Leading Women with Disabilities

Renee McCarthy has always been a generous and giving member of our community. For many years she has volunteered her time and skills to a number of organisations, including Ignite life church, Yarrawonga Mulwala Table Tennis and Yarrawonga Neighbourhood House.

So when Women with Disabilities Victoria recently offered an Enabling Women’s Leadership Program for women with disabilities, Renee jumped at the chance to further increase her skills.

ReneeStarting on Wednesday 24th June, Renee made the trip to Shepparton for five weeks. She was joined by 12 other women from various regions, who like Renee, are committed to making our communities a better place for people with disabilities.

Participants were taken on a journey of self-discovery and personal development, increasing their confidence and commitment to making their communities a better place. They were also given an insight into services available, particularly around advocacy and how they can help people in their own communities.

Each participant was offered a mentor for the program and Renee was fortunate to be able to choose her own. Ricci Mouroukas, Textile Artist and Yarrawonga Neighbourhood House volunteer was honoured to take on this role. Renee, and the other participants, had to design and create a scarf that represented who they were. Renee created a beautiful, wearable piece of art that she is very proud of.

The graduation ceremony acknowledged facilitators Jane, Sharon and volunteer Cindy for their valuable advice and encouragement. And guest speaker, Colleen Furlanetto, Deputy Mayor, Strathbogie Shire Council, gave a poignant insight into coping with late onset disability and the attitude challenges she has faced since becoming a councillor.

Renee loved the program and the connection she made with participants and facilitators was clearly evident at her graduation, Wednesday 29th July. Renee’s 90 year old grandmother Melva McKee, her sister Lynette, Ricci Mouroukas, Debbie Cooper and Heather Kelly attended Renee’s graduation and have certainly noticed Renee’s increased confidence and commitment to the group.

Now that the program has finished Renee would like to become a voice for people with disabilities in our community. She is keeping in regular contact with other graduates to strengthen their friendships, share ideas and support each other.

Debbie Cooper, Yarrawonga Neighbourhood House, stated that our whole community should be proud of Renee’s efforts and support and encourage her. Renee has been invited to attend the Moira Shire Disability Advisory Committee Meetings held every 2 months throughout the shire.