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Western Australian ‘Wild Western Deafblind Camp’

Senses Australia was very proud to recently host the ‘Wild Western Deafblind Camp’ on November 14 – 16 2014 at the Ern Halliday Recreation Camp, Hillarys, Western Australia.

The WA Deafblind Camp provided an opportunity for people who are deafblind to come together, to catch up with friends old and new, to share lived experiences and engage in recreational activities and outings in an environment that was safe and supportive.

Fifty deafblind people from all over Australia and two people from New Zealand attended the camp this year.  This was the largest gathering of deafblind people in Australia, ever!!!  To ensure campers had the best experience, volunteers who numbered over 100 were there to provide 1 to 1 communication and sighted guide support.  Volunteers were trained in the areas of: What is deafblindness, causes, impact, communication, making contact, do’s and don’ts and Sighted Guide training.  Along with tactile and hand over hand training.

Many of the volunteers put in fifteen hours a day and were tireless in their commitment and support of our campers.  A huge thank you to all the dedicated volunteers new and old who embraced the deafblind community, we couldn’t have done it without you.

Feedback from deafblind campers on the volunteers included:

  • “All the volunteers were fantastic”
  • “I did have a good time. I got lots of help with communication, I was lucky.”
  • “Very relaxed and the volunteers worked hard to ensure everyone could participate.”

On arrival on Friday afternoon, campers were given a little time to settle in and orient themselves to the campsite.  A meet and greet was held in the dining hall this was followed by the evening meal and lots of catching up with friends old and new.  Friday evening the ‘Pioneers’ bush band set up and gave campers an introduction to the steps required to participate in the big barn dance on Saturday night.

        

On Saturday morning campers participated in a variety of recreational activities including: abseiling/flying fox, archery, caving, indoor rock climbing and craft.  Saturday afternoon we travelled off site along the coast road to Kings Park in central Perth, where campers and their volunteers enjoyed beautiful views of Perth city, visited war memorials, walked along the tree top bridge and enjoy the beautiful gardens.  We then departed Kings Park for Conti’s Winery, where campers greatly enjoyed tasting the local wines, cheese and biscuits.

         

Saturday evening the first ever Deafblind Barn dance was staged.  Campers and volunteers were full of enthusiasm and fancy footwork and we all danced well into the night.  Everyone embraced the Wild Western theme with some fantastic costumes and lots of happy snaps taken in the photo booth to remember the night.  Campers were asked to feedback on what they liked the most about the camp, comments included:

  • “Socialising and meeting new people and old friends.”
  • “Good to see so many people laughing, having fun and dancing.”
  • “Everything mostly dressing up and the dance.”
  • “Bush dance was brilliant.”
  

Awards were delivered for Best Costumes and Best Dancers.  Many thanks to our stoic judges: Debbie Karasinski CEO Senses Australia, Elvira Edwards, General Manager Client Services and Matthew Wittorff, Manager Deafblind Services.

        

On Sunday morning campers were on the move again and given a variety of activities to choose from.  Many went to explore the Hillary’s Boat Harbour while others enjoyed tandem bike riding, swimming and canoeing.

We then all reunited for a panel on the NDIS.  Many thanks to our informative panellists: Carla Anderson, Justine Lorenz, Matthew Wittorff and Rita Kleinfeld-Fowell.  There were lots of questions and great discussions around this exciting initiative.  We then all enjoyed a good bye lunch and the speeches began.  Many campers got up and expressed their happiness at having been able to participate in this fantastic experience.  A few comments from campers are listed below:

  • “The best camp I’ve ever attended.”
  • “Well organised, the communication support and volunteers enabled me to communicate with others, meet new friends and new challenges.”
  • “Experienced lots of new things and was smiles all weekend.”
  • Senses Australia did a fantastic job.”
  • “I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT.”
  • “Loved socialising and meeting new people and old friends.”

This camp was generously supported by Perpetual Trustees, NDS Community Living and Participation Grants, Charity Direct and Senses Australia.  Again a huge thank you to everyone who participated and contributed to the success of this camp and we hope to see you all again in two years!!!!!!!

Karen Wickham
Camp Coordinator/Senses Australia