Program provides a safe place online

Sunrise participants taking part in an activity. (Pictures: Women’s Health West)

A year on from the first COVID-19 lockdown, communities are continuing to adjust to living through a pandemic. People are embracing the digital world and see the possibilities that moving online can bring.

Women’s Health West program facilitator Beth Jaworski says this has been the experience for many participants of local disability group, Sunrise.

Providing social groups for women, trans, gender diverse and non-binary people with disabilities from all cultures who live in Melbourne’s west, the Sunrise program provides people with a safe and social place where they can learn skills, find information, build resources, and undertake new activities to enhance their wellbeing.

“The program aims to enhance participant’s ability to take control of their own health choices and decisions in their daily lives … with a whole lot of fun and laughter along the way!” Beth says.

“People with disabilities experience high levels of disadvantage in all areas of their lives, including social exclusion, economic insecurity and high levels of violence and discrimination. They also have reduced access to health information, screening, prevention, and care services.

“This can impact people with disabilities mental and physical health and leads to greater unmet health needs compared to that of people without a disability.”

Sunrise supports participants to build their confidence to connect with safe and accessible services.

One participant said: “It’s the only community I have that makes me feel safe”.

The groups have been providing support to community members of the west for nearly 30 years, continuing to run online via Zoom for the past 12 months. Participants can be provided support to access a computer, iPad or smartphone, as well as to the internet by the group facilitators.

Shifting to Zoom during the pandemic, the Sunrise groups have been able to continue to meet and support one another during the pandemic.

One participant said: “I am so grateful for this tablet and this program – I honestly don’t know what I would have done through lockdown without it. I [can now] see my grandchildren and my friends.”

While groups are still meeting online, Beth says they hope to meet face to face soon.

Get involved

Sunrise is welcoming new participants, so if you have a disability, chronic health condition and/or mental health 
condition, live in Melbourne’s west and want to connect with other like-minded people, then Women’s Health West would love to hear from you.

For more details, phone 0407 061 702 or email