TIC TALK Podcasts

Exploring personal experiences of inclusion

TIC TALK 23: Kathy Tessier and Leanne Carlon

A podcast with Kathy Tessier and Leanne Carlon
Kathy Tessier and Leanne Carlon

Kathy Tessier and Leanne Carlon

Inclusion Advocates

Kathy Tessier and Leanne Carlon are both complete legends in the inclusive sporting landscape in Australia. They are connectors, they are passionate advocates, they are leaders and they know their stuff. Listen and learn in this fun podcast.

 

Transcript of podcast with Kathy Tessier and Leanne Carlon

Peter:

Welcome to today’s Tic Talks. I have next to me Kathy Tessier and Leanne Carlon. Hello, Kathy.

Kathy:

Hi, Peter.

Peter:

Hello, Leanne.

Leanne:

Hi, Peter.

Peter:

I have the great pleasure of working with these people for many years and it’s an opportunity today to catch up and to discuss all things Inclusion and our work over many, many years. I might start with you, Kathy. I’m sure I told you this story, but 20 years ago, I was running one of the first ever workshops around this area at the Australian Sports Commission. My goal at that workshop was really to find two or three people who I could work with who could help me on this sort of journey we’ve gone on. And you were one of them, there was Liz Fraser and there was Doug Sandiford, there was three and I remember very distinctly, there were three people I thought, that’s the people I’ve got to work with. And bingo, 20 years later, we’re still here.

Kathy:

Still, it’s just like a cult, isn’t it, we can’t get out.

Peter:

It’s a cult, it is a cult like that. But it’s a start from back in those days, I think we kind of didn’t know what we were doing but we had a general idea that we wanted to recognize that sport, we were both working in sport at the time and we recognized it wasn’t allowing for people with disabilities, it wasn’t catering for people with disabilities. And we weren’t actually probably sure why but what do we think we learned, in the first few years, I think we learned an awful lot in what guided us years after that?

Kathy:

Well see, it amazes me that you said you didn’t know what you were doing because I always followed you because I thought oh, he knows. What did we learn? I think we learned it was initially about creating with the people you work with so that—a lot of the stuff I think in those days was everyone thought it was too hard, that it was something different, you needed special skills or something that was totally not just being a good practitioner. So it’s just really breaking down those barriers, just starting small and working with one organization. It was really hard though, I remember knocking on doors and people not opening the doors. It was quite amazing.

Peter:

Why do you think they opened—eventually they did open the doors in big numbers here as well?

Kathy:

I can—I reckon that—well for me, I think the thing was starting small and getting some really good examples so people can see how it changes everything, can see how simple it is and really that it’s just—it’s not rocket science. It’s really just about simply good practice and I think that the Sidney Paralympics changed everything for everyone because they actually saw sport for people with disabilities as sport and I noticed a huge change after. I remember getting on the train with you going to the opening ceremony and going, oh my God, oh my God, this train is full. Is this true, is this really true, what, 80,000 people? It’s sold out, we can’t get to the opening ceremony of the Paralympics, this is the dawn of the new beginning. And it was.

Peter:

Yeah I remember walking to the athletics stage and I can’t remember his name, a young man who I knew who was—I think he was running last in his race but I saw him out there and I thought, this is the way sport should be. He’s out there doing his best, he’s an athlete, we’re all here to watch athletics, this is the way. So all of a sudden, this is the way sport should be.

Kathy:

Yeah definitely, it was—I think it changed everything, everyone knew what inclusion was after that because they saw it, it was just about sport.

Peter:

And do you think, before that work centered, and (03:54) as well on changing attitudes. The whole approach to everything was around managing change but I think it kind of changed shortly after 2000 to be more of the practical how-to, it wasn’t a question of why we should do this.

Kathy:

And I definitely think this is the big thing of mine, but I think there was mixed messages too so there was all that medical model stuff, the CAD, the (04:20) with disabilities, this is what cerebral palsy use. I remember even then, even though I used to be the state coordinator for CAD, I used to think I don’t get this and I don’t get how you can actually modify for someone with cerebral palsy just because they’ve got cerebral palsy, it’s not about that. And I’m thinking, oh I’ve got so much to learn, in fact, I probably didn’t. So I think it was those mixed messages that also confused sport and didn’t know what to do in terms of including people with disabilities and by then, we’d got our act together a little bit more in terms of really working on attitudes and then it was just simple—it was an army of us and it was bang, you know?

Peter:

I think the attitude of going more to the how-to than the attitudinal change was simpler for people to understand and so it wasn’t to recruit that army of trainers and people we worked with, it wasn’t that hard actually, it kind of evolved because people understood sport, understood about adapting and modifying, understood about individual differences and all that sort of thing.

Kathy:

Yeah there was not one disability professional amongst us, and thank God for that, can I just say. So yeah I think that was the difference. It was just simplified, it was this is what it is and all the guys we work with in sport, they really did get it because it was simple, so nice and easy.

Peter:

Excellent. And Leanne, when did we—you have to remind me now, when we started working for (05:52) as well.

Leanne:

I think it was 2003, yeah, yeah, three or four. Did you come to the games, I thought you—

Kathy:

No, no, I—no.

Peter:

2003 is now 13—11 years ago and you had been involved, since then you were driving force behind the change in Tasmania and now in Victoria as well involved in a whole range of areas and inclusion. I’ve also got one question for you, why? I always like that question because it’s the hardest.

Leanne:

Why? Oh I suppose I had always been interested in disability through my relationship with family. So my grandmother was an amputee and I also had an auntie who had an intellectual disability and I love sport and so I went through university wanting to work in sport and I wanted to enable everybody to access sport. So that was my motivation. I was lucky enough to get the job in Tasi (06:58) which was the (06:58) for disability sport. And yeah and I was lucky enough to meet Kathy and yourself and Kathy became a bit of a mentor for me.

Kathy:

Oh dear God.

Leanne:

And I always remember her saying it’s not rocket science. But I actually recall one of my first education disability program workshops was not actually a workshop, it was a lecture at the University of Tasmania in front of a crowd of potential teachers and I was kind of going, I don’t really understand this stuff and I’m here teaching other people through this stuff and the light bulb sort of came on. And the whole concept of tree was just so basic in terms of adapting and modifying and it just made sense and it was kind of like, all those years that I’ve been volunteering for a camping program for people with disabilities and it was like, why didn’t I know this earlier because this stuff actually—yeah means other people can participate.

Peter:

Alright, talk a little bit about that because we talk about the tree principle about teaching styles and regulations, environments and equipment through the Inclusion Club but that really gave a very simple framework for people who are new to this area in particular, just a simple framework to use to look at how they might change things that aren’t working. Was this simplicity the key to that?

Leanne:

Yeah, yeah and I think it was the introduction to the social model of disability and so all of a sudden, the emphasis was taken off the person with the disability and it was placed on the environment rules, it was the instructor themselves, the leader, the coach, they’re the ones that own the disadvantage. And so that realisation was the light bulb, it was being able to recognise that wow, I can actually do things to change the way we do them and it means that everybody can play. So that was the light bulb.

Peter:

Yeah and the light bulb moment we talked about for years, it’s kind of hard to define as such but you have seen that, Kathy, lots of times. I can think of workshops we did where you kind of got an innate feeling, oh yeah, this moment, they kind of get it and it’s a way of articulating that, how can you explain that to people who are listening?

Leanne:

I think it’s hard to explain. It is hard to explain it but you’re right, you do know, not only in workshops when you’re working with (09:39) even sometimes or sports organisations or even local providers and you see that moment and it’s really clear, isn’t it, it almost is—it’s like the look on their face. It’s like their eyes become brighter.

Peter:

It’s almost like people who also at times, thankfully not very many, when you get the one or two people that might not—or are confused around things, even though it’s a simple framework and the idea behind Inclusion that as you say, Leanne, its disadvantages by the environment and by the people who construct an environment, etcetera still—maybe they’re fixated around the impairment place and they’re worried about how much they do or don’t know or issues on duty and care, those sorts of things.

Leanne:

I think—I mean there’s—I don’t know, I had a discussion with some guys from swimming the other day because we had a fantastic, fantastic course and workshop and there was just one guy we were talking about—why, what should we do, that really didn’t allow the light bulb to go on. Because of course, it’s always about the facilitator and we were sort of saying for some people, there’s other stuff going on too. So I think for him, it was like, hang on, if everyone knows how to do this, then I’m not the expert anymore and this has actually become who I am. So I am the only person that can have—that can teach or coach people with disabilities, so everyone comes to me, I’m the expert. And it’s actually—it’s my way of proving myself and so if everyone else knows how to do it, oh my God, I am threatened, I’m going to lose me, really. So it’s not just about a job, it’s about me. So my self-esteem, whatever, you can analyse it for the rest of your life but I think everyone’s got to be ready, don’t they, too, for the light bulb to come on.

Kathy:

I think there’s a bit of fear that comes with that. My involvement in the sport of bocce, years of being a grassroots through to being a Paralympic coach and you can see particularly high support in aides who have high levels of impairment, it scares some people and they think they need to know everything about the individual in order to cater to their needs. I don’t know a great deal about cerebral palsy, I never have known a great deal about cerebral palsy or the other impairments. I would never be able to differentiate between the different impairment types in the sport of bocce. All I’m looking for is okay, how can your hand grip a ball, how can you propel the ball as far as possible? How can you do a short shot? So, looking at ways that we can help the athletes to identify the best way to throw the ball.

Peter:

And regardless of impairment, it’s the same thing, regardless of who the athlete is.

Kathy:

Exactly.

Peter:

It’s the same kind of thing, isn’t it?

Kathy:

Yeah, definitely.

Peter:

And go back to the fear thing because I think you’re right, I think for some people it is a fear. Do you think that dissipates over time with exposure to those sorts of environments and exposure to disabilities and some of the ideas that fear can dissipate or do you think it’s kind of a permanent fixture?

Kathy:

What’s the video that we used to have?

Leanne:

Wayne’s World? No?

Kathy:

We did some politically incorrect things, didn’t we? Familiarity breeds contempt. That is the key and I think that the more you are around people of varying ability, the less inclined you are to be scared of difference.

Leanne:

You forget they’ve got a disability, it’s really embarrassing, like those guys at bocce, I was like, oh yeah, they’ve got a disability rather than thinking about—

Kathy:

This is my friend, this is John.

Leanne:

Or (13:44) got a fantastic sense of humour, how good is he at (13:48), oh my God. Oh that’s right, he can’t get up those stairs. Oh that’s right, how did I forget that?

Peter:

Yeah, that’s familiarity over years of work. I guess it’s difficult for us, in a way, to put ourselves in the shoes of people who are exposed to it for the very first time. And I think actually, it’s quite a skill is that if you’re facilitating and running that kind of inclusive thing. For someone who’s exposed for the first time, it is a bit threatening, it can be a bit daunting maybe.

Leanne:

I remember Kathy uses the term all the time of it’s not rocket science and I would always say that it may not be rocket science but there’s still an engineering component to it that you know, I often talk about the two of you have been through the process of learning about the disability specific stuff and that evolved into this model which is more about the social model and changing the environment and not needing to understand disability specific information. So I would always question, okay, so do we actually need that information because it’s sort of a base that then evolves in terms of you need to know in order to know that you don’t need to know it. No, is the answer. And I’ve relied on the word of Kathy, my mentor.

And I didn’t need to know it and I’ve never needed to know it and I still to this day say that I don’t need to know anything about the impairment. But I think the thing is, if I look at, particularly on a high performance setting, if I look at best coaches, like you know the Paralympic movement—and I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I love to watch coaches, there’s something scarily wrong with me. If I look at the best ones, they don’t really even know what disability, really, the players have got. And they’re all about their knowledge of the sport but most importantly, being able to get the best out of each person and the strategy, the context of the sport, is second to none and I think that, for me, is the greatest proof that it’s got nothing to do with their disability, it’s actually not even the context of what you’re actually going to coach or teach or—

Peter:

I always remember (16:09) used to say all the time that coaching athletes with disabilities simply made him a better coach. That’s the bottom line with it, said he was just a better coach because he had to consider (16:20), he analysed things really very precisely and very—in detail. But it simply made him a better coach, that’s all it is. What do you think—we’re here because we’re discussing a new resource that we’re looking at producing in the future and one interesting thing was, do you think things have changed? Things have changed for me. If we’d have done this exercise—we did do this exercise 12 years ago or something like that. We were all involved in the production of the resource and now we’re looking at doing it again and things have considerably changed. Which ways do you think they’ve changed now?

Leanne:

I think people—they really don’t need anything about the why we should be inclusive, but they just forget the how, they don’t know the how and when you don’t know the how, that’s when you go back a bit, it’s almost like you go back a few steps. So I think definitely everyone gets why and they’re not getting it, they’re not getting why in terms of (17:26) I’m going to be, it’s not the charity stuff, it’s the more members, the more bums on seats. Good business sort of stuff but just still the how, the how really just—it almost distresses me a bit when you work with an organisation that’s come so far and is doing an incredible amount of work and you think, yeah, that’s embedded and then a few people leave and they go back (17:49).

Peter:

It’s kind of the nature of the industry, in way.

Leanne:

It is, it is, it is. But I still haven’t quite nailed what it is that really, really, really embedded. I know we talk about policy and lots of stuff but really, if people don’t get what’s behind the policy, that’s also going to be useless. So I think we need to do a little bit more work on making sure that we’re out of a job, really. I don’t want to do another—give it a go in another 11 years even though it’s my passion.

Peter:

Well I think what we’re looking at for this resource is a considerable difference to what it was originally, it would be a very different sort of thing. What do you think as things have changed, especially in the last decade or so as things changed considerably?

Kathy:

Oh absolutely and I think that inclusion is happening. It’s not across the board but it’s certainly happening with a wide variety of sports and at the local club level. And because is happening, people are wanting that next step, they’re wanting to know how to truly embed the inclusion philosophies, and not only the people with the disabilities but for other population groups as well. How do we include women, how do we include people from culturally diverse communities? The principles are fairly similar, if not the same. So yeah I think that that’s the next step is the community is ready to look at inclusion as a whole rather than having to segment into priority population groups.

Peter:

That’s a good point to kind of end this podcast. I think now we’re looking at—we never did actually consider that very well because we’re so focused on the disability are but there are commonalities of inclusion that go across the board whether you’re looking to include the people who speak a different language, people who are older, younger, people who are from different cultural backgrounds and all sorts. There are common elements on that inclusive approach, recognising there are obviously still differences when you get to the details. But I think we’re to the point now and we can recognise the commonalities of inclusion.

Kathy:

Yeah.

Peter:

Excellent. I could carry on talking to you guys all day, the longest podcast in history.

Leanne:

(20:18) and no one else.

Peter:

There’s so much we could keep going on about, I know, but we do have to keep it fair, so I thank you very much, Kathy and Lee.

Leanne:

Thank you.

Peter:

And yes, thank you.

Leanne:

Great.