Advising Ask Izzy: Tameika's story
Community collaboration is essential to Ask Izzy’s ongoing improvement and ability to connect people in need with over 370,000 support services across Australia.
This is why we established our first Product Advisory Group (PAG) in 2020. Members contribute their skills and experience to ensure Ask Izzy is the best it can be for people in need.
PAG members represent the wider community and bring diverse backgrounds, knowledge and experience to the table. In this post, we’re delighted to introduce you to PAG and former Frontyard Youth Advisory Committee member Tameika.
If Tameika could give one piece of advice to social service policy and program makers, it would be to include help seekers in the decision making process.
Tameika is only 23 and has already overcome more adversity than most of us will experience in our lifetime. She has been at risk of homelessness, witnessed domestic violence and has a disability. Now that she has a safe and permanent home, Tameika advocates for young people who are facing similar hardships.
“By using social services you become an expert and understand how the system impacts vulnerable people. No matter the person’s age, disability, or homelessness status – they deserve to have a voice,” she says.
A few years ago, after losing their family home, Tameika, her mum and her two younger sisters could only find short stints of temporary accommodation. At the time, her mum was disabled and her two younger sisters were still in school, so Tameika became the help seeker for her whole family. Despite knowing where to turn for disability support, Tameika confronted many barriers while trying to secure housing support.
“It actually became more difficult [to find support] because I wasn’t just looking for myself. I would often get told I wasn’t disabled enough, or we weren’t homeless enough because we weren’t physically living on the streets,” Tameika says.
During her search for disability support, Tameika discovered Frontyard Youth Services, where she was later invited to join their lived experience advisory group to help drive positive change in the community.
“I joined the Frontyard Youth Advisory Committee (FYAC) because I’d used their services before. We consulted with different organisations to help change policies and improve services for young homeless people. It’s also how I realised I wanted to study to become a primary school teacher,” she says.
Tameika heard about Ask Izzy through her consultation work at FYAC. She soon discovered what a valuable resource Ask Izzy was and how it could have helped her family connect with the support services they needed.
“I went on the website and just had a little browse. Then I got really angry and thought - why haven't I seen this before in my life? Why wasn't this website promoted in my high school and in universities?”
In her time at FYAC, Tameika was involved in three consultations for Ask Izzy before we established the PAG. She jumped at the chance to join the group to contribute to Ask Izzy service design and policy creation.
“I’m all for getting people with lived experience in positions that help influence things. I’ve been in the system for a bit and a lot of the policies are created by people with no idea how the system works or how insensitive it is,” Tameika says.
This year, Tameika is excited to meet the rest of the PAG members in person and collaborate to help us make Ask Izzy easier to use.
“I’m very interested in helping Ask Izzy become more accessible for the disabled, people experiencing, or at risk, of homelessness and people going through domestic abuse. That’s where my talents lie.”