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Young people with disability and support workers share their working relationship in new photo research


Sharlene King
13 February 2017

The dynamics of the relationship between young people with disability and their support worker is revealed in a new book launched in Lismore and Sydney by Southern Cross University’s Centre for Children and Young People.

‘Relationships and Recognition: Photos about working together’ is a collection of photos taken by 45 pairs of young people and support workers who have shared their stories, from across six sites around Australia, including Northern NSW, Sydney, and regional Victoria. The book is being launched in Sydney today (February 13) at Northcott's Parramatta office.

Locally, young people with disability and their support workers at RED Inc. in Lismore (where the book was launched on Friday February 10) and the Casino Neighbourhood Centre are featured.

The Relationships and Recognition Research Project is a collaborative research study exploring what helps young people with cognitive disability and their paid support workers in their work together.

The researchers wanted to know:

• When do they feel that they care for, respect and value each other?
• What happens when they don’t feel these things?

Young people were invited into the project along with their chosen support workers. They talked to researchers in interviews and then over several weeks took photos of the places they go and the things that matter to them.

Peter Dickson and his support worker Kaz Southon were involved in the project.

“Being on the project made me feel good: to take the photos of the signing choir, of my mum and Kaz’s granddaughters, and the movies with Amy and Amelia,” Peter said.

“I want to do it again! I’m glad to have had this opportunity.”

Kaz Southon said she gained a lot from the project.

“Being involved in this project I realised what a great community Pete has around him - I saw all these people who are really in Pete’s corner. I could see that yes they make Pete happy but I also saw how happy Pete makes them, too! This project was a really happy thing to do!”

Dr Sally Robinson from the Centre for Children and Young People was the lead investigator.

“Through talking with people and then seeing the photos they decided to take, we learned a lot about what matters to both young people and to workers,” Dr Robinson said.

“The importance of respect in relationships is clear, and the good humour and sense of companionship between many of the pairs comes through strongly in their photos.

“The book was developed so that the people in the project could see what mattered to people in other parts of the country who were also involved, and also to form a lasting token of thanks for their involvement.”

‘Relationships and Recognition: Photos about working together’ book is part of a larger project Young people with cognitive disability: relationships and paid support funded through the Australian Research Council Linkage Projects funding scheme. It will continue until 2018.

Partners in the project are the Southern Cross University Centre for Children and Young People, UNSW Social Policy Research Centre, University of Dundee, NSW Family and Community Services, Northcott, and National Disability Services.

Photo: Dr Sally Robinson at RED Inc. Lismore launching 'Relationships and Recognition: Photos about working together'.