Pat brings culture to support role
Patrick McKechnie is a proud Wiradjuri man who has lived in Dubbo for over 20 years. For the past seven he has also been a Northcott support worker, using his Indigenous culture and his own experience with disability to support customers to achieve their goals and to access the community.
We caught up with Patrick to find out more about his work with Northcott and why his Indigenous heritage is so important to his role.
What attracted you to a career in the disability sector?
I was born with hydrocephalus and Crouzon’s syndrome, which affects the sutures of the skull and results in malformation of the face. I was later diagnosed with severe hearing loss in both ears and spent most of my childhood undergoing specialised treatment in what was then known as Camperdown Children’s Hospital.
As I have spent most of my life in and out of hospital, I have always wanted to be a nurse to help others. I can empathise with how someone may feel and I can place myself in the other person’s shoes as I have been there myself.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Each day is different and I like the challenges involved when working with people with disability. It’s rewarding when you implement strategies to support someone with disability to achieve their goals and to be inclusive within society. I also enjoy supporting my work colleagues and educating others about the barriers people with disability come across within the community.
What is your greatest work achievement?
I have many achievements that I am proud of where I have supported customers to be inclusive within society and to have a voice – that is, implementing strategies around the scope of the customer’s disability. In recognition of this, I received the Northcott Employee of the Month and Employee of the Year in 2013.
One of the customers I supported was a young man who didn’t know how to express his feelings. So I spent time with him and he now knows how to communicate using body language, emotions, facial expression and Auslan (sign language). He has also learnt how to respect other people in a group setting and in the community.
Being a young Aboriginal man from Wiradjuri country, I reconnected him to his Aboriginal culture where he was taught how to do traditional paintings by local Aboriginal Artist Lewis Burns, using symbols used by the Wiradjuri community which can be seen in artworks that are on display at Northcott Dubbo.
I like sharing my Aboriginal culture (Wiradjuri) with everyone and because of this I am part of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) program within Northcott. I have also overcome my fear of giving speeches and now do the ‘Acknowledgement to Country’ at community events with the support of work colleagues, customers and their families.
Why is it important for you to be able to share your culture with Northcott customers, staff and the community?
I think it is important to share our Aboriginal culture because people need to know the ‘why’ behind our respect for our country, and to understand our communities and traditions of living on the land. Trees are important as they mark our boundaries; provide shelter and food; can be used to make tools – such as spears or boomerangs, coolamon to carry things or didgeridoos and clap sticks for music for traditional ceremonies and to tell our stories in the form of dancing. Animals like the platypus were important as that is a sign of clean water and good food resources.
Our languages are also important. ‘Wiray Ngiyang, Wiray Maying’ means’ No Language, No People’ – if there is no people there is no culture.