GOOD BOY: Neil Erskine developed empathy through his previous career as a pet behavioural therapist.
GOOD BOY: Neil Erskine developed empathy through his previous career as a pet behavioural therapist. Molly Glassey

MY WORLD: 'Five things I've learnt working in disabilities'

NEIL Erskine developed his sense of empathy as a pet behavioural therapist, but it was not until he started a new career in the disability sector that he really found his calling.

As a support worker Mr Erskine has helped a range of people and learnt a lot about life along the way.

He lives in the pristine Goomburra Valley with his partner, an occupational therapist, and often has clients visit to spend time in the bush.

Four years into his career, Mr Erskine is about to become a qualified counsellor.

NEIL ERSKINE: Five things I have learnt...

1. People don't belong in boxes...

"One thing that has actually impacted me more than some things is that I have learnt not to limit people by what they have been labelled or diagnosed with. Helping people with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities has taught me that you can never assume something about a person based solely on their medical diagnosis. Everyone is individual. You can't actually lump someone in a group because they have a particular restriction or disability. "

2. They're not interested in what you think they want...

"Sometimes we meet people and we tend to go 'what you need is...' but the truth is they are probably not even interested. They have got their own plans and dreams. I think it is important to focus on what people want and not what you think they should have."

 

Fellow wilderness lover Bel du Bois taking a walk in nature.
Fellow wilderness lover Bel du Bois taking a walk in nature. Contributed

3. We're not all that different...

"For me I just find myself wanting to find out more about people. If I am working with someone, my primary thing is that I just want to get to know them better as a person. There is so much under the surface that people don't get. If you get to know someone really well there is not that much difference between people whether they are disabled or not. And I am talking about people with intellectual disabilities too. Everyone has got similarities and I always find myself saying 'I can see so much of myself in that person'."

4. Being in nature helps us open up...

"We have a few (clients) that come out to our property semi-regularly and the advantage of that, how I see it, is when you're out in nature, out in the bush, you are not so much thinking of your own problems. If you went in an office and spent time with someone you might be a little bit guarded. If you're taking a walk through the bush or swimming in the creek people relax and don't think about their problems so much. That is when you can come up with moments of inspiration for how to improve your life."

5. Fixing things is therapeutic...

"We go take the dogs for a bush walk or wander around fixing things. There is a lot of that on the property where you're just repairing. We do have periods of time where we don't talk work and just concentrate on what we want to do and we just love where we live."

 

Neil Erskine loves to share his slice of paradise in the Goomburra Valley will people of all ages and abilities.
Neil Erskine loves to share his slice of paradise in the Goomburra Valley will people of all ages and abilities. Contributed


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