WA Disability Support Awards – Meet Joel’s Team

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Two men standing on each side of a young man in a wheelchair. Two men are smiling, one man sticking out his tongue and smiling.
Image: Support Worker Canmue (left), Joel (middle) and Support Worker Steven (right).

Joel and his parents approached Interchange back in 2008, looking for a disability service provider who could support Joel to live his best life possible, while also giving him the freedom to make his own choices.

They knew our aim was to remove barriers and increase choices for people living with disability, helping people live a good life. Therefore putting the people we support as well as their choices and goals at the centre of everything we do.

Now this might seem obvious or could be considered common practice within our sector but Joel and the experiences he had before joining Interchange proved otherwise. Our organisation has now been a part of Joel’s journey for the past 13 years and it has been extraordinary.

Joel’s first step into an independent adult life was moving out of his family home and into his own unit. Joel and his parents were nervous and so were we. This was a big step for everyone involved and could only work out with the right people supporting the young man and his choices. A suitable home and staff needed to be found, his support team needed to be highly trained and willing to give Joel enough room to exercise choice and control over his own life and making the transition from the family home to his own apartment as easy as possible.

It has been 11 years since Joel moved into his own home, but his journey continues to amaze everyone involved. Especially his parents are very open with the fact, that they do not believe Joel would be where he is now, without the support of the right people behind him – Joel’s Support Team: Steven Mitchell, Thomas Macdonald, Ryan Hawkes, Canmue Kpatar, Constance Ndabambi, Mark Kipchirchir and Kathrin Ploetz. This awesome team are ensuring every single day that Joel gets to live the life he wants. His team are taking on various roles – from nurses to cooks, hairdressers, travel guides, bowlers, eagle fans, music lovers, personal trainers, drivers, bankers, role models, teammates, companions – his Support Workers are always by his side, helping him when needed and stepping back when not.

Having a support team has enabled Joel to live as an independent adult in an environment that focuses on him, his choices, needs, goals and achievements. The team follow Joel’s lead, including him in every decision and respecting his choices.

The team are also currently supporting him to attend a Decision-Making Program through Western Australia’s Individualised Services (WAIS), which will help Joel even more to exercise choice and control and have his decisions heard and respected.

Joel’s confidence, independence and decision making are going from strength to strength and his team encourages him to do as many things on his own as possible.

In the past few years Joel’s speech has significantly digressed and he is now only able to say a few words. The team and Joel had to find other ways of communicating and Joel now uses a communication device specifically designed for him. With the help of this device the team and Joel can communicate with each other, and Joel can clearly express his choices. One of which was to explore employment options and gain confidence in the workplace.

Two years ago, Joel decided he was ready to take the challenge. The team was excited and supported Joel in finding a role that would be suitable and meaningful. Since Joel is a social butterfly and loves meeting new people, a volunteer meet and greet position at Coles seemed to be the right fit. Joel, supported by his team, is now the friendly face greeting customers, with the help of his communication device, in front of Coles every Thursday, which he truly enjoys.

Striving to be active and go out in the community for different activities as often as he can, Joel and the team are well known everywhere they go. His outgoing and cheerful personality has helped him to make many friends. People in the community are genuinely happy seeing Joel out and about and often mention to Joel and the team, what a pleasure it is to see Joel as an active and engaged member of his local community.

Joel and his team always look for new ways to build strong community connections and relationships with people. Together they go out to the Hilton Bowling club on Friday nights, enjoy live music at the local pub, visit concerts or watch the Eagles play.

One of our core values here at Interchange is Empowerment. Our aim is not to run people’s lives, but to help them live the best life they can. And this team has done exactly that – empowering Joel to live a good life, a life of his own, a life he chooses! We are supporting Joel to overcome any barriers, challenges and boundaries.

Thank you, Joel, for allowing Interchange continue to be part of your journey, we can’t wait to see what you’re going to achieve next!

by Nicki Dyson – People and Culture Executive Manager Interchange


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.