A festival that aims to raise the profile of disability inclusion in Newcastle has officially begun, featuring more than 30 free events and activities held over the next two weeks.

Councillor Margaret Wood, workshop participants Michael and Kathy Clarke, Arubah Health Professionals dietitian Beth Belford, Community Disability Alliance Hunter executive director Andrew Vodic, and workshop participant Gemma Gill.

Count Us In festival from May 13 to May 28 features a wide range of activities, including a nutrition wellbeing workshop, drumming workshop, accessible fishing experience, inclusive dance and art experiences and social and peer networking events.

The festival also includes activations focused on education and awareness, exploring topics such as workplace inclusion. 

Newcastle councillor and co-chair of City of Newcastle’s Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee, Margaret Wood, said Count Us In recognised and celebrated the contributions made by people living with disabilities. 

“The 2022 festival has a strong focus on working together towards solutions for employment and workplace inclusion for people with disability, which meets the actions of our recently adopted Disability Inclusion Action Plan,” Cr Wood said. 

“Count Us In effectively and respectfully brings people without disabilities into contact with people with disabilities, which builds awareness, reduces prejudice and helps create future opportunities.”  

This year, City of Newcastle (CN) has engaged Community Disability Alliance Hunter (CDAH) to assist with creating and delivering a diverse range of inclusive events, all of which are delivered with local community partners. 

“We have taken a community-led approach to Count Us In festival by engaging CDAH to enhance the range of events within the program,” Cr Wood said.

“This will highlight the skills and abilities of our local community and demonstrate a range of opportunities for participation beyond the program.

“This festival is for everyone, and I’d encourage all Novocastrians to come and join in the many events and activities on offer over the next two weeks.” 

Executive Director of CDAH, Andrew Vodic, said the organisation was proud to be partnering with City of Newcastle on the design of the 2022 festival program. 

“At CDAH, we are committed to building the capacity of peers to develop, organise and lead peer groups and develop mentor relationships that enable them to share their experiences and learn together,” Vodic said.

“Count Us In 2022 assists us in promoting these peer lead groups and hopefully reach more people.

“With over 90 per cent of CDAH staff living with a disability, the events and activities on offer have been designed by people with lived experience to create the best possible opportunities for inclusion and by reaching a more diverse mix of people.”   

For a full program of events and activities, visit the City of Newcastle’s website

Information source: City of Newcastle