Our feature in The Age

Providing care in a multicultural community

It makes sense that disability support in Australia should reflect the fabric of society.

One of Australia’s greatest strengths is its cultural diversity, which has become central to its national identity. With such a dense multicultural and bilingual population – almost one in five Australians speaks a language other than English – it makes sense that culturally diverse care and support services are a fixture of Australian life.

For this very reason, Faris Bashir founded disability support service provider FBA CARE in 2016.

“I migrated with my family from Africa to Australia in 2004,’’ he says. ‘‘Both my mother and brother have disabilities and the biggest challenge for them was the language barrier between them and their carers.

“I started FBA CARE because I wanted to provide high-quality support services to individuals living with disability from a culturally diverse and bilingual team of support workers.”

FBA CARE is a plan manager and service provider assisting participants under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The scheme offers people living with disability more choice and control over the services they receive.

Bashir has set up and run several businesses and in the early days of FBA CARE – and the NDIS itself – worked in plan management and support co-ordination himself.

“I know the disability sector from the ground up,” he says.

FBA CARE’s plan managers, support coordinators and direct support staff are fluent in multiple languages, allowing them to communicate with the group’s culturally diverse clients.

“We have staff fluent in Vietnamese, Arabic, Turkish, Spanish, Bosnian, Burmese, Mandarin, Persian and more,” says Bashir.

“We also separate all of our service teams. This means the plan managers who run the finance side, the support co-ordinators who help participants put their plan together, and the direct support workers who deliver the care require the participant’s permission to share information with one another. This reassures our participants as there is no conflict of interest.”

FBA CARE’s direct support ranges from providing personal care and completing household and gardening tasks, to delivering community engagement strategies for participants and coordinating allied health services.

“FBA CARE has strategies to increase community participation for our participants which helps boost their confidence and overall wellbeing,” says Bashir.

“Encouraging participants to go out with a worker, even for 30 minutes or an hour a day, makes them realise they are quite capable of being part of the community.

“Before coming to FBA CARE, one of our participants hadn’t left their home for almost four years. With the help of our coordinators, allied health professionals and support workers, the participant began walking around the block, then progressed to one-on-one basketball lessons and now they attend their local gym consistently.”

FBA CARE’s group-centred activities work in a similar way, helping participants build confidence, independence and connections with others.

When the global pandemic hit last year, group activities and community engagement had to be put on hold or reduced. However, FBA CARE continued providing for participants and ensured both staff and clients were looked after.

“We procured a shipment of [personal protective equipment] for both clients and staff free of charge to ensure everyone’s safety. Our support co-ordinators continued to work remotely and direct carers continued caring for participants in their homes, with high-need dependants prioritised.

“The disability sector offers rewarding work yet is severely short-staffed. At FBA CARE we actively recruit culturally diverse team members so we can provide a service to NDIS participants that is inclusive and accessible.”