Neal Vickers – ECIA Board ‘getting to know you’
1. Favourite book, film, quote and song?
Not a big fan of identifying anything as 'favourite'. I have fairly eclectic tastes in music, literature and films, but tend to gravitate to 'alternative' or 'non-mainstream' stuff. I will definitely avoid identifying any song as a 'favourite', as music is very much a taste that changes with one's mood. For films however, if there is one film that I could watch anytime, it would be Blade Runner.
2. Who inspires you and why?
While I am certainly interested in the stories of great leaders and thinkers, or stand-out sportspeople, etc. what I find most inspiring is the stories of the 'everyday' people that I work with. I would often be the first to meet with families in the multidisciplinary team I have worked most on. So frequently, I would get to meet families quite soon after a diagnosis of a disability of their child, or during the investigation phase of trying to find out why their child's development is different. I am inspired when I see those family members grow in their journey with their children. I have worked with some parents who have, through necessity, become remarkable advocates for their child; going on to further study and/or work roles in the disability sector, or lobbying for improved supports for families. However, I am also inspired by families who 'get on' with the business of being mum and dad to their children when the label'disability' or 'developmental delay' happens to be used for one of their children. I see strength and resilience in the face of a world that seems to be valuing 'fitting in' over inclusion or difference.
3. What drew you to work in the early childhood intervention sector?
I changed careers from drafting in Civil Engineering and studied Social Work, mainly because I found myself working in a small office with only 3 other people and I worked out drawing lines on paper was not my passion - even though it was cool to drive past buildings I drew once they were built. After graduating as a Social Worker, I looked for a job and I was fortunate to get one in a multidisciplinary ECI team in the government disability service in Brisbane. I had no experience in disability or working with families. As a new social worker, I quickly became passionate about supporting families in the challenges of raising children with disabilities and developmental delay. So it was just luck that I found myself in an area that grew to become my passion - straight out of uni, and 18 years in that same role and loved every minute!
4. What motivated you to nominate for the ECIA Board?
I had been involved in the Qld chapter of ECIA since the early 1990s, and was able to step up into a National Councillor role - prior to ECIA amalgamating to the a single entity. I was fortunate to be selected by the Qld Chapter as someone for the transitional board. I want to continue my role on the board, because it is an exciting opportunity to grow ECIA to be recognised as the voice of the ECI sector by drawing on my experiences with the families that I have worked with. I also want to ensure ECIA is building the capacity of ECI practitioners to deliver great supports to families through a focus on ECI best practice and a focus on families' dreams for their children with disabilities and developmental delay.
5. What is your vision for the early childhood intervention sector into the future?
My vision is that ECIA grows in influence as a national peak organisation. Not for the sake of the ECIA, but because a strong national peak body in any sector is a sign of a mature sector that is recognised as the voice of the sector, and ECI practitioners across Australia are recognised as vital parts of the effort to support families and grow children in an truly inclusive society.