Effie Meehan’s joy for life is obvious from the moment you meet her. Today, she’s an ADEC Disability Ambassador, the proud mother of two, and a delighted grandmother of four. Effie was inducted into the lifetime achievement honour roll in the Victorian Disability Awards in 2022 in recognition of her significant contribution and outstanding commitment to the rights, participation and inclusion of Victorians with disability.
But Effie’s journey hasn’t been easy. She was born with Cerebral Palsy, and moved to Australia from Greece with her family. She found herself living in a different culture, and unable to speak English. Then she met and fell in love with an Irish man who also lived with a disability.
“We were married in 1971, so things were very different then,” Effie says. “There was no support for people living with disability in those days, and our mothers were not supportive of the marriage at first, so it was very hard.”
The birth of Effie’s two children united the families. And the parenting challenges Effie and her husband faced inspired her to set up a parent disability community project at Yooralla to support parents with disabilities.
“My daughter has been a police officer for 10 years and my son is a psychologist,” she says. “I’m very proud of them, and I love being a grandmother so much.”
Effie also wanted to help people living with disabilities in ethnic communities who faced similar challenges to her own. So, in 1982, she was involved in setting up Action on Disability in Ethnic Communities (ADEC) to help provide support for people with disabilities and their families within ethnic communities.
More than 40 years later, Effie still delights in her work as an ADEC Disability Ambassador. ADEC is one of many hard-working NDIS providers in Melbourne, and she is proud to advocate on behalf of ADEC’s clients to access health and wellbeing services, understand their NDIS eligibility, and for better opportunities to participate and engage in community activities. But it’s the relationships she’s built with ADEC clients that brings her the most joy.
“I have built many long relationships over many years,” Effie says. “I love getting out of the office and meeting with people. I love learning about different cultures, and finding ways we can work together to provide better opportunities for people living with disability. It makes such a difference when we see a person’s capabilities rather than their limitations.”
One of Effie’s proudest achievements is her work with Women's Health Service. She was an instrumental part of a project that enables more than 800 women living with disability to have pap smears over a 10-year period.
Today, Effie still works tirelessly on behalf of people living with disability, and says more funding is needed for NDIS services and NDIS service providers to keep supporting people from ethnic communities who struggle with disability.
“Talking is good but we need action,” she says. “People are not only dealing with disability. There may also be cultural differences and a language barrier that can bring more challenges. We need funding to connect people with as much support as possible.”
Effie also wants people to know that working in the community with NDIS registered providers is an incredibly rewarding experience, and encourages anyone who wants to help to get involved with ADEC.
“Helping people is in my heart, and I love to be out in the community. I hope more people can feel the joy that comes with helping others.”
ADEC is looking for awesome people to contribute to positive change in our society. Check out our current employment opportunities or contact us to learn more about how you can get involved.