Taking Charge of Life, with Libby Ellis

June 12, 2019

Libby Ellis, of InCharge

Enjoy this conversation with Libby Ellis, sibling, and founder of In Charge, a consulting organization in Sydney Australia that is assisting people with disabilities to be the authors and champions of their own lives.

About Libby Ellis:

Libby works for a vivid vision of inclusion. She has walked many steps with her brother, Matthew, and for 20 years she has assisted others in taking front stage in their own lives. She supports people through the experiences, lessons, successes, and failures in self-direction over an extended period. Libby’s vision is to bring a personalized, heart understanding of what it takes to be in charge. Libby lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband, Sebastian.

Libby’s Story:

On the podcast, Libby shares her family experience. This blog captures a summary of her story; I recommend that you listen to the podcast to get the full version!

Libby lives in Sydney, Australia and has two brothers. A younger brother James and older brother Mathew (who has a disability). She is married to Sebastian (who is Canadian).

Matthew moved out of the family home when he was just nine years old. He moved into a medium-sized institution, where about 15 other people lived. Later on, the institution got broken up into smaller group homes. When her parents asked for help, that was the solution. For many families, this is still the proposed solution.

Libby started to realize these injustices that Mathew was faced with when she was in her mid to late teens. Matthew’s experience was a trigger for her rights based / social justice thinking. Libby was transformed through love and witnessing Matthews experiences in a disabling world. She saw his pain, vulnerability, powerlessness, and lack of control.

Libby’s family helped Matthew move out of the group home when he was 26. Her childhood experience was one of separation from her brother and trying to understand why it had to be that way.

How did the separation from your brother impact you?

Libby: “I started to ask why? It has led me on my path, and in my career to date. It has taken me to a lot of lessons and experiences that I have experienced over the last 25 years of my career.”

Can you share Matthew’s experience of separation?

Paraphrasing from the podcast, Libby shares:
“Matthew doesn’t speak and hasn’t yet been able to share his experience. He can understand, but he is missing expressive language to share his thoughts and his feelings.

From my perspective, he experienced some not very nice things. He has some behaviors that developed as coping mechanisms. When I look at pictures of him from that time vs. images of him now, there is such a difference, and it isn’t a difference of age. I can see the impact of the disabling environment that he was in.”

How did you make the move out of the group home?

Paraphrasing from the podcast, Libby shares:
“Because he couldn’t articulate his experience himself, we had to come up with a decision-making process and take a leap of faith to help him move out of the group home. Meeting with other peers and people that have gone before you, then you can see the thing that you want because someone else has created it and is living it. You can then see the pathway forward – this is so important.

You can see the evidence, or indicators, to a good life, that is there in other people’s lives, but they aren’t there in your family; this can help to take that leap of faith.”

How did you breaking through communication and behavioral barriers?

Paraphrasing from the podcast, Libby shares:

This is an ongoing challenge. We had the questions: Who is going to want to live with Matthew? Who is going to want to care for him?

It is what I call the “what ifs..” It is helpful to list out the ‘What If’s…”

What if… Someone does something to him…
What if… He loses the key…
What if… xyz…

This then becomes the basis for the safeguarding system we built.

We need to step into the unknown, but before that, there is a lot of planning and preparing.

By trusting and having a sound safeguarding system in place, we have found people, and people are out there. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right person.”

Eric shares, “ It is a myth that people that have a disability have to live with other people that have disabilities.”

Libby shares, “It is hard work. The social model of disability teaches us that it is going to be hard work. But, it was also hard work when Matthew was in institutional settings. In institutional settings, it was hard work to make a change because of the powerlessness [against the organization]. Now it [the social model] is hard work, just a different kind of hard work. For example, finding someone to live with Matthew. But now we have control and power.”

What are some of the other key lessons you learned?

Paraphrasing from the podcast, Libby shares:
“We are not automatically an advocate. Families are blocked by low expectations, not having a sense of what is possible, past negative experiences. We are often making choices within very narrow perspectives.

Also, there is a difference in advocating for ourselves and others. Families need to be careful about what we ask for and what we create. The history of what has been created by families includes many of the services that have been started, and there is a pattern of segregation as a result.”

Eric: As families, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves. Take workshops, connect with thought leaders, listen to podcasts, and connect with families leading the inclusion movement. One step you can take is to take the FREE Empowering Ability Mini-Course. To learn more click here.

Libby and I also discuss the topics of life being more than a service, the impact of agency, family constellations (psychotherapist, Bert Hellinger), and tipple win thinking. You can hear all of these insights by clicking play on the podcast player below!

I express my sincere gratitude to Libby for coming on the podcast and sharing her story and wisdom!

Love & Respect,



Libby’s Website: Incharge.net.au
Email: [email protected]
Connect with Libby on linkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/chargeaustralia/

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