Jamen started working at the Community Living Initiative in Cairns two-months before it opened to tenants in 2017. His role is to mentor the team working at the Community Living Initiative and act as a conduit between the team and tenants.
“The way we work here was different from the start,” said Jamen. “Part of my role is to help the team feel comfortable and prepared for their roles.”
Jamen says that his role is like a feedback facilitator to support staff and tenants. This also helps with cultural understanding between staff who are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples and staff who are not, and tenants.
Having Jamen as a mentor means that there is someone for staff to approach if they need to talk about something that has happened at work or want advice on how to approach an issue. This helps staff feel secure and to know that there is always someone for them to talk to.
“One of the challenges is reminding staff that they need down time and to keep a work-life balance. They don’t always see their work as work—they see the tenants as part of their community and their Elders, and they want to do everything they can to help them.”
Many of the tenants moved into the Community Living Initiative after living in inappropriate accommodation such as aged care or hospitals.
“The tenants who came from aged care or hospital wards were so used to having no control over what happened to them,” said Jamen. “We had people who didn’t speak when they arrived and they didn’t engage
in any activities. Now they ask staff to take them out fishing. One of our staff members brought in his own fishing gear so whenever our tenants ask, they’re ready to go fishing.”
The Community Living Initiative is family-oriented, with tenants seen as members of the family.
“If someone puts out a call for a barbecue on a Sunday afternoon, twenty people will show up—tenants, their family, staff will bring their extended family along too. It’s not often that people will show up to work to
socialise in their own time.”
Synapse offer culturally appropriate services for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, including Specialist Disability Accommodation, Support Coordination and NDIS planning tools.