Building an NDIS Business focused on Cultural Safety
When Ashley Monkland started Yalgan Support Services in Inala, she didn’t predict rapid business growth, in less than six months.
“I was working with the NDIS, and I saw a massive gap in culturally safe care for First Nations people,” explains Ashley.
“Being entrepreneurial minded and having a background in First Nations Health, I decided to start building a business that centralised cultural safety for mob.”
Soon after Yalgan was established, client referrals flourished and in just six months, Ashley’s business had boomed. With a growing team of seven support workers, servicing 13 participants, she is considering integrating with existing organisations, and expanding services into Cairns and remote communities.
Starting a business is no small feat, and for Ashley, business was unfamiliar terrain.
“At the start, my partner and I both understood that me leaving my PAYG job would take away from the income coming in, but he’s always backed me, and I had his support,” says Ashley.
“Knowing that I wanted to do right by my family, I committed myself to learning how to run a business in this space,”
“I started as a sole trader and within the first two-months I realised that I’d be paying way too much tax, so I transitioned into a company structure.”
As an unregistered NDIS provider, Ashley strives to maintain compliance and deliver services that meet best practices.
“Although I’m unregistered, I still manage participants using a CRM and keep records of staff rosters, changes to plans, and reports of client engagements,”
“The decision to transition to a registered provider will not be one that I make lightly, because I’ll be looking at raising capital to cover costs and expand our services.
Being a registered provider would cement compliance and support Ashley’s aspirations of stepping into youth services and aged care.
Maintaining trust and compliance
Part of Yalgan Support Services’ success is credit to Ashley’s positive reputation in her community, both professional and personal.
“I grew up in Inala and Cairns, and I did a lot of sports growing up, so I already had a solid network within my community and inner-city suburbs as well,” says Ashley.
“My background is in Allied Health and my focus on First Nations care was an advantage that set me apart from other providers in the area,”
Recounting her first client onboarding experience, Ashley managed to turn a weekend gig into a seven-day agreement.
“My first client was an Aunty in the community. She agreed for me to work on the weekends. By that first Saturday, she asked me to do the Mondays as well. And by the second weekend, she asked for seven-days,”
“From that, I got my mum and sister to start working with me, and from that foundation of trust, we’ve just grown.”
Despite their rapid growth, Ashley ensures that her team remain compliant.
“From budgets to service delivery, everything we do aligns with the NDIS Practice Standards, and I employ staff based on compliance as well, through worker screening.”
Cultural respect and integrity
Referrals have played a pivotal role for Yalgan Support Services.
“Client relationships are really important. Our clients must feel safe with their support worker, and the support worker must feel confident in their capabilities,” says Ashley.
“So, when I hire support workers, I always ask what their background is, where their passion is, and what qualifications they have,”
Pairing the right support worker with NDIS participants is vital to fostering long-term relationships.
“If a mum requests a support worker that is a mum, we’ll match them with the right person,”
“It’s important that our support workers bond with clients on some sort of personal level, whether that’s a shared interest, commonalities or similar beliefs.”
This extra layer of cultural integrity and consideration attracts clients who are looking for a tailored service, over a long period of time.
Ashley is also aware of her existing limitations to ensure she doesn’t overstep cultural boundaries.
“For example, it would be disrespectful of me to work with a Torres Strait Islander family and expect them to work within Aboriginal cultural protocols,”
“So, it’s not just about employing people that are culturally aware in the First Nations space, it’s also about being familiar with the distinct differences between the two cultures.”
Every day is rewarding… and different
An average business day for Ashley depends on staff updates and where is she needed most.
“I touch base with all of the participants throughout the day; if they have special requests or ask for extra or lesser hours, I make those adjustments,” explains Ashley.
“It’s not uncommon for participants to request support letters and because I have a good idea of where they’re at and what they’re looking for, I can get those done and send them out pretty quickly.”
Luckily for Ashley, her NDIS business offers flexibility, giving her the chance to fulfill other obligations throughout the day.
“I can take breaks when I need to, get the kids off to school, pick them up and balance home and work life.”
However, being a dedicated and proactive CEO, Ashley takes charge and sets boundaries to protect her team and participants.
“To me, it’s very important that I know all of the participants so that we cater to their needs to the best of our abilities,” says Ashley.
“I take everything on a case-by-case basis, and I think that’s best because I’m not trying to give band aid fixes, we work with our participants, and some conversations can get hard, but it’s always with the best intentions,”
“Most of the time, First Nations participants don’t properly understand the NDIS system, so I’m very transparent in the way that I’ve worked with my participants. We educate them about the NDIS, and we are upfront with how many supports we can deliver with their plan, how we’re charging and what we’re charging for.”
At the end of the day, Ashley believes that a successful NDIS business is led heart-first.
“This industry is all about people working with people, you can’t come into it looking at it like a monetary thing,”
“I have a strong belief in serving people because it’ll come back. It may not be straightway, but it’ll come back to reward you eventually. If you have a similar mentality, you’ll do well in this space.”