By Michael Doran
Women with Disabilities Victoria is running a free six-day leadership program for young women with disabilities in Montrose and calling for applications.
Two Yarra Ranges women, Lucy Ryan and Megan Dunne Risley, took part in the program earlier this year.
Ms Ryan, who lives with multiple sclerosis, was unable to continue working and wanted to build her confidence to help with volunteering activities.
“I volunteer for the MS Society and the CFA, which requires me to get out and ask people for money and I felt quite out of my comfort zone in doing that,” she said.
“My friend recommended I do the course and it’s helped me get my confidence back.”
Ms Dunne Risely has struggled with being social, so it was the chance to learn new skills and be part of a social group that motivated her to do the program.
“When I was growing up and talking to new people and starting a conversation, I wouldn’t know what to say,” she said.
“I was shy and cautious of who I mixed with.
“Since finishing the course I have done a total 180.”
Both Ms Ryan and Ms Dunne Risely have emerged from the program with increased confidence, new skills and the energy to want to change the lives of other young women with disabilities.
“The program was very well structured and put together in such a caring way,” Ms Ryan said.
“I’m sharing more on Facebook to advocate for people with disabilities to access services like transport. It’s a big issue.
Ms Dunne Risely wants to get involved in events and sharing ideas about what kind changes needed to provide more opportunities for people with a disability.
“It’s important that we voice our opinions and be more outspoken,” she said.
WDV’s community inclusion and women’s empowerment program manager, Nadia Mattiazzo, said the program was successful because it was tailored to what the participants wanted to achieve.
“We only have 12 in the group because we don’t want it to be too daunting and we want to bring each person along at their own pace,” she said.
“We accept them, we then write the program around them and give them time to take it all in.
“These young women face all the usual barriers in life but living with a disability just adds a whole new layer.
“They often experience isolation and to see them graduate and speak about their growth is a very emotional time.”
The program, supported by the Yarra Ranges and Knox councils and other community organisations, is open to women aged 15 to 25 with a disability who live, study, work or spend time in Knox or the Yarra Ranges.
An information session will be held from 4pm to 5pm on Wednesday 3 October at Montrose Town Centre.
Registration is via Bridget Jolly at WDV on email@example.com or 9286 7813.