The annual TAFE Disability and Lifestyle Expo is getting more popular each year. Held recently at Mooloolaba TAFE on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, the expo has been an important event for 18 years and a key date on the local calendar. This year over 800 people attended, including stall holders, service providers, students and parents. “Service providers and schools look forward to the expo as a networking opportunity,” educator, Paula Ingles told F2L.  “There were 55 stall holders participating and the theme this year was: ‘Today, Tomorrow and Beyond’.

“The expo is all about bringing people together and presenting them with as many choices as possible. The stalls have something to offer everyone from lifestyle, law, health and sport through to education, training and employment.  Our mission is to give whoever attends the opportunity to find information that is relevant to them,” she said. Ingles is not aware of any other TAFE colleges organising an event like this in Queensland. She believes service providers face many challenges namely being competitive, offering good choices and having enough funding to support those who need it.

A seminar program was held in the morning with guest speakers including University of Limerick occupational therapy lecturer, Dr Rosie McGowan and Paralympian Bridie Kean. McGowan told the audience that to have a sense of self, and a positive purpose was necessary but this could not be achieved alone. “We need support around us, and no individual can exist in isolation. There is also a need for radical review and reform in our thinking, dispelling the medical or social model mind-set by moving towards a universal model, which encapsulates equality, human rights and sustainable development as a community,” she said.

Bridie Kean is project manager for the Suncoast Spinners that supports the inclusion of all people, with and without disabilities, to play wheelchair basketball. The organisation recently received a grant from the National Disability Insurance Agency to deliver reverse inclusion workshops in schools, universities and community groups on the Sunshine Coast. Kean spoke about how this project not only raises awareness of sport for people with disability it enables a totally inclusive sporting environment where everyone is on an equal sporting playing field. “This is why reverse inclusion is so important,” she said.

F2L also had a stall at the expo, which national advertising manager, Allison Miller said was a great opportunity to promote F2L to the local community and “make people aware of the information the newsletter and website provide”.

Pictured from left are TAFE marketing officer, Kim Phillips and TAFE senior administrator officer, Naomi Eggmolesse; centre director for community services, health and sport, Robyn Littlejohn; Paralympian Bridie Kean; Dr Rosie McGowan and equity coordinator, Paula Ingles.