NDCO eDIN newsletter, 50th edition March 2018

eDIN 50th edition now available.


Welcome to Easter. Hope you have an enjoyable and safe break. (Or ‘have had’ — depending on when you received this).
First mention this month is a congratulations to Sally Bailey, NDCO region 14 (Southern Melbourne) who has managed to secure a seat around the table at the newly formed Department of Education and Training’s NDIS Workforce Expert Advisory Group. I look forward to having some access to the discussions and will keep all informed re any major actions coming out of this group. The origins and details of this initiative can be found in the Victoria’s workforce plan for the NDIS document.
Second thing to mention is the on-going discussions behind the scenes for the extension of the program. At this stage I am hoping to have some firm (and positive) news by the end of May. In the interim I will continue with an expectation of things continuing as per nor-mal.
In this regard also note that I am about to launch into a series of pod-casts after a previous experimental phase with this format last year. If you have any specific topics you want me to cover please give me a call or send a message. Until next time, be well…


NDCO eDIN newsletter (49th edition) February 2018 now available.


eDIN 49th edition now available. 

Welcome to Autumn as February came and went in its usual quick fashion. Personally I was slowed up with a foot injury so not as many out and about articles this month.
My key points this month; firstly I am very much enjoying the input of the new Federal Senator Jordon Steele-John who seems to be one of the few people making sense in Parliament this year. I highly rec-ommend following his posts on Facebook.
Second thing to note is that I have made some subtle changes to for-matting in the newsletter . This follows a conversation with our new NDCO colleague Ramona Mandy (vision impaired) who was kind enough to help me with some improvements regarding accessibility for eDIN. I have made some limited progress so far and look forward to more changes in the coming weeks.
Last thing to mention before I sign off is the breaking news from the NDIA in which they have announced, “NDIA accepts Independent Pricing Review recommendations.” There a 25 recommenda-tions in all in which the NDIA have indicated an in principle support for all of them.

Cheers, Mark Cottee.

NDCO eDIN newsletter 48th edition now available (January 2018)

NDCO eDIN newsletter 48th edition now available (January 2018)


Welcome back everyone. ‘Living the dream 2018’ is my new catchphrase since returning to work. Despite the  holiday feel I have been busy planning the next twelve months and revamping a lot of resources. At this stage I haven’t made any major changes to the eDIN format although I am considering the move away from once a month to once every two months.

For this particular edition I have kept things fairly light and concise with some usual features not appearing due to the hiatus of some information streams.

As mentioned late last year I will also be conducting some survey feedback research in preparation for the program being formally extended for several years  in the near future. I do hope, and encourage everyone to participate in the feedback process and as such I will make it as easy as possible.

One quick thing before I go. I missed commenting on this late last year but a big congratulations to Senator Jordon Steele-John. I highly recommend checking out his maiden speech by clicking here.  In particular if you do not know who he is.  Also a quick hello to Ramona Mandy who joins the NDCO team in region 11. Great to have Ramona on board and I look forward to her sharing her expertise on accessibility for the vision impaired.


NDCO eDIN newsletter, 47th end of year edition now available


Welcome to  the 47th (special) edition of eDIN, electronic Disability Information Network  monthly newsletter. Designed for the Disability Education and Employment Community of Northern Victoria.

No real need to express how fast the year has past, just a natural condition of getting older, (and wiser, I hope). Welcome to the fourth end of year special of eDIN news where I attempt to summarise the key categories of the year past.

Number one highlight of the year has to be the indication from the Department that the NDCO program is to be extended until June 2022. Not only great to receive some certainty about the program but also knowing this six months out from the close of the current contract allows for better improvement in strategic actions and directions. I am already turning my attentions to a review of  environmental scan early in 2018 to guide any changes in direction.

Which brings me to the number two highlight of the year—the rollout of the NDIS. Whilst there had been a lot of speculation around the impacts and implications for the disability sector it is now crunch time. For me as NDCO I have already seen many opportunities come and go and there is clear need for more work to be done around the integration of NDIS and transition pathways for people with disability. Another priority is the engagement of business and industry in the employment and support for people with disability, especially in the framework of NDIS across all community.

Merry Christmas to you all. Have a safe and happy festive season and I look forward to seeing you all on the other side.


NDCO eDIN newsletter 46th edition Nov 2017 now available

Click here to access the latest edition of eDIN news November 2017

Was a bit of a struggle putting this together this month due to the fact that I was out of office for most of it.  As such I have made some slight format changes and apologies for any inconvenience if caused.

First thing to mention here is some major news from the Education Department that governs the NDCO program. Not only have they indicated that the program will be continued, it will be rolled over until June 2022. Wow. Wasn’t expecting that. They have also released the evaluation report as promised. I am expecting that there should be no disruption of the program through this rollover process and I am extremely excited to have the chance to re-focus my activities with a longer term vision in mind.

As already mentioned, there was a lot of out and about this month which is reflected in a majority the articles featured in this edition. In particular; a sojourn to the Mallee district, participation in the Local Aboriginal Network state gathering and attendance at the CEAV conference in Melbourne.

I look forward to sending out a special end of year wrap up in a couple of weeks as per previous years. Until then, be well and keep looking after to each other.

 Oh—and just before I go, the big thumbs up this month goes to the Australian voters and the positive step forward towards community inclusion and equality in the same sex marriage issue

CEAV 2017 Conference, Melbourne Victoria – an NDCO perspective

‘Career Education – contemporary approaches to transitions’ 

Great to be able to attend the Careers Education Association of Victoria (CEAV) conference held at Melbourne University Melbourne – 29th November to 1 December 2017. Due to competing priorities I was unable to stay for the whole of the event but very much enjoyed what time I had available to me.

Intro slide keynote

Slide taken from the opening key note address by Sareena Hopkins

Arriving on the Wednesday there were numerous afternoon ‘Masterclass’ sessions. Wearing several hats I attended the session on

“Tech schools – classrooms of the future.”

Phil D’Adamo executive director TECH schools Dept’ of Education and Training.          Sofia Flusco – associate director Ballarat Tech School.                                                          Mark Banks – executive director of three Tech Schools including Melbourne polytechnic.

The session commenced with an explanation of the development of ten tech schools across the state. Please note, not to be confused with other previous incarnations of the term ‘Tech’ schools from previous Government initiatives, “The Tech Schools initiative is part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to creating the Education State by ensuring every Victorian has access to an excellent education. This exciting initiative has invested $128 million to construct and establish 10 Tech Schools across the state with further ongoing funding to support operation. The 10 high-tech centres of learning use leading-edge technology, discovery and innovation to deliver the advanced education and training that Victorian school students need to flourish in the rapidly changing global economy.”  I note that Bendigo is the only school in my region with a bulk of the other centres located in and around Melbourne. Phil D’Adamo talked about this initial step as part of an overall STEM plan. For full details please check out the department webpage.

My key takeaways from the session were; (a) the added benefit of teacher training as part of the learning model in these setups. By being in attendance and participating in learning framework outside of the school the teacher is exposed to new professional development opportunities, (b) the ‘collaboration’ effect from having a governance process that involves not just school stakeholders but also the VET sector hosts, industry and even parents. As the discussion continued around this I did make the observation that this can actually be done without dedicated specially funded centres from an infrastructure point of view and in some areas of my region this is already happening. I am also aware from attending many forums that focus on student engagement issues that there is a lot of the talk around having special maker spacers or hubs that could also be thought of as operating under this same or similar model. The key difference being that STEM may not necessarily be the central hook.  One of the other key aspects is that at these centres students are put in a situation of solving or focusing on real world problem. Another take on this would also be about putting the A- ‘Art’ in STEM to form the more holistic acronym of STEAM. At the moment the centres are all new and operating with individual differences in delivery and methodology. I look forward to the future data on how well the centres deliver on their intended outcomes. In the meantime I am hoping to generate further discussion around how local communities can form their own centres of excellence and how we connect all pathway sectors and engage our students for a new world of work already happening around us.

expo overhead

Overhead view of the trade stands including the NDCO team

The following day was the big day for the conference which included the trade expo as centrepiece to all the keynote and breakout sessions listed for the day. Big thanks to the rest of the Victorian NDCO team for their coordination and  work that went into having and staffing a stall throughout the day. I really appreciate how well we can and do work together to value add to the program. Thanks to this team effort I was lucky enough to be able to attend a variety of sessions through the day starting with the opening address.


Professor James, from Melbourne University opened the conference with a reference to Martin Trow’s concept of ‘Reflections on the Transition from Elite to Mass to Universal Access’. Written some thirty years ago Professor James reflected on how this writing had succinctly captured the current issue faced by schools and higher education around the problem of “universal— adaptation of the “whole population” to rapid social and technological change.” In essence how do we as higher educators (as part of the career preparation mix) deliver education that balances the need for generic skills versus specific content, noting that we don’t have a definitive answer at the moment. The importance of scaffolding a base qualification followed by a specialist qualification maybe one answer that they are definitely pursing at Melbourne University.

James Merlino gave a video welcome to delegates in which he discussed the importance of enterprise skills which now form the heart of the new Victorian curriculum. “Career education needs to be a professional service.” I highlight this point in regards my current considerations in responding to the ‘Inquiry into Career Advice Activities in Victorian Schools’ – noting that submission close 15th December. Sort of get the feeling they already know what the major issues are but never the less I look forward to reading the full report, once released, sometime next year.

With the formal aspects of the day completed it was time for the opening keynote, Sareena Hopkins – executive director Canadian career development foundation.

Resilience in action. What does it mean to be resilient in the emerging labour market? What are the implications of this on our field?

Keynote 1

Sareena Hopkins – opening keynote address


First thing to note was her reference to the importance of storytelling where she went onto lead the keynote with a children’s story book reading that featured the story of the broad mind. ‘In this story the broad mind is a thing of beauty with wings to fly, feet designed to dive deep, large eyes that had long term vision and arms long able to embrace all things. On one occasion it was captured by a giant who wanted to see how fast it could run. Because it kept flying instead of running he plucked off the wings. And the web feet made it slow and so that special webbing that allowed it to dive deep was cut. It could now run, and run fast it did. But it didn’t see the finish line due to long term focus. With training and tunnel vision applied it was soon able to see the designated finishing line. And it won the race. But it had its arms shortened because of its tendency to hug the other competitor at the finish. It soon lost enthusiasm and didn’t compete and was thrown away into a tin full of other broad minds. Over time it grew back all the original feature and thrived.’ I am sure this story was not lost on any of the participants and it very much reminded me of the “Animal School” story by George Reavis.

Sareena went onto a rubber ball analogy highlighting the characteristics that resemble or illustrate resilience.

This brought us to the main crux of her message, the number work skill (now and even more particularly in the future)  is resilience.

Coming from Canada, Sareena highlighted the context of where her learning had come from and the similar or same issues facing many career advisers, parents and carers in today’s setting. In particular the significant increase in anxiety and depression, and associated mental health issues. Uncertainty of future prospects is a real and common denominator.

Canadian context

Slide featuring the Canadian context

‘Whose fault is it?’ Everybody else’s fault seemed to be a common response.

Having established the essence and extent of the problem Sareena went on to explain the model – ‘Protective factors for resilience, internal and external’. This model consisted of four quadrants (1) interspersonal factors, (2) social and coping skills (internal), (3) interpersonal supports and (4) institutional supports (belonging to community) (external). A caring relationship that believes in you and links you to belonging. From this model we get the following;

Top ten list of strategies for creating resilience;

  • Foster hope. Without this not much else matters. Having a strengths based approach is critical and is the ultimate motivator and supporter.
  • Build self-esteem. This is not a conceptual exercise and is very much linked to self-respect. Challenging and changing the internal dialogue from lifelong negative labeling towards recognition of potential not yet unlocked.
  • Facilitating self-awareness and knowing oneself.
  • Facilitate labour market awareness. Passions lead to purpose. Personalising the labour market trends. Expanding the vision of the possible.
  • Teach skills to enter and navigate the labour market. The mechanics of the process.
  • Learn to learn and learn from learning. Application / reflection / personal integration / extension. The move away from content knowledge to the reality of constant learning and personal development. Reflection journals as a good example.

“Relationship relationship relationship”

  • Nurture relationships.… Even just one makes a critical difference.
  • A board of directors to support transitions. Think circles of supports here. Diversity of relationships. Each student should have a board of directors for them as developing a lifelong plan.
  • Real labour market applications and exposure. Linking and contextualising the students learning to real world environments.  Relevance of workplace exposure to validate goal setting.
  • Contribute to community. My comment to this is really the re-framing of the perspective of a career adviser to say, ‘Ask not what do I want to be, but what problem do I want to solve.’

My main observation here is the major role that project based learning, especially when linked to the above community context (social need)  can address all ten aspects, also noting the link to the tech schools discussion point above re maker spacers or hubs.

“We are now at the tipping point for career development. Career development is at the centre, or should be, at the centre of what our education process should be and seek to achieve. Big thanks to Sareena for her words and direction in a very relevant and well thought key note.

As part of the conference there was plenty of product demonstrations and workshops. One that very much interested me was ‘Employment readiness and the Jobwatch program.’ Presented by Bernadette Gigliotti from CEAV. I was very interested in the Job Readiness Assessment tool that they had been using as part of their Job Watch program. First let me note here the reference of this program happening at the community education hub Melbourne polytechnic (which also happens to host a Tech School). Having many related services being housed in one location has to have learning benefits for all individuals working in close proximity. Using the PaTH program as a model to prepare and transition unemployed youth in their catchment, they needed a better way to capture the essence of the label being applied to a lot of these young people, “they are not job ready.” Having seen a tool being used overseas, called the employment readiness scale, they integrated it into the program so they could measure the very factor of job  readiness. Without going into the full details of the program it works on three elements, (1) one on one counselling, (2) employment readiness assessment (ERS), (3) career action plan.  In regards the ERS it consist of a self-assessment, an on-line accessible test with print out results followed by a one on one counselling session. It works on a licence per student model with each licence allowing each student to take the assessment up to six times. In their program they are using the ERS at certain key stages not only to measure work readiness but also to guide progress which very much also helps guide the career action plans moving forward. The feedback component has been a great feature in building employment readiness for individuals and consultants alike. The ERS works as a framework for needs assessment intervention design and evaluation and has three components- employability factors / soft skills / challenges. Bernadette stated that whilst the tool worked well for out of work youth and does not necessarily translate to being a career guidance tool for students still in school.  Also note ability to customise data reports and data related outputs. Other things to bear in mind were some biases that may happen as part of the self-assessment aspect and also the need for proper training for consultants wishing to use the tool.  For more information visit http://www.employmentreadiness.info/home

My next attended session was ‘Transition planning for individuals with hidden disabilities, by Carol Johnson, University of Wisconsin-Stout and Kate Johnson, Accessible Systems Colorado.

“There are two types of people in this world, those with disabilities and those who haven’t realised theirs yet.” Really liked this reference which was supported by the discussion around exactly what are hidden disabilities. For context please check out some of the Youtube videos available on this subject (just google hidden disabilities). The presenters went onto discuss the idea of Disability pride and what that really looked like. (The looming of the international day of people with disability was referenced at this point). In most cases there is a process to arrive at disability pride;

  1. Acceptance of having a disability
  2. Self-disclosure – acknowledgement
  3. Supports – where to get and receive help.
  4. Self-advocacy – only really comes about from the above steps and is a critical skill.
  5. Connecting with the disability community
  6. Equals – Disability pride.

(Izzo and Horne 2016)

I am reminded of the saying, ‘You are not the disability but the environment placed upon you.’ Which is a major element of disability pride. Note that disclosure needs to happen before you can have self-advocacy.

It was at this point that Kate made reference to a campaign via her advocacy company – Invisible Disabilities wristbands, “shine a light and be invisible no more.” I really liked the idea that if you wear one of these wristbands you are bringing hidden disability into a framework of acknowledgement.

For more interest in this subject I highly recommend visiting the invisible disabilities web page. https://invisibledisabilities.org/

Note that a bulk of this session was in a question and answer format and that a lot of that discussion revolved around disclosure. If you would like some information around disclosure please note the following NDCO resource: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/choosingyourpath

Before I sign off –  a quick thanks and acknowledgement to NDCO Sally Bailey who was lucky enough to present on the Thursday afternoon. I have already seen an increase in general inquiries to the NDCO webpage and if for no other reason that the event help raise the profile of our program – it was already a success.

Apologies that I wasn’t able to stay for the entire forum  but please note the CEAV webpage and if you aren’t already, why not become a member so you can access all the news, updates, links and resources.





Victorian State Aboriginal Local Area Network Meeting November 2017 – Creswick Vic

Local Aboriginal Networks Victorian – strong culture, engaged people, confident communities.

During the month I attended the state wide gathering of the Local Aboriginal Networks not only as part my NDCO involvement across several of the LAN’s in my region but also as a community member. This is the second state wide meeting which was held on the 22nd and 23rd of November at Creswick – Dja Dja wurrung on the fringe of the Wombat State Forest.

First big thanks goes to Laurence Moser as MC for the two days, who vaguely kept things to some sort of order as per the agenda.

Naturally welcome to country was the first order of the gathering and a fantastic job was done by local Dja Dja Wurrung, Trent Nelson. I particularly appreciated his reference to the growing trend of growing up off country and mix of different groups across clan lines in particular regions and more than ever the importance of the welcome to country ceremony.

welcome to country

Trent Nelson welcomes delegates to country

Chris Saunders from Aboriginal Victoria was tasked with the first presentation of the day, giving an overview of the background of the LAN’s and what is hoped to be achieved in the next two days, “Whatever you do matters, be it for better or worse. But we need to try all options.” For details of the LAN’s and the five year plan details please view the dedicated web page – https://www.vic.gov.au/aboriginalvictoria/community-engagement/local-aboriginal-networks.html

This includes a wonderful summary video available on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtdILZs_q9A

Also – from a back ground point of view check out my previous report from one of the regional LAN meetings that occurred in Wangaratta 2016. https://ndcoacrossthedesk.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/lan-forum-wangaratta/

Katrina Touzeau, also from Aboriginal Victoria was tasked with reporting on the progress aspect of what the LAN’s have been up to from a collective data point of view. One really good analogy presented at the outside was the ‘rock to ripple approach’. We all know that if we throw a rock in a pool of water there is a splash and there are ripples. Whatever event or project you do is the throwing of the rock. How big is splash, which is relatively easy to measure, equates to things like number of attendees at an event as an example, but how do we measure the ripples. This underpins a continuing challenge for community programs and similar social welfare programs. Very quickly, re some of the “splash” data I noted the following, there was; 139 funded projects / 59 completed / average of $1739 spent per project / 42 jobs create from funded projects but also the reality is that in kind funding (donation of goods and services) equates to a 1 for 1 dollar input. In addition – 258 volunteers gave 3527 hour across 26 projects 2016-17


In regards the breakdown of activities within priority areas projects,

  • Strengthening Culture:135
  • Support for Young People: 95
  • Economic Participation: 64
  • Building a Stronger LAN: 117
  • Community Planning and Partnerships: 76
  • Working with Local Government: 41

Each of the tables (around a dozen tables with at least ten to each table), had the opportunity to discuss and highlight some of the projects in their areas. Given that the plans of most areas have only been operational for around twelve months I was staggered to see the breadth and depth of activities happening right across the state. Talk about the government getting bang for their buck re this program.

***Very quick aside – really enjoyed the scratch art paper that was left on the individual tables for delegates to engage with during the conference. Checkout the below photo’s. I can also say that I found these sheets in the reject shop locally and highly recommend them as an engagement tool and will do some experimenting through my work with Burraja.

During the rest of the afternoon each of the LAN brokers had the opportunity to facilitate an overview of each particular priority area. (See above or refer to LAN plan). From a personal point of view I very much enjoyed having the opportunity to participate in a question and answer session regarding the importance of engaging with councils from a LAN perspective. This included the showing of three videos of which I was lucky enough to participate in and I look forward to featuring the link when made fully available.

Important key learnings for some of the projects –

Project planning, budgeting and value adding / Communication / the importance of promotion and media /having enough product for demand. (Where relevant). I guess the key message really is that there are so many wonderful projects happening across all areas. Knowing that without the LAN  there would be a very empty space except for possibly NAIDOC and maybe some other smaller non-linked programs.



Nova peris on line

Nova Peris

That night attendees had the opportunity to network over dinner with a key highlight being the address from Nova Peris of which I noted several key points.

  • “Despite my achievements they pale into insignificance when you consider what my grandmother went through and how they survived and then similar for my mother. I had to stand on their shoulders to reach the outcomes that I managed to achieve.”
  • Regarding her time spent in Parliament. “It was more like a category six storm when compared to the category five storms of the top end.”
  • Mention of her direct involvement in the health checks program that actually instigated her drive towards parliament. Through the health check process she saw the inequality and the reality of the divide akin to a war on the Aboriginal community.
  • There was some talk of the issue regarding the constitution recognition argument, “we don’t need it because it’s not applicable. We were here long before any constitution. What we do need is for our kids to be culturally strong. And you also have to realise that you have to give up something to get something.”
  • Now working for DHHS as part of the Korin Korin Balit-Djak: Aboriginal health, wellbeing and strategic plan 2017-2027. One of her personal insights into this area is the importance that sports can play in the health of our young people. She further articulated the value that the Clontarf academies have brought across the nation in this regard. But a very evident gap in this piece of the puzzle is the fact that this primarily addresses the needs of our young men whilst the girls miss out. Further to this I really appreciated the comment, “Educate a boy you educate an individual, educate a girl you educate a whole community.”

Day 2

This was a chance for the LANs to feedback to the administrator’s things they have identified as needing some work or assistance in capacity building. This included many categories such as: food handling, first aid, applying for acquitting funding, overcoming lateral violence/ cultural safety and healing, governance, public speaking, influencing and negotiating, social media / being deadly online, mental health first aid, risk management, event management, reporting and evaluation.

What I really take away from this session is how well some LAN’s actually achieve this capacity building by bringing these skills into their LAN’s to directly assist, train or advise where possible. From a personal perspective and being closely associated with the Wodonga LAN it is this very reality that I have witnessed in that LAN and I look forward to seeing more of this as time passes.

In regards the session on day two regarding the progress of the treaty I refer you to the following two documents: (1) Treaty Fact Sheet

https://www.vic.gov.au/system/user_files/Documents/av/Aboriginal_Treaty_Fact_Sheet.pdf & (2) Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission.


I have very much aligned myself to the limitations of the Victorian action in this regard as per the fact sheet – 1. The parties must agree on what is necessary and just. 2. As a state within the Commonwealth, the Victorian Government can only agree to what is within its own constitutional powers. 3. As one state within the Federation, Victoria can only advocate for what is included in a national treaty.

Given this context a more important aspect of action is addressing the absence of Registered Aboriginal Parties from a lot of local areas.

Big thanks to organisers and attendees for a productive and welcoming event. I look forward to further collaboration in the near future as we ‘surf the ripples’ to long lasting and positive change.