4 October 2022

Daniel is a young man who currently lives in a Supported Independent accommodation and is supported by Life Without Barriers. Daniel is nonverbal, but with the support of Camp Breakaway San Remo, his carers and his family, Daniel is exploring his communication more.

One in six, or 4.4million Australians have a disability. One in four of those, below the age of 25, have speech difficulties; this drops to 3.5% from the ages of 25 to 64; and 5.4% of those 65 and over.

When 43-year-old Central Coast resident, Daniel, hears that his regular Camp Breakaway holiday is approaching, he exclaims a camp volunteer’s name: “Norma”.

Sharon Cornish, Daniel’s keyworker, says that the camp is a game-changer for people like Daniel and their support networks.

“The promise of Norma’s company made Daniel a camp regular. He is happiest when he is riding the sidecar of Harley Davidsons, singing, disco-dancing, playing bingo, doing puzzles, and attending candlelit dinners and church services – but not fishing. He is not a fan of that,” Ms Cornish said.

“Meanwhile, families and carers can escape burn-out, while swapping care strategies, and seeing their loved ones grow from magical activities”.

But Daniel’s getaway also requires a lot of preparation by Sharon.

“For Daniel to have a smooth break I prepare his handover well in advance, including medication and fluid requirements,” Ms Cornish said.

Daniel can has tried attending other camps, however, he hasn’t found anything quite as magical as Camp Breakaway.

“He has been attending the camp for years, and between holidays he is always asking when the next one will be. He is constantly grinning at camp and often refuses to leave,” Ms Cornish said.

“Daniel’s family is very supportive of his attending. He has tried other camps, but this one is the best fit for Daniel.”

Daniel became quieter when Covid-19 paused his camp getaways, and funding shortfalls mean the camp is closed.

“Daniel went twice this year and loved it. He hopes it opens again because it means so much to him,” Ms Cornish said.

Run by volunteers, Camp Breakaway, on the NSW Central Coast, offers four-to-five-day activities for people with disabilities, their carers and siblings. Themed camps are run around every month.

Daniel became involved to make friends and enjoy camp activities, but Sharon says he has gained much more:

“By taking part, Daniel can be himself.”

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