Category: Mentor

A circle of cut out figures with joined hands, a metaphor for a community.

Caught up with Tolga Okar – SpeakMyLanguage (Disability)

Gary recently got up with Tolga Okar of the SpeakMyLanguage (Disability) social enterprise.  A group looking at the unique challenges faced by Australians with disability who are Culturally and Linguistically Diverse.  It was a terrific coversation covering a number of exciting topics.  

The platform’s team are very conscious of the intersectionality of prejudice, discrimination and isolation that can confront some members of the Australian disability community.  So that a person with disability, who speaks a language other than English, who is a person of colour can face three levels of prejudice.  Rather than try to replicate the important work of existing community groups and social enterprises we want to connect to those groups and look for ways to collaborate with them.  We are also very concious that the Advisory Board is very white and speak English as our first language.  

Our hope in connecting to and speak my language is to find a way to collaborate together and perhaps to co-mentor some members.  We would also be thrilled to add a CALD person to our Board.

A cartoon of a diverse group of disabled people with the heading "BETTER together"

Why we have an Advisory Board

The question has been posed to us, “Why does the platform have an Advisory Board?”  It certainly isn’t a legal requirement, so why do we have one?  The quick answer is that we get considerable value from having one.  From early on, we decided the platform must be guided by strong disability voices and draw upon research smarts and an understanding of the body of academic knowledge.

That’s why our CEO has a disability and a doctorate. It is also why our Board includes three successful business people with a direct connection to disability and why we have two world-class researchers on our Board.  One of our amazing volunteers is also an accomplished health, disability and rehabilitation researcher.  Another volunteer is a disability support worker.

Our patron, the amazing Dinesh Palipana OAM excels while living with a significant disability.

The Board has been assisting Gary with operational tasks (thanks Jo), grant applications (thank Naomi and Elizabeth) and everyone has been a fantastic source of moral support and wisdom (thanks Elizabeth, Jo, Miriam and Naomi).  For our grant applications, it deepens our expertise and track record.

We strongly recommend members use such a support system.  Paid members also have access to a mentor.

Brain from wooden puzzles. Mental Health and problems with memory.

Reflecting on setting up and operating your endeavour and using your NIDS plan

Not every member of the platform will have an NDIS plan, but for those that do, we thought it would be useful to share a few tips.

The NDIS can’t be used for any setup or operating expenses that the general public might face.  So you cannot put power, phone or internet bills on your NDIS plan; you cannot put the expense of an employee on your plan; and you cannot put something like a purchase of a device (such as an iPad on your plan).
There may be some flexibility if you mention your endeavour or maintaining work on your plan (something to think about when your plan is next reviewed) but you can claim matters relating to your disability (e.g. it’s fine to have something like a social support worker billed to your plan who is also helping you do some work – such as typing, which is what Gary is doing right now; it’s also fine if you will be using an iPad to help you communicate).
You need to get into the habit of describing what you want to do, or what you’ve done in terms of support to help you engage and produce, despite your disability.  It is a semantic dance, but words matter.
Think about whether there are core supports that would free up your time and make it easier to focus on your money-generating endeavours – such as assistance with cooking, laundry, cleaning, yard tasks and maintenance.
If a lot of what you’re doing is on the computer or online, try to engage with a support worker who has good computing skills.
A service coordinator and plan manager can help you operate and plan within the constraints of the scheme.
Choosing to have a self-managed plan might seem a way to avoid these limitations but it is flirting with disaster and might end with a lot stricter limitations on your plan.

If you have a mentor from the platform, they can also be a useful source of ideas and tips.

Portrait of a happy bearded man with prosthetic bionic arm over blue background. He's looking at camera.

Recently we’ve been having some affirming mentoring meetings

In recent days we have been having mentoring meetings with pilot testers and some considering membership, which has reconfirmed for us the platform can be incredibly helpful and a positive support for would-be entrepreneurs with a disability. These included early journey and experienced individuals.  It also includes an individual who is a new mentor for the platform.

These experiences are incredibly affirming and have helped us to sustain our belief as we continue the slog to raise the funding we need.  Our fundraising efforts could easily become demoralising, but our recent mentoring activities have reconfirmed for us that Australia must have a community of practice in the disability entrepreneurship space.

Many thanks everyone for your words of support and best wishes. It makes a world of difference to us.

A man with a nice smile, wearing a business suit in a manual wheelchair

The Side-Hustle Effect: Meet those running successful side gigs (and find out how to join them) – Startups (Helena Young | April 2022)

The platform will assist members to establish three different kinds of money-generating endeavours.  One of these is a gig-based micro-business.  Such a type of endeavour can be a great way to generate a little income, without the need for high expenses.  This item was written for the UK but it contains a number of useful ideas and tips that can be applied to the Australian context.  We have included a link for you to register your interest in joining the platform.

Handsome man with beard sitting on wheelchair happy face smiling with crossed arms looking at the camera. positive person.

How we will support members of the platform

The not-for-profit platform will aim to create, nurture and support a community of practice in the Australian disability entrepreneurship space.  We will support members to establish and operate money-generating endeavours, such as a monetised hobby/craft, a gig-based micro business, or a small business.  The supports the platform will provide will include:

(i) Mentoring;
(ii) An internal peer support discussion board;
(iii) A Resource Library (of existing resources and tailored resources for members);
(iv) Webinars and online events;
(v) Training, including micro-courses through the Griffith Business School;
(vi) A blog and quarterly newsletter; and
(vii) An online marketplace (link to

In short, we aim to provide role models, peer support, resources and training to assist our members to establish and operate a successful and sustainable money-generating endeavour.

Australians who live with a disability for free, as can their carers and other people with an established connection to disability in Australia.  The fees associated with becoming a paid member and getting access to all of our services can be billed to the NDIS or other disability support.

At the moment, this service will be for any Australian who lives with a disability who is aged between 18 and 65.  We are currently considering extending the service to include young people aged 15 to 18.

Silhouette team business helps to systematically patience hard work and the pressure to reach the finish line

Meeting with pilot testers

In the days and weeks ahead, we plan to catch up with our pilot testers to see they are coming along with the activities we discussed (we found each tester needed to do slightly different things to get the ball rolling for setting up their money-generating endeavour).

We have already been learning valuable insights for the future of the platform and our mentoring of members.  Which is, after all, the reason we are conducting the pilot test.

This is building our confidence to think of launching the platform as a paid service.  We will reflect on whether we need to raise additional funds and conduct additional work (such as developing the online business courses) prior to launching.