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Julie Duong

Julie Duong works for the Diversity and Disability Alliance (DDA) as a guest speaker and helps run the Peer Café. She is an advocate for self-managing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and actively works with culturally diverse people with disabilities to help them speak up to get the support they need. This is her story.

Being an Australian born Chinese from immigrant parents has really been a big part of my identity and it shaped my beliefs and understanding.

It’s not so much about where we grew up but how we grew up and for me, that was a very Chinese upbringing in an Australian culture. On reflection, I think it’s been the best of both worlds t and has made me much more adaptable and understanding.

I have always had a passion for different communities especially people from refugee backgrounds because of my dad’s own personal story when he escaped the Vietnam war looking for a better life. This has always motivated me to get involved in affected communities.

I think being someone with a physical disability already has its own challenges, let alone having a multicultural background. I hope to make a difference in changing attitudes. I want to show that it doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive to be open to western values and one’s own.

Multiculturalism is what brings Australia together. I have learned so much from opening up my mind to different cultures and embracing the differences. It’s this appreciation that makes me want to ensure that their voices are heard and valued by others too. This is why I feel so strongly that more work needs to be done and it starts with people like myself getting involved in the community and creating avenues for inclusion.

Everyone has such a unique and interesting story to share that can help create a sense of belonging in any community. 

At DDA I am a guest speaker at their peer group meetings. I’ve shared my stories on everything from how I travel, how to self-manage the NDIS, through to running their peer cafe. I’m now a facilitator in running training workshops on peer support and how that can help culturally diverse communities to strengthen their voices and get supported. More recently, I’ve set up a consultancy business with two other colleagues to empower the voice, choice and freedom of people with disabilities to live the life they choose to.

At times I ask myself “how did I do that?” I think the human mind and body can do amazing things if you set your head and heart to it. I realise a lot of what I do comes from the support and breadth of people I know and meet. If you put your heads together and talk about what you want to achieve, you are motivated and held accountable for your own actions. If you are passionate about what you want to do, not what others want, you’ll be able to move towards it.

Everyone’s contribution, as little or big in this world is important so as long as you enjoy and value what you’re doing, you’re already one step ahead.