It is with sadness that we share the news with you that Debra (Deb) Clark – our Board Chair and friend – passed away on Monday 26 September 2022.
Our lives are all the richer from our interactions with Deb, and we will miss her wit and her wisdom.
After working closely with previous Chair Phillip Beddall, Deb took on the role of Chair after his passing, providing stability and leadership to the Association from that time on.
Never afraid to speak her mind, Deb was a passionate advocate for people with disability being in control of their own lives.
Even before the NDIS introduced choice and control to participants, she wanted people with disability to have freedom to live ordinary lives, being able to use the funding allocated to them the way they wanted to.
She believed in challenging the boundaries for herself and other people living with disabilities, taking risks in life and pushing back against conditions that impacted on human rights and choices.
Over the past 10 years, Deb made a significant contribution to Enhanced Lifestyles as a customer, Member, Board Member and Chair.
Especially in recent years, she committed significant time and leadership to the Association through a period of challenge and change.
Through her time on the Board, Deb saw us grow from a small organisation with just five or six office-based staff, 90 Lifestyle Attendants and customers to now more than 350 staff and 400 customers.
She brought her own unique leadership style and personality to the role as Chair, advocating for people with disability, ensuring governance obligations are met, while leading with a care and concern for customers and staff.
Deb was never in it for herself: she encouraged all around her. We will all have our own memories of interactions with Deb as she gave so willingly of her time to those around her.
She had her own respectful “Deb way” of encouraging others where and when needed. She could fill others with a confidence, making sure they were ok and also were given a voice to speak up.
Deb held in balance an understanding of the importance of adapting to disability regulation and reforms, while simultaneously having the courage to speak up where customer rights are being imposed upon through compliance obligations.
As a leader and as a person, Deb always lived true to her social work origins, having a care and concern for individuals in the way she approached her work and volunteering.
We all benefit from the mantra she lived of “nothing about us without us”.
We understand that the impact of Deb’s life goes well beyond Enhanced Lifestyles: her family, friends, team of Lifestyle Attendants past and present, former work colleagues, and also those she touched through her guest lecturing at Universities sharing of her lived experience with disability, especially with assistive technology.
Our hearts and thoughts go out to all of Deb’s extended family and friends at this time of both sadness and of celebration of the life that Deb lived.
Deb was an Enhanced Lifestyles customer from 2006 to 2022. Prior to her appointment as Chairperson in 2019, she served on the Board from 2014 as a Committee Member, Secretary, and Vice Chairperson.
In her role on the Board, Deb brought to Enhanced Lifestyles a customer perspective on the implications of strategies that are being suggested by management.
She saw her role as an opportunity to have input to the strategic direction, helping to shape the organisation and ensure that the origins of being member-governed were continued. She was always learning and enjoyed mixing with people who believed in the association.
While Deb had been unwell recently, Trudy Gepp has and will continue to provide leadership to the Association as Acting Chair of the Board.