Changing the lives of people with a disability

Anthea Forbes has dedicated much of her life to support those with a disability.

By Romy Stephens

Anthea Forbes is one of the many volunteers throughout the Yarra Ranges that is being celebrated this National Volunteer Week.

Ms Forbes has dedicated numerous hours throughout her life to support those with a disability.

Years ago, when working full time, Ms Forbes struggled to find support and information that could help her son who has Down syndrome and carers like herself.

She said it was very difficult to find support groups that gathered after work hours.

“When I was working full time and my son was in his 20s there was a total absence of support in the evening,” she said.

“You weren’t seen as being able to go to work if you had a child with a disability.”

So she decided to take action and start up her own support group for families in the outer east.

The support group would see young people with Down syndrome and their family or carers gather once every six weeks at a dinner.

What started out 14 years ago as a just few families gathering has now grown to about 20 or more families at each dinner.

Ms Forbes said it is “non-threatening” environments like the support group that provide vital social interactions and information sharing.

“Socialisation is the main thing for people with a disability or the carers,” she said.

“It’s all about friendship, those groups are for friendship and support.”

Ms Forbes is also the lead carer for Pathways for Carers in Healesville.

The Pathway for Carers project offers carers of people with a disability or mental illness an opportunity to share walks together and learn more about news, services and support available.

“We’ve linked people into services that they would never have known about,” Ms Forbes said.

“We’ve had a few people that have had NDIS acceptance that haven’t had it before.”

With the Covid-19 situation putting some of her volunteer roles on hold, Ms Forbes has used her spare time to help out with the Outer East Chatline – a toll-free line created for people to ring and have a chat while in isolation.

When asked what National Volunteer Week means to her, Ms Forbes said it was a chance for the quiet achievers to get recognition.

“It’s amazing they do get recognised, there are a lot of people that volunteer like myself that no one knows about,” she said.

“There’s so many people that you just don’t know about that are working away in the background.

“You don’t do it for recognition, you do it because you enjoy it and you’re helping.”

National Volunteer Week runs from 18-24 May.

It is an annual celebration that acknowledges the generous contribution of the nation’s volunteers.


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