Melanie Schlaeger describes herself as a "can-do" person who loves to travel and spend time with her friends.
"I consider myself a very social person, I love hanging out with my girlfriends and going to see a movie or a theatre show," Melanie said.
The bubbly and enthusiastic 26-year-old has an unquenchable zest for life and for making the most of very opportunity that comes her way.
This positive attitude led her to be appointed one of the NSW Government’s "Living Life My Way" Ambassadors and Champions — individuals living with a disability who share a common desire to make a lasting and positive difference in the lives of others by sharing their stories — a role Melanie relishes.
"Making a difference in the community and giving people living with disability the choice to lead the life they want is important to me," she said.
Melanie has cerebral palsy and has been managing her own support since 2009. She is passionate about advocating for independence through equitable access to the right services for people living with disability.
"My life is not a sob story. The reality is I have a disability, but it’s about getting the support you need to live a full life and not having to rely on your friends and family," Melanie said.
"Some people don’t know what choice and control is. I want to promote independence through showing people the choices they have in life and helping them realise they are in control of their future."
Melanie was thrilled to find out that the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was going to become a reality and that people living with a disability would have the chance to focus on creating a life for themselves.
"We need to acknowledge that everyone has challenges in their life and there are different things we need to put in place to overcome those challenges. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is a vital stepping stone for people living with a disability to overcome their challenges."
Melanie hopes the NDIS will provide her with the financial stability and support so that she can continue to have a meaningful career and one day in the future – a family.
"I don’t expect the NDIS to find me a white picket fence, kids and a partner, but I do expect them to give me my independence … the independence to chase those dreams."
"I want my parents to just be my parents and not the back-up plan. I want my mum and dad to take on the role of being my parents and not my carers."
Melanie also hopes to continue her work as an ambassador for people living with a disability, although she hopes her job will get easier over time and that there won’t be a need for people like her advocating for independence.
Source: Disability Loop
"I am hoping that through the National Disability Insurance Scheme people will realise they can have dreams and aspirations just like anyone else, only now they have a chance at achieving them," Melanie said.