Become a Leader


This is the story of Debbie McKenzie's life and her participation in the Become a Leader program. It was told to My Choice Matters by Debbie and her support worker Gillian.

debbie sitting in front of her powerpoint presentationDebbie McKenzie has had an interesting life. When she graduated the Become a Leader program she was asked to share her story. This was the first time Debbie had done something like this.

She worked with support for a few months, remembering all the things in her life. The places she’d lived, the people she’d met, the things she’d done.

black and white picture of stockton mental hospitalShe grew up in Nowra but went to live in institutions when she was still a girl. She lived in Morisset and Stockton. She hated living away from her home.

She had no privacy. She had no control. She didn’t have a voice. Debbie doesn’t think anybody should have to live in places like that.

It is hard for her to think about this time. Debbie knows that she was persistent and resilient to survive.

a woman standing in front of a houseEventually she got to go back to Nowra. She lived in group homes and then by herself. She liked living by herself because she;

- didn’t disturb others,
- got up when she wanted to,
- did what she wanted to do.


the entrance to clelland lodgeBut then Debbie got sick and eventually moved to Clelland Lodge, an aged care home.

She is young to be living there. But she likes the staff and residents.


a woman preparing food
It took a little while but she’s back to doing things that she likes.

Going out with friends, visiting the library, working out at the gym, learning to cook and gardening.




three women sitting at a table Doing the leadership course was really important. She liked having the prep sessions before each day to get ready. Debbie met lots of new friends. She is still part of her social change group even though the course finished in August.


a woman receiving a framed certificate from another womanThrough the leadership course she put this story together. Now that it is in her hands she feels like she has even more of a voice. She is still part of her social change group even though the course finished in August.

Debbie learnt to take things as they come. She learnt to relax and live life in the moment.


a woman with a whiteboard in front of an MCM bannerShe is a born presenter. Debbie has told her story at TAFE, FOCAS and to the staff at Clelland Lodge. She is proud and excited that she can share her story.

At the graduation Debbie was asked what leadership meant to her. She said it was about sticking up for people. Now that Debbie has a voice, this act of leadership is possible for her.