News for ‘OAK Community Services’
Like many 19 year olds, Emma Newell wasn’t sure of which vocation to choose as she considered her future employment options. But after a few months of training, Emma has secured employment with a well-known social enterprise in Glenorchy – and loves every minute of it!
OAK Youth Pathways Manager Deb Peers said Emma joined the pathways program in January this year and had been attending the structured program four days a week.
“Emma was keen to learn new skills and we were able to teach her a range of skills that she could immediately apply in the work place,” Deb said.
“Emma learnt the importance of occupational, health and safety practices; how to stay on task; and how to work together in a team. We help our clients move forward as individuals and equip them to be able to do different job skill sets. They achieve so much and grow personally – especially in self confidence.”
After only 3 months of training, Emma was offered employment at TADPAC Printing and is now working 3 days a week, while continuing to attend OAK Youth Pathways for two days a week.
“It’s fun, I like doing the mail,” Emma said.
“At OAK I cleaned some buses and on Wednesday’s I came here to do some work experience and that landed me a job here. It’s really great to land a job here because I’ve got great friends, I get out of the house and I get great pay!”
While OAK Tasmania has spent many years providing for people living with a disability during their working years, it is now also giving those in retirement a focus with the establishment of a ‘Men’s Shed’.
Offering male clients of all ages the opportunity to make and maintain friendships, as well as an alternative to work or training, the men’s shed will work as a transition to retirement program for many of OAK’s ageing clients.
The program will give clients the chance to develop new skills in areas such as furniture & woodwork, lawn mower repair and basic home maintenance. They will also learn to restore old bicycles which will be donated to local schools.
While Men’s Sheds are not a new community concept, there are very few in the Tasmanian Disability sector. OAK Community Services Manager Jo Sheedy said OAK’s Men’s Shed may be the only one of its kind in Hobart and would provide a sense of direction and meaning in the lives of many members of the State’s ageing disability sector.
“Program participants enjoy the opportunity to make new friends and the camaraderie that comes from working together as a team on various projects,” she said.
“As a result, participants gain a sense of worth and feel valued as members of the community.”
The Men’s Shed program is funded entirely by OAK Tasmania and has recently been the recipient of a grant from the 9th round of the RACT Community Fund.
Together with RACT Insurance (who have previously supported OAK Tasmania), RACT established the RACT Community Fund in 2008 to provide a program of community investment through small assistance grants across Tasmania.
The RACT grant will be used to purchase much needed tools for the Men’s Shed. Thank you RACT!
Support workers from a range of Hobart disability services were asked to think outside the square this week when they attended a workshop hosted by OAK Tasmania and run by Sydney sex worker, Rachel Wotton.
A founding member of Touching Base, a non-profit organisation which links people with a disability and their support base to the sex industry, Rachel encourages a holistic approach to disability care including recognition of everyone’s human right to intimacy and sex.
“Everyone has the right to sexual expression and that includes people with a disability,” Rachel said.
Rachel’s journey and work with clients with a disability and their families, was highlighted in the documentary Scarlet Road, screened recently on SBS television and at the State Cinema in North Hobart (and now available on DVD).
A sex worker for more than 18 years, Rachel has worked with many clients living with disability. For some of these clients seeking a sex worker may be their only means of gaining intimacy, touch or learning about their own sexuality.
“I look at my clients holistically …and what their needs are and if I can meet those needs, rather than that the person has cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy or an acquired brain injury,” Rachel said.
While sexuality and disability was a controversial issue for many, Rachel said most people’s nervousness was based on fear and not viewing people with disabilities as adults.
“It’s about treating people as adults with their own ability to consent and communicate what they want for their lives,” she said.
Consent was also an issue that many people found concerning, when it came to disability and sex. However Rachel said no sex worker would do anything without the consent of their client. And consent for people with a disability could be shown in many different ways from words or a raised hand, to a blink of an eye.
“I teach everyone that the person who knows best about their bodies is that person (the client) and if you are not sure, ask them,” Rachel said.
“There are thousands of ways to communicate. “
Rachel said another common concern was that clients with a disability would fall in love with a sex worker. However, she said specific practices were put in place to encourage only a professional relationship.
“You build up professional relationships but that is no different to the doctor you‘ve had for 40 years or going to the same cafe where everyone knows you.”
Touching Base provides two types of training. One is aimed at giving sex workers the confidence and knowledge to best meet the needs of their clients (and covers issues as diverse as making a non-weight bearing client comfortable to how to communicate with someone who is not verbal). The second type is aimed at support workers and giving them a better understanding of how to access the sex industry for their clients and what barriers might exist.
Rachel also gives presentations at conferences and has a passion for supporting her client’s parents and carers.
“I think a lot of the presentations I do at the moment are giving people the permission to speak about it (sexuality and disability) and address it and see that it’s not that scary,” she said.
“I think some parents are told some really negative things …then the adult in question loses out.”
OAK Tasmania’s Pathways Manager Teena Tranter said it was fantastic to be able to bring Rachel to Hobart for the two-day workshop.
With 25 years experience in the disability industry, Teena said she loved the way Rachel and Touching Base addressed the “elephant in the room” and challenged a common held belief that people living with disability were not sexual people.
“What I wanted to do was to bring that into the workplace and challenge people’s values and attitudes and have them re-evaluate their own perspectives on things,” Teena said.
“This is a human rights issue, nothing more and nothing less.”
An exhibition celebrating disability arts and community creativity will be launched on Friday the 17th August at the Carnegie Gallery in Hobart.
Entitled Signal Box: Urban Canvas, the exhibition is the culmination of the Hobart City Council’s Signal Box public art project, and features the designs and work of community groups, schools and artists who painted 40 of Hobart’s traffic signal boxes over a two year period.
A group of clients from OAK Community Services painted the first of the 40 traffic signal boxes in 2010. The traffic signal box is located on the corner of Morrison and Murray Streets on Hobart’s waterfront.
The artwork on the traffic signal box reflects an important event or events in the lives of the artists, and is also linked to a poem about Hobart written in 1910 by Elizabeth Hutchinson Scott. Each painted panel is linked to the next panel, offering a 360 degree storytelling and artistic experience.
Oak Tasmania CEO Mr John Paton said the initiative demonstrated the breadth of talent that can be found in the disability arts sector.
“The images depicted in the artwork are well known to Tasmanians and visitors to the State, but interwoven in each panel are sub-texts that aren’t at first recognisable.
“It will take two or three viewings of each panel before all of the stories unfold before your eyes.”
Mr Paton said partnering with national community organisation Reclink had enabled thirteen of Oak Tasmania’s clients to work one-on-one with artist Aedan Howlett in order to finalise their design before it was transferred to the traffic signal box.
“Mr Howlett used his considerable talent to work with our clients and develop the final artwork to their specifications, which wouldn’t have been possible without Reclink’s financial support.
“Our clients are extremely proud that their designs are painted on a very prominent traffic signal box for the whole community to enjoy,” he said.
Signal Box is a cultural initiative of the City of Hobart as part of its Public Art Program, managed by Urban Smart Projects.
The Exhibition can be viewed at the Carnegie Gallery in Hobart which is open to the public between 10am and 5pm daily until Monday 20 August.
OAK Tasmania’s Photography Program has received a generous boost, thanks to a $5,000 donation by Hobart legal firm Simmons Wolfhagen.
An innovative program of photography tuition introduced by OAK five years ago, the Photography Program is a favourite among clients and offers both beginner and advanced classes in camera and composure skills. All participants have gathered an impressive portfolio of work which has resulted in several successful exhibitions since 2007.
As OAK Tasmania’s lawyers, Simmons Wolfhagen already provide ‘in kind’ services and advice to the company, and is a recipient of the prestigious Heart of OAK Award.
OAK Tasmania CEO John Paton said the firm’s donation to the Photography Program further demonstrated its community focus and strong values.
“The firm’s values and Social Responsibility Charter align closely with those of OAK Tasmania,” Mr Paton said.
“Simmons Wolfhagen is indeed a progressive, modern organisation that places the needs of its clients at the very heart of what they do…as we have always done at OAK Tasmania.
“It has extended its community focus by making a financial contribution to OAK in support of our Photography Program, of which we are extremely grateful.”
Part of the donation has been used to purchase six new digital cameras which were presented to OAK’s Photography Program participants at a morning tea hosted by Simmons Wolfhagen.
Simmons Wolfhagen Partner Mr David Morris said supporting OAK was a good way of taking social responsibility, as well as being involved with a great organisation.
“It’s something everyone is excited about and we are looking forward to seeing how it unfolds and the rewards that come from having this type of relationship with OAK,” Mr Morris said.
OAK Technology and Learning is taking its training to the Huon Valley, to give more people the chance to become qualified in digital media and technology.
Funded by Skills Tasmania and run in conjunction with Huon Linc and the Information Network Centre, the training is aimed at a wide range of people including students, those living with a disability, the unemployed, people re-entering the workforce or those just wanting to build on their technology skills.
Both courses are being held at the at the Huon Linc at Huonville and the Wayraparattee Child and Family Centre at Geeveston and offer participants the opportunity to gain qualifications in Certificate I in Information, Digital Media and Technology and selected units from Certificate II in Information, Digital Media and Technology.
OAK Technology and Learning Manager Graeme Finlayson said the courses were set up in the Huon Valley to help address some of the barriers to rural education, such as distance and transport issues.
While the courses were mainly aimed at improving people’s employment prospects and technology skills, Graeme said the training was also a great source of self confidence and social networking for participants.
“There’s a fair few people who either know each other in both areas (Huonville and Geeveston) or are making new links and friendships which is just great,” he said.
The two certificates include training in areas such as operating a personal computer, word processing applications, using web browsers and email, maintaining technology equipment, capturing a digital image, designing documents and using computer packages.
While the Huon Valley technology training was a first for OAK Technology & Learning, Graeme said he would like to see a continuation of the cooperation between OAK Tasmania and LINC Tasmania in the future, to bring more technology training to regional areas of the State.
For 16-year old Sarah Moss, a week working with OAK Tasmania gave her the chance to be a part of something special.
“It’s very much an eye opener to how different people live and how happy everyone can be,” she said.
A year 11 student at Camberwell Girls Grammar School, in Melbourne, Sarah volunteered with OAK Community Services in the first week of April, as part of her Duke of Edinburgh Scheme Award’s away from home service requirement.
Sarah has been working her way through the different levels of the Award for nearly two years and has enjoyed a variety of community service experiences, including teaching English to Sudanese children. She also volunteers weekly teaching dancing to children and young adults with Down Syndrome and at a Salvation Army soup kitchen.
Sarah said working through the Award had encouraged her to step outside her own comfort zone and try new things. She said her week at OAK, which included teaching basic computer skills, farm work and even playing mini-golf, had broadened her horizons even further.
“The highlight for me has been getting to know everyone and the feel of the place,” she said.
“I love the team work between everyone and just how happy everyone is,” she said.
Sarah said she was also taken with the way OAK provided equality for everyone who worked there, something she felt very passionate about.
“Everyone is treated equally no matter where you are in the rankings,” she said.
Like most young people, Sarah is still deciding what future pathway her career will take. However her time with OAK, and her other volunteer work, has reinforced her desire to be of service to those who need help.
“I have no clue where I want to go but definitely helping people in some way would be very interesting,” she said.
“I’m interested in just giving everyone in life a fair opportunity and fair chance.”
OAK Tasmania clients will now have access to a greater variety of craft skills, thanks to the introduction of an eight week jewellery making class, through OAK Community Services.
Held every Monday at OAK Community Services new Derwent Park premises, the classes are run by Senior Administration Officer (Corporate Services) Trish Massie. A hidden gem, Trish has worked for OAK for more than 20 years while pursuing her talent and love for jewellery making at home. Trish said she was thrilled to be given the chance to combine the two roles.
“Being able to share my love of creating jewellery was an opportunity I couldn’t have knocked back,” she said.
“I’m really happy to be a part of it and as I know many of the clients already, it’s been really easy to jump into this role.”
With six years experience making, showcasing and selling her own creations, (as well as repairing and up-cycling old jewellery), Trish will help clients make pieces including necklaces, earrings, bracelets, brooches and sun catchers, during the two-hour sessions. The jewellery making tuition is part of over 60 recreational programs on offer at OAK Community Services, including various arts and craft programs, sailing, bowling, all day outings and other fitness and sport programs. The activities attract 74 clients and tuition is provided by 22 staff.
OAK Community Services divisional manager Moira McPherson said it was great to see the program expand and to have Trish on board as a tutor.
“We have a number of clients who enjoy craft,” Moira said.
“It is a great opportunity to have Trish as a tutor for this program and provide something different that has not been offered before.”
Moira said it was important that OAK continued to offer new and attractive programs to its existing and future clients. This included a goal of having 75 per cent of the classes on offer, operating in existing community classes or by tutors outside of OAK.
“This will improve the quality of the programs and assist in personal development for staff,” Moira said.
“We have to ensure that we are staying current and have some dynamic programs on offer.”
OAK Youth Pathways Program participants have had the opportunity to take part in a new and unique project, with links to Antarctica.
They have been helping clean and sterilise walking boots from Antarctic expeditions to help keep the frozen continent pristine.
The job also earns a small amount of much needed income, which is then put back into the program to benefit its participants (The OAK Youth Pathways Program attracts no Government funding and is fully supported by OAK Tasmania.)
Open to 18 to 25 year olds, OAK Youth Pathways helps young adults living with disability to develop their life, employment and work skills. Many of the program’s participants are potentially disengaged from the local community and in need of further training in life and work capabilities.
OAK Youth Pathways Manager Graeme Finlayson said the new job was proving beneficial in many ways to its participants including teaching them to work as a team, to uphold a work routine and the concept of work equalling dollars that could be used for something beneficial to them. He said the work would also provide a great link to other projects such as learning about hygiene and Antarctica.
An exhibition of more than 30 superb Tasmanian maritime-themed photographs was launched today at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens Exhibition space in Hobart.
The ‘Boats and Beaches’ Photographic Exhibition is the culmination of a year’s work by five photography students at OAK Community Services. OAK Community Services developed its photography program in 2008 when staff started teaching clients the basics of photography and equipping them with the skills to use digital cameras.
The Photography Program grew to include both a basic skills class and a class for those students who had developed more advanced photographic skills. This year’s exhibition captures Tasmania’s natural coastlines and beaches, and the vessels that ply the State’s waterways.
OAK Tasmania CEO, Mr John Paton said the Photography Program has produced many personal achievements and outcomes for the students involved.
“Our clients have increased their skills base and levels of confidence; discovered new creative freedoms in photography, and are socialising and integrating more with their community.
“OAK Tasmania’s Photography Program demonstrates how our clients can fulfil their potential and genuinely contribute to the community through their art.”
The exhibition can be viewed at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens Exhibition Space between 3 February and 26 February 2012. The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens is open 7 days a week between 9.00am – 5.00pm and has been a generous supporter of OAK Tasmania’s annual Photography Exhibition since 2009.