their home countries empowered to advocate for greater inclusion in society in their own Special Olympics programs and cities.

“Inclusion is important for me because if we didn’t have it, there wouldn’t be anything for people like me to do,” said Ruby.

“And it’s important because I believe people with disability should have the opportunity to be a part of society as much as everyone else.”

Ruby, a qualified Swimming Australia Teacher, also represents Australia for Special Olympics Asia Pacific on the Athlete Input Council and has regularly co-hosted meetings with athletes to share information.

In 2022, she was a guest speaker during the SO International Coach Webinar Series where she shared practical strategies and tips on how to ensure coaches meet the developmental needs of athletes of all abilities.

Special Olympics Asia Pacific have also invited Ruby to fly to the Philippines in March and Singapore in September to attend a Leadership Academy and to plan for the World Congress.

“She is also hosting a workshop in Gladstone to share her knowledge on ‘Learning to be a Leader’ and to share her experience of having a volunteer mentor for 6 years and the confidence it has given her to get where she is today,” said Suzie, Ruby’s mother.

“Ruby’s initiative was part of a push to encourage more people to become volunteer mentors for athletes with disability, as well as to encourage more people to participate in Special Olympics in her community.”

Ruby, who lives with an intellectual and physical disability and autism, was supported by Carers Queensland to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2018.

The NDIS funds a support worker to help Ruby undertake essential daily tasks, attend appointments, as well as helping her fulfil one of her roles as a swim teacher.

She has also used her NDIS supports to further her education and gain employment, with Ruby’s most recent position teaching art to people with disabilities.

“It makes me feel important teaching others. I love arts and crafts and at the moment I am making macrame key rings,” said Ruby.

Suzie said having access to the NDIS had improved Ruby’s life, particularly now the family had found supports that work in her best interests.

“Just recently she’s been coming along in leaps and bounds and is involved with so many different activities and organisations, she’s always got something on,” she said.

“Now she’s doing her Certificate III in hospitality and has used her NDIS supports to help her complete the practical aspects of that.

“It’s just been amazing and things are starting to fall in place for her. We as parents can see a really bright future for Ruby, so I’m very happy with the NDIS.”

Ruby, who has previously won medals at the SO Australia National Games, is also working with Carers Queensland on its Inclusive Sports and Recreation project as a member of the organisation’s Beyond the Sidelines Reference Group.

As Queensland’s largest NDIS Partner in the Community, Carers Queensland has a key role to playing in driving inclusive change in communities.

Its Sport and Rec project aims to increase the representation and participation of people with disability in sport and recreation, both on and off the playing field in the lead up to the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Ruby is one of 9 handpicked Reference Group members that will be instrumental in helping Carers Queensland to identify best practices in sport and recreation for people with disability.

“When there was an opportunity to join the Reference Group I jumped at it because I was like, excellent, this is something cool as well as being something I can be involved in and help other people,” she said.

Ruby said there wasn’t a great deal of opportunity for people to get involved in inclusive sports, and with the right support, in the Gladstone region.

“But our sporting clubs in Gladstone work hard to keep their clubs active, financial and fun to be in,” she said.

“I believe most clubs are inclusive, but I have found that most need ongoing education and support for athletes with a disability and how to accommodate their needs within each club.

“I want everyone to know that people with disability can get involved in sports, yes sometimes it’s hard and we need a bit of support, but we should be included.

“As part of the Reference Group I also want to be able to help to get more people with disability involved sports, it’s something I’ve always wanted, to include more people.

“We deserve better, we deserve to be able to do anything we want to do or anything we want to achieve.”

Ruby, who has a long-term goal of living independently, also has a message for people who are unsure of how to interact with people with disability.

“A lot of people that don't have a disability avoid us because they think ‘ah, it’s going to be too hard so I’ll just avoid her so I don’t have to deal with her’,” said Ruby.

“Or maybe they don’t know how to talk to us, so they don’t try. My advice is just talk to us, give us a go because we’re not going to bite.

“I believe anybody who has got a disability has an ability even if it doesn’t show, they all have something to offer.”

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 also contact Carers Queensland on 1300 999 636, cq.enquiries@ndis.gov.au, or sign up to our LAC Connect app here.