Sylvana Mahmic is the CEO of Plumtree, a not-for-profit organisation that provides support for young children aged birth to 8 years old with a developmental delay or disability and their families.
Sylvana was deeply involved in the creation of the Disability Strategy. She is a parent of a child with disability, a former teacher at the department and a passionate advocate for the disability sector. This is her story.
“Her name was Ivy – I still remember it 20 plus years later. She was very supportive and influential. Our ally in the Department of Education. She told us Karim was very entitled to go to his local school. She encouraged me to make it my decision, our family’s decision.
I was a primary school teacher myself and when my son was born with a disability I went back to study and got my Masters of Special Education (Integration) as it was called then. I put it into practice at my local school and they relied on my help because back then, it was still very new.
There were some who believed Karim should be in a special school or support class, definitely, but ultimately, we were guided by him. He loved the school and he loved being a part of the school community, as did I.
There has been a significant shift since then. People with disabilities are part of the community. The expectations of parents have changed. They come in with a confidence I did not see when I started in this role 21 years ago.
There is still a way to go. When leaders are supportive and open, things tend to happen. People make inclusion work in creative, unusual and very individualised ways. Most of the time what makes it happen is not extra funds and resources, it’s goodwill and a positive attitude.”