Last year, House with No Steps rebranded to become Aruma. As one of Australia’s leading service providers, Aruma supports people with a disability to lead the life they want.
When I arrive at Aruma’s Queensland head office in Burleigh, I’m introduced to Elyce. For the last two and a half years Elyce has been part of Aruma’s Work Education Program. She is also the busiest person on the Gold Coast.
When 24-year-old Elyce starts to list out her jobs, I suddenly feel incredibly lazy from my lack of activity and can’t imagine how she finds the time.
“Here at the Aruma Hub, I take on community-based activities and learn life skills. My friends and I earn our own money by doing things like making barista coffees, selling chips and chocolate and working the Bunnings BBQ. At Christmas, we even sell Lions Christmas Cakes.” Elyce also manages the catering for internal and external company meetings. All made by Elyce and the other members of the Work Education Program, on-site at the Hub.
“I really enjoy the social and work opportunities I get here. I love that every day is different. Sometimes I do feel like an admin assistant – I help with a lot and do everything! I can upskill myself and have lots of different opportunities like public speaking that I never would have had without Aruma.” Elyce was recently invited to speak at Aruma’s Human Rights Conference, where she spoke about how communication is an essential human right.
Elyce is also an active community volunteer. “I work at the Lifeline clothes sales, the giant book sale at Convention Centre, Gold Coast Film Festival, Colour Run and Science Fair,” to name a few. Looking after registration, making up packs, working on the information desk and welcoming people are some of the jobs Elyce takes on.
But not all the volunteering has been great. She faced, what she describes as “typical behaviour”, at a recent event she was volunteering at. “These girls were quite mean and said to me ‘oh you can’t do this, just go away and we’ll do it’. I just stayed out of their way and found my own jobs to do. It wasn’t very nice but it happens all the time. When people see that you have a disability, they can immediately exclude you,” Elyce tells me.
Elyce also has a paid job, working at Movie World as a Retail Sales Assistant. “My colleagues aware of my disability, don’t they treat me any differently and I really love working there.”
One of the ways Aruma supports its customers in the Work Education Program is by reaching out to the local business community to set up work experience opportunities. Elyce did a six-week work placement there which was so successful she was offered a permanent job and has been doing it for nearly two years.
But it’s not all work for Elyce, she also studies. “I have my Cert I in Work Education and also Certificates I – IV in Business. I actually wish I’d just gone and done a Diploma of Business straight away but people said to me I wouldn’t be capable, so I just did the certificates instead. But I found them so easy!” Elyce laughs.
And then, in her ‘spare’ time, Elyce makes passion fruit curd. “Every year I get buckets of fruit from my vines, so just make it up into curd and sell it.”
When Elyce was just ten, after weeks of serious illness, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. “I was at the top of my class but that all changed after I got sick. I had to have surgery and suffered brain trauma which meant I went into a coma.”
Elyce spent eight months in hospital for treatment and rehabilitation for her brain injury, including intense physiotherapy. “I couldn’t move. I had to learn to walk, talk and even swallow. I even needed someone to help me learn how to socialise again. I couldn’t do anything. Mum knew it was a good idea to get me home and back into my normal life as soon as possible.”
Life was very different for Elyce after that. “I didn’t feel like anyone special. The kids at school didn’t understand me anymore.”
After finishing high school, Elyce was part of a Learning and Leisure day program with another provider. “I didn’t really need to be shown how to catch a bus or go to the shops. I was smart enough! The program wasn’t tailored to my needs and was boring. So, I quit and found Aruma instead. Unlike other boring day programs, Aruma provides unique and fun experiences that you won’t find anywhere else. And it has changed my life for the better.”
Aruma (previously known as House with No Steps) has been around since 1962 and provides a range of support services to people with a disability including supported accommodation, social and recreational supports, work education, supported employment, children’s services, clinical services and support coordination. Aruma operates right across the eastern seaboard of Australia and supports over 1,400 customers just in Queensland and the Northern Rivers region alone.
“We support customers so they can live the life they want and choose. Seeing people achieve their own goals and being valued in their own communities is a great reward for all of us here at Aruma,” John Jensen the Queensland General Manager explains.
“We have a philosophy called Active Support. We never do things for our customers, but provide the support they need so they can to do it themselves.”
With the new era of the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme), customers can advocate for themselves and decide how their individualised funding can help them achieve their goals. Support is no longer dictated by policy or a cookie-cutter approach. “The NDIS provides people with a disability more choice and freedom. Customers can now even choose who they want to work with. Being able to explore their own abilities is leading to meaningful employment, independent living, learning, relationships, travel and even being able to communicate through new and developing technology – all of which is now possible through the NDIS funding.”
If you would like to learn more about Aruma’s, visit aruma.com.au or give them a call on 1300 538 746.