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My Journey of Education and Volunteering

By

Riki Domagalski

A story about life-long learning, volunteering and leadership.

Hi. My name is Riki, and I live in Melbourne. I was born with a vision impairment. My birth and the hours after my birth were very traumatic. I had suffered a couple of convulsions within the first 12 hours of my life. At this point had not had enough oxygen going to my brain and then things turned which caused me to have too much oxygen running to my brain. I ended up being in a humidicrib for 10 days, and had a cerebral brain haemorrhage as well. As an adult I suffer from depression, anxiety, stress, and adjustment disorder, which affects my ability to cope with changes or adjusting to new life situations. I was born in Melbourne and at the age of 7, I moved to Shepperton.

I attended mainstream schools and when I was in High School, I did a modified VCE where I did four of the subjects instead of the five. The school supported me by giving me extra periods to do my homework and study for my exams.

When I was 18, we also found out that I had a genetic condition called Turner Syndrome, which 1 in every 2500 women have. Turner Syndrome is a condition that causes infertility which means that I cannot have any children of my own. This syndrome has not only caused fertility issues for me but has also affected my growth and body. I am only 4’10 and my hands and feet are puffy, I have a webbed neck, high blood pressure and underactive thyroid. Turner Syndrome is different for every woman depending on their diagnosis. Some women are full Turner, and some women are Mosaic Turner, which means partial. This is what I have. After school I moved back to Melbourne when I was 23 and continued my studies there. I went on to do my Certificate 2 in Business and a few Telecommunications courses. I was able to complete my Diploma in Community Development which I am quite proud of.

Close up photo of Riki, She has shoulder length blonde hair and is wearing a navy V neck top and red lipstick.
Image above: Close up photo of Riki, She has shoulder length blonde hair and is wearing a navy V neck top and red lipstick.


I have also done a lot of volunteering. I loved doing my volunteering jobs and have a lot of volunteering experiences behind me.

I volunteered with Grit Media on Channel 31 for many years. They had a program called No Limits that I appeared on. We were a group of people that had disabilities and we were able to learn how to film, produce, do crew work and present shows. This was a very good experience for me.

I have done a lot of inspirational talks through another organisation, Speakers Bank, and have been able to complete some podcasts with them. I have also been fortunate enough to volunteer at aged care homes and Yooralla.

In 2004, I worked for 16 weeks with the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind (RVIB), which is now Vision Australia. This was through the Steve Bracks government scheme that he implemented, paying people’s wages to up train their work skills.

In the community jobs program, we put together a RVIB open day that consisted of creating booklets and pamphlets, creating stalls and gathering other material for the open day. We were also in charge of marketing the open day and creating media promotions and radio ads, so that was also a great experience.

In 2013, for 3 months I was working at VIC Roads and was designated in the licensing and registration department.

In 2019-2020, I was given the great opportunity to work at Busy Beans for about 3 and a half months. Busy Beans was run by a Disability Employment Services provider, Aim Big.

Aim Big developed a program that was beneficial to people with disabilities. This was a barista program where we were paid full award wages to develop our barista coffee making skills.

One of my biggest accomplishments was moving out of home. I moved out of home in 2016 and that has been one of the best experiences that I have ever had. It was an independent decision that I had made with the support of my family. Mum and Dad were absolutely adamant that they wanted to see me independent while they were still here, and I have really surprised myself in how independent I am. I have National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) support that helps me with my cleaning and shopping, some cooking and even just sometimes to have some company and just have some mental health time. I also participated in cooking and art classes at Merri Health through the NDIS. To have that support from the NDIS has been great. I do of course have support from Mum and Dad and my family as well, but in the time of COVID I have been seeing them a lot less frequently which really sucks.

I would love to one day get a pet, but I am not sure whether I would like a cat or a dog yet. I really am proud of living on my own. I do catch taxis, sometimes I use public transport and other times I use support workers.

I find when it comes to capacity building, it’s not necessarily capacity building for you to do things independently. I understand now that capacity building is to be able to participate in activities like everyone else, even if the capacity building supports are ongoing and you need them for the rest of your life.

I am very into natural therapies, having studied Bowen Therapy and a course in Introduction to Massage Therapy and I am a Reiki Practitioner.

One day I would love to set up my own holistic business if I had the right support to be able to do that.

I am currently doing some training at Jigsaw, which has had to seek out funding from the NDIS to help support my journey with them. Jigsaw is not like any other disability employment agency or disability service in general that I have encountered. The view of Jigsaw is to get people into open paid employment, yes, but their strategy is different. Their strategy is to train people up as unpaid trainees. Initially, there is no time frame on how long that takes, it may take a month, a year or even a couple of years. As an unpaid trainee, you do your work experience in the hub which currently cannot be done because of COVID-19 but we do still have theory which we are doing via ZOOM meetings.

In these meetings you have one on one support and group training, and they mark off 20 competencies. Those 20 competences take as long as you need. Some of these competences may be punctuality, time management, teamwork, leadership, delegation, or initiative. Once all competencies have been achieved. They will then take you in for an interview and assess you as to how well you are doing, and if there may be any gaps that you need support in, they will figure out on how those gaps can be filled.

Then you become a paid trainee. As a paid trainee they also help you seek paid employment in the open employment market. Jigsaw also helps you seek paid employment in the open employment market in which you can get a full award wage, and I believe this is one of the best opportunities aside from moving out of home that has happened to me in a long time. I am looking forward to continuing making my own decisions and developing my leadership skills, whether it be in education, volunteer work or paid work. I can't wait to see what is next in the ‘Riki’s story.

Note - This story was written by Speakers Bank, based on an interview with Riki Domagalski.

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This story is tagged under:

Life Choices
Taking Part
Sex and Your Body
Safety and violence
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