Advising Ask Izzy: Simon'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 member Simon Vallone.
Simon Vallone endured an extremely traumatic childhood growing up in Melbourne’s Western suburbs. These early life experiences have inspired in him a passion for social justice and improving the lives of people experiencing disadvantage.
“Having experienced a significant amount of trauma and disadvantage as a child, I‘ve devoted my professional and personal life to enhancing the quality of life of others and addressing issues faced by people,” says Simon.
“I’ve worked alongside community groups and organisations assisting with the development and implementation of their programs and projects that enhance the quality of life for Victorians,” he says.
One of those projects is Ask Izzy.
Simon first became involved in Ask Izzy back in 2017 when we embarked upon work to enhance Ask Izzy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, funded by the Victorian Government’s Public Sector Innovation Fund.
The project aimed to ensure that Ask Izzy was culturally safe for Indigenous people, provided information that spoke to them and improved their access to appropriate services.
Simon, who is from an Aboriginal and Italian background, was employed as the Aboriginal Project Officer for the project and was tasked with increasing Indigenous inclusion and cultural safety in Ask Izzy.
His role involved coordinating a series of co-design workshops with Aboriginal communities across Victoria to help set the direction. Simon says the co-design process was really important to him and he’s proud of being a key part of it.
“It was the first time such a project had ever committed this level of listening to help guide the development of a project. It resulted in a world class product and set the bar for Aboriginal self-determination and inclusiveness,” he says.
The project culminated in a new look and feel for Ask Izzy and other enhancements including the addition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags to search results and service listings.
Since moving on from his Project Officer role with Ask Izzy, Simon has continued to develop his vast experience and knowledge of the community services sector. He’s passionate about using that knowledge to continue developing Ask Izzy to be more user friendly and tailored to people's individual needs.
Most important of all, Simon is thrilled that Ask Izzy’s development continues to be driven by community consultation and co-design.
“I felt a strong connection to the Ask Izzy Aboriginal communities project, so I was excited to be asked to return as a PAG member to support further advancements.”
This blog post coincides with National Close the Gap Day on 18 March 2021, an initiative of ANTaR.
Simon says it’s important to amplify the message of Close the Gap Day because it ensures we have parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
“One of the first barriers is equal access to supports and services which at times can leave mob feeling isolated, excluded and racially divided. This is why it was vital to the success and adoption of Ask Izzy, that when it was developed it included and prioritised Indigenous health, wellbeing and safety. As a result, we’ve seen significant growth from Indigenous communities across Victoria in the uptake and utilisation of Ask Izzy.”
Read more about the Ask Izzy for Aboriginal communities project
Pledge to Close the Gap