Growing up with cerebral palsy, Tasmanian disability advocate Patrick Eadington often found himself subject to the biases of others. As a young man he experienced loneliness and isolation while living in a nursing home with elderly people and a constantly changing care team.
“Doctors and nurses would talk to my support workers outside the room, instead of speaking to me directly about my own healthcare issues,” Patrick said.
“I’d just completely had enough of living with people with dementia.”
Life improved once Patrick moved from aged care to genU’s Oakdale Lodge in 2021.
“Moving here was a big change from a clinical medical model,” he said. “At the Lodge, it’s more of a holistic model of support and so, when I moved here, it was just like moving back home.”
It is this lived experience that motivated Patrick to become a passionate advocate for others with disability. His work is centred around challenging stereotypes and promoting inclusion to enable them to lead a better life.
Inspiring future Disability Support Workers
For over 15 years, Patrick has worked with thousands of Certificate III Disability Support students through their TAFE education. Patrick’s visits are often a profound and moving experience for the class.
“For most students, Patrick is the first person with a disability who has sat opposite them and said they can ask him anything about his disability,” TasTAFE advanced skills teacher, Scott Eversham said. He believes that Patrick’s contribution is instrumental to the classes 90-95 per cent success rate, with most students transitioning straight to the workforce.
While Patrick’s contributions are significant to the classroom it goes both ways. “I really enjoy going and talking to the students,” Patrick said. “I get a lot more out of it than what the students realise.”
One recent graduate, and genU employee Summer had immigrated from overseas and wanted to start a career that gave back to the community. She enrolled in the Disability Support class where she met Patrick, and his visits soon became her favourite part of her studies.
“I think most people have stereotypes about disability,” Summer said. “They imagine people with disability have very limited capability, but Patrick can do everything. He’s only limited in his physical abilities. He was challenging everyone’s thinking.”
Summer was inspired by Patrick to do her work placement at Oakdale Lodge. “I could tell Patrick was happy living at the Lodge, so I wanted to go there,” Summer said. “I felt so lucky to be offered a job after my work placement. Then I was asked if I was interested in supporting Patrick. I immediately accepted – it was a special opportunity to work with an incredible person. I wanted to be a part of the community when I came to Tasmania, and I feel like I’ve found my community at The Lodge.”
genU disability support worker, Kirstyn has also been supporting Patrick at Oakdale Lodge for the past 4 years. She first met Patrick while she was studying her Certificate III in Individual Support. Kirstyn then went on to study nursing, and although Kirstyn now works part-time as a nurse, she still dedicates time to support Patrick at the Lodge.
“Patrick has taught me everything I know about how to be a disability support worker. He is such a genuine person and is very passionate about advocacy and making a difference. I don’t know where I would be without him honestly. In the last 4 years we’ve done some incredible things,” Kirstyn said.
Patrick now has his sights set on creating a more inclusive future. He is looking forward to continuing to advocate for positive change for more Australians living with disability, and inspiring tomorrow’s disability support workers to deliver care that enables people with disability lead a better life.
FREE Training – Increasing Disability Confidence
genU Training is offering all Australians their Increasing Disability Confidence digital credential absolutely FREE* as part of our International Day of People with Disability celebrations.
Everyone who registers by 11.55pm on Saturday 2 December will be emailed a link to enrol free of charge.
The digital credential can be completed online at your own pace and will be available for 12 months from registration.
*FREE Registrations close 11.55pm on Saturday 2 December.