Energy, passion and drive – these are three words that come to mind to describe 26 year old Michaela. She has an NDIS plan for her Type 2 Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a condition that affects her mobility – she’s in a motorised wheelchair and uses a stylus in her mouth for all her laptop communications.
However, her disability hasn’t stopped her from achieving amazing things, including a Bachelor of Legal Studies from Griffith University, and becoming an up and coming leader and advocate for justice and inclusion in Australia. We recently had a chat with Michaela to find out more about her background, what she’s up to now and her plans for the future.
A busy, full life
Michaela likes to keep busy and get involved in her local community, particularly where justice and equality are concerned.
“I have a few jobs,” Michaela laughs. “I work for Friendly Hearts Disability Services where I do personal assistant tasks and update their social media. I also write letters and contact schools about organising and inclusion, particularly schools where they’ve had a history of bullying.”
“So I’ve worked in discrimination for a long time now. Aside from that, I’ve worked for the Human Library for like eight years, been interviewed and done work with Pathfinders Neuromuscular Alliance in the UK, and done a lot of presentations at schools to share my story.”
“More recently, I went out and did a day of recording and presenting at Biogen,” she says. “We were trying to work out how an engineer could make our life [with type 2 spinal muscular atrophy] easier. And what we got from that group presentation was a website called Together in SMA, and I continue to contribute blogs to the website.”
The right support when she needed it most
Michaela moved from Tasmania to the Gold Coast in March 2020 with the assistance of her OnSide Support Coordinator Wendy. She had a Support Coordinator in Tasmania but was looking for someone new to be there for the transition to the next chapter of her life.
“Wendy’s come along the journey and just sort of been in the background when I need her,” Michaela explains. “She’s been really good – normally, most Support Coordinators are up in your face. But Wendy has been able to step back and forward when I’ve needed to, which has been so handy.”
For Michaela, keeping her independence is a big goal – and it’s something that her Support Coordinator has championed since day one.
“What stands out is the lack of pressure,” she reflects. “There was a moment when Wendy thought that it would be best that I moved elsewhere, into a different house. But I said ‘actually, I don’t want to do that’ – and Wendy listened to me, respecting my choice and control. So I think that’s paramount: although Wendy may have seen it as a better option, once we discussed it and I voiced what I preferred, she got it and I felt heard.”
Driven by a passion to prove them wrong
Michaela’s energy is infectious – and it comes from a long history of having people tell her what she can and can’t do.
“I’ve had a lot of people say that I can’t do things, so maybe it’s partly my arrogance that makes me say: ‘oh I can’t do it – watch me, I’m going to do it,” Michaela laughs. “I think that the drive to prove people wrong has sort of ‘made me’. I had a lot of people not believe in me, so I’ve been all in on ‘me for me’, and committed to making my own life better.”
For her own future, Michaela has lots of plans. First, she’s going to continue her studies in law and do a postgraduate degree on the Gold Coast. Then, she wants to travel more, write a book and continue her justice and advocacy work in her community and beyond.
If you’re interested in following along and connecting with Michaela, you can find her on Instagram.
Dedicated Support Coordination, always
At OnSide, we’re able to keep participants’ choice and control at the heart of everything we do because we’re independent. So if you’re looking for support that’s unbiased and flexible enough to grow alongside you, get in touch with us today.