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Festival of fun for one and all

By Sage Swinton
FOOD FUN: Founder of Arubah Health Beth Belford (centre) with clients Michael Clarke, Cathy Clarke, Gemma Gill and Arubah Health dietitian Pamela Chia. Picture: Marina Neil

Drumming, accessible fishing and inclusive employment are some of the activities on offer in a two week festival focused on disability inclusion.

Count Us In kicked off Friday and runs until May 28 with more than 30 free events and activities in Newcastle across the two weeks aimed at raising the profile of inclusion in the community.

Councillor Margaret Wood, co-chair of Newcastle council's Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee said the festival was about celebrating diversity.

"Newcastle is a place that has many diverse communities," she said. "Sometimes those communities don't get the opportunity to interact with each other. So this is really providing a platform via a whole vast array of activities to bring people together.

"I think there's still a lack of awareness in the community about that lived experience - what does it actually feel like day to day to have some form of disability, and to experience exclusion.

"There's still a lot of awkwardness around disability. For example, for people in a wheelchair, you will often find that people will speak to the person pushing the wheelchair, rather than the person in the wheelchair.

"They want to interact, they want to be accepted just like everybody else. So this is a great opportunity to really wave the flag and celebrate diversity, celebrate inclusion, and encourage people to start to think differently about people with a disability and to say, hey, I want to get involved."

Council engaged Community Disability Alliance Hunter to deliver the programs, and alliance executive director Andrew Vodic said the festival was a "great start point around inclusion".

"Because inclusion is an ongoing issue for people with disability and every opportunity to highlight the barriers towards inclusion and to support City of Newcastle and the broader community in their efforts to make a more inclusive community - it's just a great thing to do," he said.

One of the activities is a a nutrition, exercise and wellbeing workshop run by Arubah Health on May 18 and 25 at Lambton Community Centre.

"We're just teaching people the fundamentals of how to live a healthy lifestyle so that they are able to implement that in the home," Arubah Health founder and dietician Beth Belford said.

What is inkl?
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