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4. David Glazebrook - “Why talking to our clients gives us an edge”


David Glazebrook - “Why talking to our clients gives us an edge”


David started his journey as a youth worker in Dandenong at the Visicare Centre.

"Convincing these kids to get out of bed early to go to work at 7am didn't work", so David and his team decided to purchase a fishing boat and said to the local kids "we are going fishing at 7am, if you’re not there your going to miss out". So over a period of a few months David and his co-workers changed the kids biology by consistently getting them out of bed early.

From early on, David believed in getting the kids involved in the decision making process at Visicare. He recounted that the times they made decisions without them they would invariably fail – even if the result was just 5% out. The results from this approach – over a 5 year period they were only broken into during the 1st week and graffiti was only put on the building once in the 3rd week of David starting work there. The local kids respected the building and respected what was going on there.  

NDIS spending in Victoria is set to rise from $1.5 billion to $5 billion with the number of packages increasing from 5,000 to 10,000. Most people who are 80% happy with a package of services for their child would take the package but with the change with the NDIS, people are starting to look round for better options. In some cases, clients and families of clients are unable to put into words exactly what it is they require, so Melba have developed their own 21 point plan (personal outcome measures) to identify what’s important to people – not as a generalization but as an individual.

David strongly believes in asking "What more can we do for you"? Recent requests have are "Get me a boy friend/ girl friend". From these responses a social impact program was developed which initially was met with some scepticism. If i say i want to be more socially active you will enrol me in a volleyball team or take me to a disco".

David and his team are currently working on this area. There research to date shows that disability dating websites show good looking people in wheel chairs rather than people from the real world.

2.3% of the disabled community identify as being Gay. The difficulty then arises when they try to discuss this with support workers. Most are afraid to say anything because they are concerned they will be frowned upon. At a conference a young man in his twenties gave a talk on ‘the real use of public toilets’. He went onto to discuss that as an adult male he was reduced to having sex in public toilets because the place he was staying would not let him have visitors.

David summarises the Melba approach as "listening to people and helping them do the things they want to do".

One of Melba's most recent projects is around providing tailor-made accommodation for people with disabilites. Currently if you have a complex disability you must live in a group home with 5 other people. You do not get a choice as to who you live with or even where you live. Hence the Anderson Street project where specialised units are being built.  

Each unit is setup to provide high levels of independence through the use of technology, using flexible plumbing so that sinks can be adjusted to different heights for peoples comfort, ovens that open the right way etc. It gives people dignity and reduces staffing costs - meaning that staff can be utilised elsewhere. David stated that “the design of these new units is beautiful and no longer has the sterile feel of a hospital”. There is also the opportunity for people to build up equity in case they decide to move ensuring there is finance available for the ongoing care of peoples children.

David says "We keep talking to the people we deliver programs too". We always ask “what do you want”. The service we provide is incredibly personal and individual and we understand that people talk about our service to others and from this we will secure new business.


David Glazebrook is the manager for Innovation at Melba Support services.



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