Support independence

Minmi Hotel is a warm and friendly community venue who supports their local sporting and

recreational clubs and businesses through a variety of events and initiatives. They also provide a

whole lot more to make a real difference for people with a disability.

Steve is a typical young man who wants to do the same things as his peers such as being out,

meeting friends and sharing a meal. Steve just needs a little more assistance to do this as he has a

disability and is unable to verbalise his wishes. He uses his own form of gestural signing to engage

and communicate with others. Steve also has a level of discomfort about eating in public which takes

some encouragement to overcome.

When ConnectAbility Australia began accompanying Steve to Minmi Hotel he enjoyed his time

there but was frustrated that he couldn’t order his meal like the other patrons. This is where the

staff at Minmi really stepped up. Without hesitation the staff commenced learning his key signs and

engaged with Steve and his friends so that they could communicate with him and get to know him

a whole lot better. The Hotel saves a familiar space for Steve each week so that he is comfortable

in his routine. Steve is now greeted by other patrons who have also come to know him and enjoy

his company. The result is that he is able to go out, meet friends, and like anyone else order his

favourites from the bistro – especially the pasta, which he reckons is the best.

Maree, the Manager of Minmi hotel said that “it is a pleasure to see them drop in for lunch each

week. We joke with them and have become really comfortable in including Steve and his friends in

our conversations. Steve is pretty cheeky and the other patrons enjoy his company. It is important to

us that we are able to make everyone feel included so learning Steve’s signs was not an issue.”

This is a real outcome for Steve and for the community as a whole. Giving a person independence,

choice and control over such a basic function in their lives is something most of us take for granted.

Support people to “Be who they want to Be”

One of the outcomes from Dine Out for Disability 2012 was the funding of a surfing program for

participants. The freedom of being in the waves and attaining swimming and water safety skills has been

a terrific outcome for the group. They no longer watch from the shoreline but are out joining an activity

loved by a community living so close to the water. Being included has given individuals self confidence

and a new passion, made possible through being able to engage a teacher skilled in this area of learn to

surf. Opportunities will continue this summer and additional surfers have joined the group.

Due to the success of the initial surfing days ConnectAbility was also able to purchase boards from the

funds raised and, amongst other items, additional sports wheelchairs to provide more people with an

opportunity to join a local wheelchair rugby league group. This sport affords participants an opportunity

to engage in a team sport and to keep fit and healthy in the process. Community members are also able

to borrow the equipment to participate in their individual sporting activities.

ConnectAbility is grateful for the support demonstrated by the AHA Executive and members and the

opportunities it has given in enhancing programs for those that access our service.

Just as importantly Dine Out for Disability raises awareness of some of the issues that face people with

disabilities and their families in our community and provides a platform for the wider community to

engage with some of these issues.


Tom is up for anything. He loves to surf, play rugby league, is passionate about sailing, goes to the gym, plays music, paints, loves to have a drink with his mates and in his spare time he also volunteers at different organisations. Sounds like a typical, active, involved 28 year old man – in fact some of us probably wish we were more like Tom.
However Tom has to be more passionate than most about his hobbies and interests. Tom uses an electric wheelchair, has very limited movement and uses technology to help him communicate. This means that he relies on other people and specialised equipment to help him continue to get the most of life.
ConnectAbility, along with his family and his mates provide transport, support staff and the equipment that Tom needs to be involved in the things that he loves.


Inspired by her rugby league heroes (particularly the Sharks), Bianca dreamt of playing rugby league herself -there was just one small barrier, Bianca has a condition that requires her to use an electric wheelchair. Not letting this stop her, Bianca was determined to provide an opportunity for her and her friends to continue to play a sport that they had discovered and loved at school. Aware that a competition was occurring in Sydney, but knowing that this type of travel was out of the question for her and her family and for many other people with disabilities, Bianca set a goal to establish a local competition. ConnectAbility has assisted Bianca to establish a fully inclusive wheelchair rugby league competition for everyone in the Hunter. Now in its second year, the competition has grown and we now need more sports wheelchairs so that everyone who wants to be a part of the game can play.


Joan is James’ mother. An active member of her local community, Joan relies on ConnectAbility to provide a safe, caring and fun environment for James to achieve his goals. Not subscribing to the belief that kids should be wrapped in cotton wool, Joan appreciates that ConnectAbility provides opportunities for her son to get out into the community and engage in activities that many people James’ age take for granted. James is an enthusiastic participant in our Wheelchair Rugby League competition and recently enjoyed a great day at the Knights with his friends. James is also involved in a group of young people that goes out for lunch once a month at local venues. Joan describes transport as a life line for her and her family that enables all of the family to lead more fulfilling lives.

Toni Lawler

Toni joined ConnectAbility’s volunteer Committee of Management in 2004. Toni received the Westpac 2010 Community Treasurer Award of the Year Award (large organisation) in recognition of her dedication to the community sector. Committed to improving the services we deliver and raising the profile of the organisation, Toni is aware of the huge challenge of providing the services that people with disabilities deserve with limited funding. Toni has lead our efforts to raise money for a new bus and a purpose built kitchen and is hopeful that Dine out for Disability will continue to help us provide better options for people with disabilities in the Hunter. As Toni says “It may sound like something small, but it would make a big difference”.