NDIS provider in Ballina: Meet Mark Downie, Behaviour Support Practitioner
23 November 2022
Ability Consultants is an NDIS provider in New South Wales and Queensland. We support NDIS participants in metropolitan and regional NSW including Ballina, Byron Bay, Lismore, Mullumbimby and more.
Our team seeks to create freedom and social connection for people with disability by providing easy access to positive behaviour support. Today, I caught up with Mark Downie, one of our incredible behaviour support practitioners and team leaders in NSW.
Mark has over 30 years experience supporting children, youth and adults in the mental health and disability sectors. He has supported individuals with complex health care needs in Australia and in the UK. Mark is a member of Behaviour Analysis Australia and is a Motivational Interviewing train-the-trainer. Mark is based near Ballina, New South Wales.
Meet Mark Downie, Behaviour Support Practitioner in Ballina
Mark, thank you for your time today. Tell us a bit about you!
Originally from Glasgow, Scotland, I'm married with three lovely wee boys. I’m a sports and music fan. I worked in various behaviour support roles in Sydney for ten years including being on the Statewide Behaviour Support Service, Regional Behaviour Support Team at FACS.
While in Sydney I often came to the Northern Rivers on the holidays with my family to get away from the city. I fell in love with the region and finally made the seachange eight years ago — drove up here in a thrifty van and haven't looked back since. We live a few minutes outside of Ballina not far from the Pacific Highway.
Life in Ballina
What do you love about living in the Northern Rivers area near Ballina?
Slower pace of life. People talk to you more here. Quality of life for families with kids and the dog is great. Spend so much more time outdoors than we did in the city. The best for work life balance. Infrastructure is developing quickly here, lots more foody and shopping options now than when I first arrived. Gold Coast and Queensland beaches on your doorstep and pristine rainforest National Parks half an hour away.
What is a must-see for people visiting or passing through Ballina?
Seven mile beach at Lennox and Whites Beach at Broken Head Nature Reserve are both getting busier thanks to the Hemsworths but still stunning and well worth checking out as these are great places for those in the know! At its best in the winter sun, Lake Ainsworth is also a slice of heaven and a favourite picnic spot for locals despite the impact of the 2022 flooding.
Positive behaviour support in Ballina
What’s the easiest way to explain positive behaviour support?
Positive behaviour support (PBS) is an evidence-based, person-centred framework for providing long-term support to people with disability and complex health care needs including those with mental health conditions, who have, or may be at risk of developing, behaviours of concern that impact on quality of life. This may or may not include restrictive practices (see below for more details).
With Ballina being in a regional area, you’ve been creative about how you deliver positive behaviour support. Can you tell us about your approach?
As an NDIS provider in a regional area such as Ballina it’s vital that I have a flexible approach to providing positive behaviour support. I’m committed to travel anywhere within the Northern Rivers region and have colleagues further north and south in the Grafton and Gold Coast areas who can assist also.
I can meet face to face or via telePBS. I’m skilled in providing engaging, fun and practical support and training via telePBS or directly in person to individuals as well as SIL teams. I’ve developed quizzes, healthy eating challenges (making a healthy burger), skill building, PBS, Risk Mitigation and de-escalation strategies, Motivational Interviewing training to national organisations, large groups and one to one discussions.
What do you value most about your work in Ballina and in the greater Northern Rivers area?
It’s important to remember the differences in working in regional Australia in comparison to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. There is a smaller disability community here, quite often under-resourced, that depends on individuals wearing many hats and stepping up to the plate to take on extra roles and responsibilities despite the distances and isolation in some cases.
Community spirit is incredibly strong here and seeing how the locals worked together throughout the catastrophic flooding we experienced earlier this year were the best examples of why I enjoy living here so much and why I’ve made it my home. Values such as mateship, humour, sticking up for the underdog and heading off to the beach early for a swim or surf are all reasons why I love it here and why it's my favourite place in Australia.
About Restrictive Practices
Can you briefly tell us what restrictive practices are? As you deliver positive behaviour support, what impact do you aim to have on restrictive practices?
“A restrictive practice is any practice or intervention that has the effect of restricting the rights or freedom of movement of a person with disability.” — NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission
Under NDIS guidelines, certain restrictive practices are regulated. These include seclusion, chemical restraint, mechanical restraint, physical restraint and environmental restraint. NSW is working towards the reduction and elimination of the use of restrictive practices. The focus should be on supporting behavioural needs to prevent the use of restrictive practices.
It’s required that restrictive practices are:
- only used in limited circumstances, and as a last resort;
- the least restrictive response possible to ensure the safety of the person or others;
- only used for the shortest possible time to ensure the safety of the person or others;
- only used when underpinned by a positive behaviour support framework;
- not to be used as a first response to behaviours of concern or as a substitute for adequate supervision.
As a Registered NDIS provider it is my responsibility to take the fear out of restrictive practices. Not only do I support the team to report restrictive practices in the correct manner but I help remove the “fear factor” from the process, from my initial involvement through to providing context and education in a fun and engaging way. Sometimes we inherit restrictive practices from other teams or professionals and it is vital that we can demonstrate that we are continuously looking for the least restrictive environment at all times.
About Motivational Interviewing
You have extensive experience in Motivational Interviewing — can you tell us what Motivational Interviewing is and how it can help individuals with disability?
“MI is a collaborative, goal-oriented style of communication with particular attention to the language of change. It is designed to strengthen personal motivation for and commitment to a specific goal by eliciting and exploring the person’s own reasons for change within an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion.” — Miller & Rollnick, 2013, p. 29
I got introduced to Motivational Interviewing whilst in the UK and spent many years championing its benefits for people with disabilities during my time working for the government and also in NGOs in Australia. I’m specifically interested in developing individually tailored behaviour support plans that include motivational interviewing techniques and scripting aimed at empowering the client as well as developing a consistent approach from the support staff to improve an individuals quality of life whilst reducing behaviours of concern.
How to organise positive behaviour support in Ballina
NDIS participants, families and support coordinators might want to get in touch with you. What’s the best way to do this?
I am easy to get a hold of and am more than happy to have a chat on the phone or video call, or meet up at a local cafe. If you’re a support coordinator or other referrer, I’m more than happy to meet you at your office. Please give me a call on 1300 964 625 or email me anytime at [email protected].
To make a referral, simply fill out our online referral form.
Ability Consultants is a Registered NDIS Provider in Ballina
Ability Consultants is a Registered NDIS provider in NSW. We support NDIS participants in metropolitan and regional areas including Ballina, Byron Bay, Lismore, Mullumbimby and more.
We seek to create freedom and social connection for people with disability through easy access to positive behaviour support. We support NDIS participants in regional NSW, all the way from the south coast of NSW to the Northern Rivers and out to the Central West. As a Registered NDIS provider, we work in line with NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission guidelines.
To find out more about our team, please visit our About page.