23 May 2019

The ACT Down Syndrome Association: a place of empowerment

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The ACT Down Syndrome Association community at last year's at Step Up for Down Syndrome event at Black Mountain Peninsula

The ACT Down Syndrome Association community at last year’s Step Up for Down Syndrome event at Black Mountain Peninsula.

The very modest office space of the ACT Down Syndrome Association comprises a small room in the Pearce Community Centre, where Katie, a young woman with Down Syndrome is patiently putting newsletters into envelopes while sipping a strong cup of coffee.

Shannon Kolak, who is the Association’s Business Manager, talks about the services they provide in Canberra.

“We keep the office small,” she says, smiling at the young woman stuffing envelopes. “That way we make sure that the donations we receive are spent on services to the community.”

“Katie is our office assistant,” she says, introducing me to the young woman putting newsletters into envelopes.

Katie works as an office assistant for three hours a week. The Association designed her role to provide on-the-job training for a person with Down Syndrome who is interested in a career in an office environment.

“We find that while many people with Down Syndrome would love to work in an office, it’s hard to gain meaningful employment without any work experience,” says Shannon.

“We are able to offer Katie training in basic office administration while paying her a full award wage.”

The approach is working, she says, and their former office assistant Peter, now works with a property developer in Canberra.

“Katie would eventually like to work in a bigger office for more hours a week,” says Shannon, “and we’re hoping we can help her with training, so she has some experience on her resume when she is ready.”

Katie’s wage is paid using donations from the community, and without community support, the Association would not be able to employ a person with Down Syndrome.

While the Association has received a grant from the NDIS through Down Syndrome Australia, they rely heavily on corporate sponsorship, from organisations such as Independent, community donations and fundraising events to keep the doors open.

One of those events is promising to be entertaining for parents and kids, a fundraising movie night at 7 pm on 21 June, at Hoyts Cinemas in Woden with a special screening of Disney’s new movie, Aladdin.

Tickets are $20 each, and available by emailing or phoning the ACT Down Syndrome Association office on 02 6290 0656.

Note from the ACT DSA Association

It is thanks to the support and generosity of the ACT community that we can provide support and services to the community free of charge or at a minimal cost.

Your donation to the Association helps us provide educational workshops to schools who enrol a child with Down Syndrome, find meaningful employment for people with Down Syndrome, run community events and a small office.

If you would like to support the ACT Down Syndrome Association, you can make a tax-deductible donation here.

All donations over $2 to the ACT Down Syndrome Association are tax deductible.

Note on the author

The article is written by a member of the Independent group who visited the ACT Down Syndrome Association office.

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