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This week we get to meet Nic Stuart, a former ABC Correspondent, author of three books on Australian politics, and a 2016 Churchill Fellow. Nowadays, he's the founder and Editor-in-Chief at Ability News, a website dealing with disability issues and the NDIS. We're proud to support Ability News as a result of the Canberra Foundations Collaborative Grant Round and we're excited to see what kind of impact Ability News can have!
What is your name?
In an earlier life I used to be an ABC Correspondent and so used to be, "Nicholas Stuart, Bangkok", or "Nicholas Stuart, Beijing". Today I'm just a plain, simple Nic Stuart, although soon I'll be able to correctly claim I'm also an editor of ability.news, a website informing, connecting and empowering people with disability.
How long have you been in Canberra and what do you love about it?
I came to Canberra when my wife, Cath McGrath, was posted here for the ABC. Despite all the rubbishing of the 'Canberra bubble', this is still the place where the country's future direction - politically, bureaucratically, and socially - is established. This is, for journalists, the only place to be. Nevertheless, far more importantly, this has been for us an ideal place to bring up a family. It's a very easy place to live, and escape from on weekends. But don't tell anyone!
How did Ability.News come about?
I was overseas when I was involved in a terrible car crash. I was well cared for in hospital but, when I got back to Australia, finding the supports that both my family and I needed was extremely difficult. This was well before the internet was functioning as effectively as it does today but there are still difficulties. Google initially appears to offer a solution, helping people find the assistance they need. What it doesn't do, however, is provide a simple guide and assistance that helps people with disability, and their carers, easily find the information and connections they need that allows them to live their best lives. That's what ability.news aims to do: inform, connect and empower the ACT (and surrounding) community.
Why did you get into it?
I had been working on the board of another disability organisation, the House with No Steps (now Aruma, Australia's largest disability service provider), as the National Disability Insurance Scheme was being introduced. I was on a special task force that was investigating how the organisation could best adapt its services to this new model, and that was great. But I kept thinking, what would happen to people who weren’t lucky enough to benefit from Aruma's services and how would they find their way through this new scheme? I realised that there was no guide on offer that could help them to connect with the sort of supports they would require. This wasn't something that Aruma was resourced to do - so I decided to get busy working and start it myself!
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What do you love about it?
The single most important thing about ability.news is that we are involved in creating a community. By sharing interesting, relevant and accessible news we will draw people together. This will create the momentum to generate answers. We will not be coming in and telling anyone what to do or how to live, simply providing a forum where others can express their ideas and share their solutions to problems, and this is what's so exciting. The aim of ability.news is to offer connections where currently there are none. What could be more wonderful than that?
What would you tell someone with a disability, or a carer, trying to navigate the NDIS?
Although ability.news is built around providing news about what's happening in the sector, our mission is to help people find their own way through the sometimes conflicting streams of information and services that make up the NDIS. We are aiming to do this by providing news stories, but that's just the 'gateway drug' to get people to the site. Once there we hope that our audience will stay to become our community, sharing ideas and adding to a database of resources that will allow individuals to find the resources they need to make their lives as positive and empowered as they can be.
For anyone thinking about donating or volunteering with Ability.News, what would you say to them?
Get in touch today!
We've got three particular areas where we're developing. The first is technical: the internet may run itself but our website doesn't and we are really keen if anybody has any special skills our enthusiastic team of developers from the University of Canberra would love to hear from you. Our core offering is, of course, news, and this means we are interested in working with anyone who wants to contribute to creating content, or stories, for the website. The third area where we are developing is by building relationships with the community - which means everyone involved in disability: from individuals and carers to those working as support workers; from the providers of specialist skills to those supplying equipment and knowledge workers involved in the field; and finally, perhaps most critically, to everyone who wants to be involved in shaping the future of the disability sector.