This afternoon, 20 May 2013, the Getting A Life Intentional Community was opened by Her Excellency The Honourable Quentin Bryce, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. The event was hosted by ACT Chief MInister Ms Katy Gallagher MLA, a long-term champion of the project. Also present were Ms Gai Brodmann MP, Member for Canberra, Natalie Howson, Director-General of the Community Services Directorate, members of the ACT Legislative Assembly, members of the Canberra disability community, staff from Housing ACT, family and friends.
The event is the culmination of eight years of work by Getting A Life, the project founded by Sally Richards, Karen Connaughton and Cheryl Pattrick to build homes and lives for their sons Jackson West, Daniel Connaughton and Ben Pattrick.
At the event, Karen Connaughton said, “Our hope for all the residents of Benambra, including Daniel, Jackson and Ben, is one of belonging. That warm feeling of being part of a community of people who care for and respect each other. The feeling of living in a safe, welcoming and friendly environment. Our hope is that each of the residents will actively acknowledge each other, will proactively offer help, and will, when required provided moral and practical support.”
Sally Richards said, “I am sure the combination of co-residency, intentional community and our sons being head tenants is the best possible way of building homes around people who are not completely capable of doing so themselves. As the long-overdue National Disability Insurance Scheme is implemented, this visionary community will offer inspiration, encouragement and a concrete example of the engaged and contributing lives to which all people with disabilities are entitled and which they cannot have without enough of the right support at the right time in the right place.”
She also said “Having a child with a disability intensifies life. Even as the downside wears you thin the upside keeps on giving. The lows can be very low but the highs can be dizzyingly high.”
Tim West, Jackson’s brother said, “Sally, Karen and Cheryl: each of you have created for your son not just a home, but also a job, and a full calendar of activities, and a social network, and friends. The lives you have created for your sons are in every way a model for the care of people who have disabilities.
Tim also said, “Today has been – and this community will be – a monument to strong women. To Your Excellency, Katy Gallagher, Joy Burch, Natalie Howson, Cheryl, Karen and Sally.”
The commitment of the ACT Government under Chief Minister Gallagher and Minister Burch to build this community will be remembered for what it is: a bold, moral, forthright statement of the dignity and worth of people with a disability, and of their commitment to the ACT community as a whole.
We are exceptionally grateful to all those who have contributed to the project. We are especially grateful to Katy Gallagher her for steadfast support over many years, and to the Governor-General for graciously opening the community for us.