Merry Xmas

Just about everyone hates 2020. It’s just been a crap year for most of us. The ruddy virus has played havoc all over the world. Deaths, lockdowns, panic and fear have been at the forefront of all of our lives. I have sometimes hated 2020 too. It separated me from my family for six months for a start. But it’s not all been bad. in fact 2020, in many ways, was the resurrection of Gary.

If I look back, 2019 was my Annus Horriblis. It was a year that I went into a deep depression. It was a reactive depression to things happening at work. I was bullied and I was gaslighted. I was treated with awful disrespect. It took me many sessions with my psychologist to accept this and to stop blaming myself. It wasn’t just me  who suffered, it was also many of my workmates. As their senior I sought to protect them as much as possible. In the end it became too much and I broke down.

A toxic workplace is the worst place to be. When your manager abuses you its awful. When you sit in meetings listening to your leadership team put down the people they are supposed to be leading it is demoralising. Hearing a fellow leader screaming about a work colleague being a liar and unprofessional is not a nice place to be. She screamed, “I dont care if she hates me, she is a liar, she is unprofessional, I just dont care what she thinks of me.” Hearing your manager call. people weak, lazy, childish, incompetent and so on on a daily bases is demoralising. Hearing a leadership team member telling you that a struggling colleague, ” …brought it on themselves.” and having colleagues coming to you in tears because of abusive phone calls from the manager is no way to work.

Last week a former colleague was chatting to me on Messenger. She had been on the phone to one of the workers that had copped it in this toxic workplace. The worker told my former colleague that if I had not been there protecting them and supporting them that they would not be of this world today. That is how bad it was. It was a sobering reminder of that awful time and just how terribly toxic the workplace was. No one should have to work in that sort of environment.

At the end of 2019 I got a new job. It took me back to a role that I know well. Advocacy, education, employment and creating positive change. It is a role that I strive in.It was helped by having wonderfully supportive colleagues who always had my back. It is helped by having colleagues who respect your knowledge and seek your advice and expertise. It is helped by kindness and having a workplace that puts people first and supports them to the hilt. I am thankful for them because they helped me heal and rediscover myself.

What a year it was. The virus hit and suddenly everything went online. Meetings by Zoom. Meetings by Teams. Suddenly people with disabilities were at the forefront as we all frantically scrambled to ensure that online learning platforms were accessible for them as much as possible. I was very proud to be part of a group of colleagues that set up a series of meetings with disability practitioners around Australia, and even New Zealand. In these meetings we discussed challenges and needs in regard to disability access. We supported each other and exchanged information. We promoted and practiced mindfulness so that all of us could cope with the numerous stresses and changes that had hit us all. I was particularly proud to have sent the initial email that started the initiative …. then all my colleagues came on board and together we coordinated a response. I have to say it was one of the most rewarding moments of my long career.

It’s been a busy year. I worked with colleagues from the University of Tasmania and Griffith University to put on a webinar about setting up accessible online learning for Deaf and hard of hearing students. From this we developed a Guide that captured these learnings so that they are not lost. This is now in the process of being distributed all over Australia.

I worked with colleagues from all over Australia to develop a survey and response to the DDA Education Standards Review. We also developed an online survey to identify issues and successes of online learning. This was targeted at students with a disability to ensure that they are heard. We were thrilled that nearly 700 students responded to that survey from all over Australia. We are now in the process of analysing the responses and developing a report to capture the learnings so that these learnings are not lost and everyone can benefit from them.

I presented at the Pathways conference at the end this year. I was part of a brilliant team that presented on issues around supporting people with a disability from Multicultural and refugee backgrounds in tertiary education. I have been working with colleagues and the NDIA to promote better use of NDIA plans to assist people wth a disability succeed in  tertiary education and employment. It has been a huge year.

In all of this we all adapted too going online. Zoom meetings, as hearing colleagues know, are exhausting. When you have five or six back to back you are just about ready to drop. Being deaf and having to take part in these online meetings, often with ten or more people from all over Australia, is no easy feat. It was all possible because my colleagues were supporting and adaptable. It was all about respect and working together. They restored my faith in myself and humans. They helped to heal me. I cannot thank them enough.

One of the downsides of 2020 was being separated from family and friends because of lockdowns and border closures. But you know what? It just makes you appreciate them all the more. It reminds you of the important things in life. Family, love, respect, kindness and friendship. If you have that, you do not need a lot else. I am reunited with family now and I have been able to catch up with many dear friends. Despite the hardships of the lockdowns and border closures it has only made me appreciate these things all the more.

2020 will not be a year we will not forget in a hurry. It has been the remaking of me. To my family, friends and colleagues allover Australia who helped me rediscover myself, I say thank you – You saved me!

Much love to you all and Merry Xmas!!





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