Ron Deng, a Chinese Australian immigrant from Singapore, has called Western Australia home since 1976. He is a dedicated carer for his wife, who belongs to the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) community. However, Ron’s journey goes beyond the traditional role of a carer as a Carer Representative for Carers WA. Ron’s tireless advocacy for transcultural and faith-based communities, particularly in the mental health sector, has made him a shining example of a passionate advocate. This commitment and passion have earned him recognition as a finalist in the WA Mental Health Awards 2023, where he’s nominated in the category of Lived Experience Impact and Inspiration Award.
Ron’s connection with Carers WA began in 2015 when his GP encouraged him to explore the services provided by Carers WA. Coming from a culture where caring is viewed as a loving duty rooted in loyalty, Ron initially found it surprising to be told that caring is a full-time commitment but one where assistance is available. This role of a carer is often overlooked, with many assuming that caring is a natural part of any relationship, requiring no intrinsic compensation. Yet, Ron’s decision to reach out to Carers WA empowered him, as his voice was not only heard but also led to transformative changes in his life.
Before accessing support from Carers WA, Ron was faced with frustration, distress, hopelessness, and a profound sense of loss. Self-advocacy and advocating for others introduced him to many unexpected challenges. The critical turning point was his realisation that, through Carers WA, his voice could be acknowledged, and his situation could improve significantly. Counselling, enhanced access to health services, and respite care programs provided by Carers WA helped him navigate the challenges of being a carer. Ron also decided to join the Carer Representation Program.
Isabelle Livings, Carer Representation Advisor at Carers WA, states, “the Carer Representation Program enables people in a caring role to provide a voice for carers. The program allows carers to make a difference for all carers in WA by using their lived experience to improve services and increase awareness of the carer’s point of view. Reps can participate in health, mental health, and alcohol and other drug service policy development, planning and evaluation”.
Ron’s journey into the Carer Representation program was motivated by his desire to become a better carer and advocate for systemic cultural change within CaLD communities. Ron emphasised, “Knowing my rights, my other defined roles, and responsibilities became clearer. I learned to advocate for my family and myself in ways I never thought possible. Over the years, as a Carer Rep, I learned how to be an effective advocate. It begins with patience and empathetic listening while acknowledging opposing views without judgment. The most rewarding and deeply satisfying aspect is the opportunity to help others, make a difference, and improve their wellbeing, enabling them to lead a meaningful and purposeful life.”
The WA Mental Health Awards provides a platform to recognise Ron’s outstanding contribution. He shared his thoughts on being a finalist, saying, “I am overwhelmingly grateful to be a finalist, an incredible life milestone for me. Awards do not define who I am, but I am definitely delighted to be recognized by peers, affirming the intrinsic values, purpose, influence in best practices, and impact on better health outcomes”.
Looking toward the future, Ron envisions the development of carer leadership training and mentorship programs, benefitting both carers and Carer Representatives, particularly those in complex cohorts and marginalised carer groups. To carers who may be considering reaching out for support, Ron advises that it’s never too late, and self-care should always be a top priority. He encourages a critical curiosity and a shift from mere resilience to an “antifragility” mindset, where strength and hope are drawn from peer support.
Ron’s dedication to advocacy serves as an inspiration to others. The winners of the WA Mental Health Awards will be announced at an event on Thursday, November 23rd, at the Hyatt Regency in Perth. We extend our best wishes to Ron Deng in all his future endeavours as he continues to make a significant impact in the lives of carers and their families.
To find out more about the Carer Representation program, click here.
Image: Ron Deng (left) with Isabelle Livings, Carer Representation Advisor (right).