Community Development Consultation

I have a diverse portfolio reflecting my wide range of life experiences. I have personally experienced many challenges such as homelessness, disability, and trauma. I draw on my experiences of adversity, loneliness, community, and the complexity of human relationships to support projects that connect people. 

I am known for my community and cultural development work. I love to partner with government agencies, NGOs, and volunteer organisations to help them create better relationships with their service users, and to engage the community with innovative and authentic approaches. I have also been interviewed about my personal experiences by organisations such as Muse Magazine, The Messenger, Radio Adelaide, and SANE Australia.

In my travels I have met with then Prime Minister Julia Gillard to discuss service user experiences; presented internationally (including for Google and Hearing Voices International Conference); co-designed, facilitated, and illustrated a state-wide consultation process for the SA Mental Health Commission; worked with a team to create the short film Regeneration (awarded Best Drama Under 10 Minutes in the Picture This Film Festival); written over 1000 blog posts since 2011; hosted solo exhibitions; and donated thousands of unpaid hours to developing and facilitating social networks and support groups face to face and online. I’m the founder of several networks supporting vulnerable communities locally and internationally, and have expertise in using free or low cost online and social media resources to support people to access peers and self help resources.

I offer consulting services related to my fields of expertise, and I’m always excited to hear about my next big adventure.

My skills include:

  • Community Consultation
  • Training
  • Project management
  • Group Facilitation (working group, social, or support)
  • Volunteer management
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Social media, website, and blogging
  • Visual arts, writing, and poetry
  • Service design and delivery

Certificates and Qualifications:

Contact me for a quote for your project or idea.

Snapshot:

Blue skies snip

In 2012 I was contracted to support peer based mental health NGO ACEDA during a period of funding, staff, and board crisis. Several staff had left or been asked to leave and as a result, the organisation was in breach of its funding requirements in service provision. I was asked to step into the Eating Disorder peer worker role, and to provide support to the remaining staff who were under considerable stress. I started my first shift within 12 hours of being contacted and walked in to find hundreds of emails and phone calls requesting support that had been waiting weeks for reply, chaotic resources with key documents missing, and no guides or manuals.

I responded to all contacts with email, phone, or face to face support, and in doing so, conducted an informal consultation with stakeholders about what resources had previously been running, their format and value, and what was currently most needed apart from one to one support.

A key question I asked clients was whether people had ever met anyone who had recovered from an eating disorder. Almost no one contacting ACEDA for support answered yes. This was a crucial need. Based on this feedback I developed and implemented the following resources within a few weeks:

Support group

The groups that had been running before I stepped in were divided according to diagnosis and had poor attendance. I amalgamated them into one group, removed the issue of diagnosis, changed the language to experiential rather than clinical (‘food issues’ rather than ‘anorexia’) and encouraged people to self refer and self regulate their involvement with a strong focus on peer based support. This approach was informed by the recovery model and hearing voices network group models, highly successful peer based groups with excellent outcomes for attendees.

I created a friendly flyer, and recruited a highly skilled counsellor Ellie who had lived experience of a different kind to my own, to co-facilitate the group. This promoted a diversity of experiences and recovery styles. Ellie and I met to debrief and reflect following each group, and I sent out weekly email summarising the discussion and with links to any resources for specific needs to everyone who had expressed interest in the group as a safe introduction to promote attendance. The group was well attended with between 7 and 15 members who endorsed it as highly valuable.

Library

The existing library was largely outdated. I gathered an informal advisory council of people who were in recovery and created a small library of current and useful books based on their recommendations.

Professional Referral Database

A staff member diligently gathered referrals from each team into a central database. I personally contacted every eating disorder related professional and updated or removed obsolete entries.

I also expanded the database considerably by asking most clients if they had any existing professional supports to recommend. If they endorsed someone, I contacted that person directly and invited them to be on our database which covered obvious ED supports such as counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers, but also key tangential ones such as general practitioners, dentists, and dietitians.

It rapidly emerged in my direct client contact that our database and resources needed to be more comprehensive than just ‘eating disorders’ as people were exhibiting eating disordered behaviours for a wide range of reasons, often as a result of other primary challenges. At times the most appropriate referral was not ED specific but support for domestic violence, children caring for mentally ill parents, grief, or childhood sexual abuse. Trauma in particular emerged as a key need.

In response to this, I expanded our database to include support for trauma by professionals who were also comfortable working with people with eating disorders.

Conclusion

ACEDA was sadly unsuccessful in the next round of funding applications. It was a distressing and tumultuous time for all involved, and I was proud to step in at short notice and be a safe, competent member of the team, delivering an excellent service with minimal guidance, and support closing the organisation responsibly.

I closed the group, created handouts of key information such as the professional referral databases and sent them to all recent clients, forwarded new enquiries to interstate eating disorder organisations and then to the organisation who was the funding recipient, and supported all clients through the handover. In three months an abandoned department was overhauled and efficient, cost effective, resources were created using a co-design approach with existing and new stakeholders.