How I learnt to speak up
“It took me a long time to find my voice. But now I find speaking up easy.” Leonie McLean tells how she gained the confidence and skills to speak up for her rights.
For a long time I was frightened to speak up because I thought I would get into trouble.
When I was young people treated me differently because of my disability. I think because I am short people sometimes did not notice me or listen to me.
I think things have changed a bit now but there is still a long way to go.
It took me a long time to find my voice. But now I speak up and I do not have any trouble. Some people even call me ‘motor mouth’ or ‘have a chat’.
I have been a member of a local advocacy group in Wagga for over 20 years. I started to learn that it was ok to speak up but I was still scared to do it.
I told my advocacy group about a couple of issues that I had with a service provider. The group encouraged me to say something. But when I did speak up nothing happened.
I started working for Council for Intellectual Disability (CID) in April 2018. My first job was working on a consumer rights project with Fair Trading. In the first month of the project I learnt so much about consumer rights.
I went on a day trip with the service provider and I had a bad experience.
The staff were not organised and left late. We were rushed the whole day. There were not enough staff to support everyone. I was left to support my friend who is deaf because no one could sign. I had to support other people too.
When someone asked to go to the toilet on the way home the staff said no. Then they let them go but told them to hurry up.
It was not a good day. I was not happy.
I told my colleague from CID and my colleague from Fair Trading what had happened. They agreed that I had a valid complaint and encouraged me to speak up.
So I did.
I had to make lots of phone calls to the service provider. I got passed around from the manager to my case manager. Then back to the manager and then to the human resource officer.
It took about 2 months from first speaking up and making a complaint to getting an outcome.
I got a letter from the service provider. I was not completely happy with what the service provider said in the letter. They did not really say sorry for my bad experience.
I decided to give them one more chance.
The next time I went on a trip it was better. But I have had some other issues with the service provider, like being charged for things that I have not done. I have told them.
I always speak up straight away now when something happens. It is best to say something straight away so that it can be fixed quickly.
I am looking into other options too with service providers. I know that it is my money and my choice.
It took me a long time to find my voice. But now I have learnt to speak up and I find it easy.
I feel better when I speak up. I feel in control. It gives me confidence.
I encourage other people to speak up too. It takes practice to speak up. It helps if you have people to encourage you and support you.
It is never too late to start speaking up.
Leonie McLean is an Inclusion Projects Worker at CID. This blog is based on a speech Leonie gave at the Having a Say Conference in Geelong in 2018.