Kara Lyons - ADE/NDIS Transitions Coordinator

What I love about working at Flourish Australia is that we don’t just educate people about mental health, we demonstrate to them what an inclusive culture looks like, and it’s life changing. Everything I do here is driven by a desire to challenge stigma around mental health and get everyone thinking about it differently.
Kara Lyons - ADE/NDIS Transitions Coordinator

I grew up with a Dad who has a lived experience of paranoid schizophrenia, so I’ve always been drawn to understanding more about mental health.  I became a social worker in the UK before moving to Australia, so now it’s immensely rewarding for me to be supervising the Community Business Social Work Placement Program for Flourish Australia, alongside Peer and Mental Health Workers.

Student Social Workers come to us from universities all over Sydney and as their supervisor I have the opportunity to challenge their awareness and perspectives on a daily basis.  Most admit to being scared of the unknown when they first start here, because of the stigma surrounding mental health but what’s so amazing about the work culture at Flourish Australia is that, by the time they finish their training with us, they’ve moved past those negative preconceptions completely. I can see that by walking our talk, we give them a new passion for pursuing a career in mental health.

I was actually nominated for this acknowledgement by a former student of mine who has gone on to become a colleague, here at Flourish Australia; in addition to being nominated by a peer worker I work closely with.

From the moment I first encountered Flourish Australia I saw that the organisation’s values were aligned with my own and I believe wholeheartedly in their focus on self-directed services.  I want people who are feeling overwhelmed by their circumstances, to recognise that they have a choice, so I mentor staff and students to question whether a person is aware that they have a say in their mental health care and has made informed decisions about their choice of services.

My own lived experience of mental health issues helped me to understand that feeling in control of your own life is what keeps hope alive in challenging circumstances.

Since the introduction of the NDIS, supporting people through the transition to the new scheme has become a big part of what I do.  As with any new process, it can be daunting for people to know what to do, so it’s important that I equip our mental health workers and peer workers to submit strong applications, by sharing my knowledge of what the NDIS require. 

It means a great deal to me, to support someone to grow through this sort of challenge, from feeling victimised, to being empowered. Like one lady I came alongside, on her journey to secure the NDIS funding she needed, after her application had been twice rejected. I supported her through the process of taking the NDIA to tribunal to appeal their decision. It was immensely stressful for her, to have to keep going back over what she struggles with, to justify her needs, when our focus is always her strengths and what she does well.  When our efforts resulted in the NDIA withdrawing on the night before the formal hearing it was pure elation for her and gave me the confidence that my experience can make a real difference to someone’s life.

In every situation, my goal is always to get everyone to a common level and help them to relate from a place of empathy and understanding. Mutual respect and shared understanding are highly valued by Flourish Australia. It’s what peer work is all about and I always try to apply those principles in my own role.

I now also provide mental health first aid training and mental health suicide prevention training, which I see as another important dimension of raising mental health awareness. My role is a demanding one, but the flexibility that Flourish Australia offer makes it possible for me to maintain a healthy work/life balance as I continue to grow my career and mental health expertise. 

Being an involved mum with my son is as important to me as mentoring staff and students, but sustaining both commitments would not be possible within a conventional 9-5 employment structure.

I would love to see Flourish Australia recognised internationally as an employer of choice, for the high standards they’ve achieved in workplace culture.  It’s something that should be celebrated. My hope for the future is that we will be working more closely with large corporations world-wide, to help them build more supportive and productive workplaces.

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