Celebrating Our WA Disability Support Award Nominees – Mark White

Main Content

Celebrating Our WA Disability Support Award Nominees

It’s vital, especially in these challenging times, to celebrate our silent heroes. In 2020, ten of our incredible Interchangers have been nominated for the WA Disability Support Awards for going beyond ordinary standards and making a difference in the lives of the people they support.

Unfortunately the National Disability Services had to make the decision to cancel the 2020 WA Disability Support Awards Gala Dinner due to the unforeseeable impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The WA Award finalists and winners will instead be announced on the Disability Support Awards Facebook page from 22 until 28 June.

In the meantime, we’re sharing the stories of how these amazing people have helped to expand and enrich the lives of the people they support.

Congratulations Mark White!

Nominated for Excellence in Supporting Social Inclusion & Excellence in Advocacy and Rights Promotion.

Mark was nominated by Interchange customer, Michael, and his father, Peter, in two categories of the awards for supporting Michael through criminal charges and helping him to leave the house to socialise for the first time in 36 years. Mark’s dedication and perseverance has been remarkable; a story that both Michael and his father, Peter, want to share.

We are just incredibly grateful to Mark and the outstanding things he has done for our family.’
– Peter, Father of Interchange Customer Michael

38-year-old, Michael Austin lives at home with his mum and dad and suffers from an intellectual disability, ADHD and severe social anxiety. Before coming to Interchange in 2018, Michael was extremely socially isolated and only left his home on very rare occasions.

When I first met Michael, he was huddled in his bed, not very responsive and anxious. He wasn’t used to any kind of interaction with other people apart from his parents, both of whom are on disability pensions themselves and in poor health.’                                                       – Mark White, Interchange WA Support Worker

That same day, Mark sat down next to Michael and started to chat to him in the hope of establishing a relationship and trust. After talking, he asked Michael if he would like to join him for a little outing. To everyone’s surprise Michael agreed to a short drive, which ended up lasting 4 hours, as Mark took him on a tour of the local area, pointing out all the activities and social possibilities these previously unexplored surroundings could offer. In the next few months, Michael and Mark saw each other twice a week. Michael truly enjoyed spending time with his support worker, overcoming his social fears and learning to become more independent.

Being around people, going to the gym, the library, even shopping, it was all new to me. It was scary at first, but now I am getting used to it and feel more comfortable and also a bit proud.’
– Michael Austin, Customer Interchange WA

One of Michael’s long-term goals has been to manage his own finances. With the help of Mark, he has built the skills and confidence needed to achieve this ambition. Now, Michael is able to confidently use his bank card and be the master of his own finances. Michael’s parents have nothing but praise for his progress and can’t stress enough how important Mark was in developing their son’s independence.

Our son didn’t interact with people and didn’t want to go out of the house for the first 30 odd years of his life. What Mark and Michael achieved together in such a short time is beyond belief. Michael’s confidence has grown so much. He leaves the house, goes shopping, does the banking, cooks and helps us out at home. He even takes care of his mother at times – It’s absolutely incredible.’
– Peter Austin, Father of Interchange Customer Michael Austin

Michael’s main goal, however, was to overcome his social anxiety and develop new friendships. With Mark’s support, Michael has been able to gradually challenge his fears and start meeting up with other customers and staff at bowling, or other community activities. Michael’s has also recently joined the gym and the local library, the latter of which has ignited two exciting new interests: graphic novels and writing.

I started writing a diary to see all the things I have done and to see my achievements. I really enjoy writing and it gives me a way of expressing myself and the things I feel, think and fear.’
– Michael Austin, Customer Interchange WA

Michael’s next ambition is to make a short film and he has already started talking to Mark about how he can achieve this goal. His idea is to portray certain customers who are nonverbal, so support workers get a better insight into the person. Michael hopes to get other people involved too, so he can meet new people and expand his social network and friendships. This new, confident, creative and social side to Michael is something his parents never thought possible and that is why Mark White deserves his nomination and our recognition and thanks.

Mark and his support have been a true blessing to our family. My wife and I are in our 70’s, we are both in poor health and we were very worried what would happen to Michael if we weren’t around anymore. That all changed when Mark came along. Michael is now independent and will be able to look after himself once we are gone.’
– Peter Austin, Father of Interchange Customer Michael Austin

Find out more about how we can support you as an active member of your community, Contact Us. If you are interested in our services please fill out our Customer Form, send it to hello@interchangewa.org.au and we will be in touch shortly.