New state of the art centre for people with disabilities opens in Sydney

New state of the art centre for people with disabilities opens in Sydney

Wesley Mission has officially opened a new $250,000 state of the art centre for people with disabilities at Ashfield, in Sydney’s inner-west.

The Wesley LifeSkills centre has been purpose built in consultation with clients and carers and has been funded by the Rotary Club of Sydney

“This centre is about the future: a place where young people can make the most of their lives and achieve their goals, regardless of ability, disability or lack of resources,” said the CEO of Wesley Mission the Rev. Dr Keith Garner.

“This is a place which will empower and inspire young people as they grow in trust and confidence. It will enrich relationships with family and friends while its location enables community engagement and presence. There are exciting and rewarding times ahead for all of us.”

Dr Garner was joined at the dedication by New South Wales Minister for Disability Services, the Hon Andrew Constance, State Member for Strathfield, Charles Casuscelli, and the immediate past President of Sydney Rotary, Ned Boyce.

“For many years Wesley LifeSkills had been operating out of an old hall in Bland Street which had become outdated,” Dr Garner said.

“Although young people enjoyed the program, the location was far from ideal.”

The centre also had its security problems and clients had to be continually monitored. Both staff and clients needed a safe environment which fostered independence, trust and confidence.

Long-term legacy

“Wesley Mission had long felt the need to find a more appropriate environment for the Ashfield program but finding the right site with a like-minded owner was proving very difficult,” Dr Garner said.

“We needed the ability to totally transform a space and secure long-term tenancy.

“When Wesley Mission set out to refurbish this centre it did so in consultation with LifeSkills clients. We wanted to know what the young people wanted and then designed the building accordingly. It seemed only natural and appropriate.”

As Wesley Mission consulted with approach is that the centre’s 17 clients have a strong sense of ownership of the building.

“This refurbished centre is a wonderful blend of form and function,” Dr Garner said.

The centre contains a computer lab which uses a range of current augmentative and assistive technologies, a fully landscaped sensory garden and courtyard, sensory aids on rails and floors that support movement and independence, and a specially designed sensory room.

The $17,000 sensory room gives clients a dynamic, all-round sensory experience enabling them to learn and have fun while taking control of their environment. Only a handful of centres in Australia have a sensory room for people with disabilities.

It allows people to interact in a non-directive way — it’s a place where they can be themselves and have some fun.

The sensory room is stimulating and calming. It provides a “failure-free” experience, allowing pleasurable stimulation without the need for verbal abilities or requiring specific outcomes. The focus is to help the user of the room to gain maximum pleasure from the sensory activity they and their carer are involved in.

In the short time the sensory room has been operating, LifeSkills staff have noticed improved moods, fewer unsettling behaviours, decreased anxiety and fear, better communication and enhanced interactions among those using it.

Special services

“What is also exciting about this centre is that it incorporates the latest in technology with some very special services such as cooking, dance therapy, music therapy, aroma therapy and even a personal trainer for boxing and relaxation,” Dr Garner said.

“It’s also great for parents and carers too – it gives them a day’s break from the role of caring, some time out to re-energise, to refocus, think and reflect, or do those small jobs that they would normally find difficult to do when caring.

“Today is the start of a new journey: a better future for those who use this centre and for those who care for them. It is also symbolic of the partnership between Wesley Mission and community services organisations like Rotary, the NSW Government and the people of Ashfield. We look forward to growing this partnership and to building and strengthening these relationships.”

Dr Garner thanked Ned Boyce, the immediate past president of the Rotary Club of Sydney, and William Chiu whose generosity and support have been invaluable.

The New South Wales Minister for Disability Services, Andrew Constance, said the face of disability services was changing. The sector was becoming better resourced but this needed to be accompanied by enhanced service delivery. People needed more choice and control over their services.

“It can only be achieved by the contribution of carers and by community groups like Wesley Mission and Rotary,” he said.

The Ashfield Wesley LifeSkills centre is one of five Wesley centres in Sydney providing care and support to people with disabilities and their carers.

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