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Deciding to close Wild Rumpus has been enormously difficult. 

I still remember the exhilarating feeling when I first started working in disability services. It was my first job out of high-school, and I was this sloppy 18-year-old with dirty dreadlocks, wasn’t particularly good at anything, and lacked any general life direction. With a not-so-subtle nudge by mum, I decided to work in disability services for six-months while I figured ‘life’ out. It was in my first week working at a children’s respite facility that I had my lightning-bolt moment – this was it. I loved the job. I loved the challenge and learning experiences, the relationships I was able to develop, but most of all I loved the purpose I suddenly had. Everything else in life seemed so insignificant in comparison. 

It has been this great sense of purpose that has fuelled my passion for the past 16 years in the sector – and allowed me to travel the world, be creative, and most significantly launch Wild Rumpus Community Services

Wild Rumpus was always the dream, and with talk of this new ‘disability insurance thing’ on the horizon (and feeling generally uninspired by everything else) I took the plunge to give it a crack myself. People make a whole lot of excuses not to be different or do big things – but I literally started with nothing, and therefore had nothing to lose. I have prided myself on learning all the lessons ‘the hard way’. The early days weren’t easy - there wasn’t unanimous support, and I soon needed to be comfortable being unavoidably disliked and disappointing.

We achieved some great things at Wild Rumpus, but every great thing has come at a personal cost. I have always endeavoured to frame this sacrifice as an worthwhile investment, although after 7 years I am depleted and have nothing left to give. This has been a 24/7 all-consuming commitment, and has driven a wedge between myself and my loved ones.

In recent years Wild Rumpus was able to pay off debts and became financially sustainable, which was a huge achievement. For those wondering, I didn’t become a millionaire from Wild Rumpus – I didn’t receive a wage for the first 4 years, and still live in the spare bedroom at my little brother’s house. If I wanted financial riches, I wouldn’t have chosen disability services as my profession. My motivations were always the love and passion for the work and the positive impact I was able to have.  

So that brings me to the ‘why’ part of this decision – why close? Why not get a new manager? Why not sell it? Why not go on a holiday? Why not do all you can not to let everyone down? All very valid questions, with a simple and somewhat unsatisfying answer - the only thing I want is for it to end. I just want it all to end. I want us all to move onto whatever’s next. 

My memories of Wild Rumpus are becoming increasingly negative. I want to be able to remember and appreciate the ‘good stuff’, rather than only having negative and hostile thoughts about the entire experience.

I have encouraged the Wild Rumpus team to continue providing services under their own business entities – which some have chosen to do. I wish them all the best and want to give them all my knowledge so they can avoid the same mistakes I made. I am encouraging them to keep things small and intimate, providing quality services, and being great at saying ‘no’. I am continuing my role as Quality Manager at Geronimo OT, Accommodation Manager at Geronimo OT, and partnering with a number of people at new services including cupcake café Baked by Us.  

For me it’s not the end, but the next thing. I appreciate that there aren’t enough service providers in Geelong, and this lack of support places an incredible amount of pressure on families. I hope the NDIS can be fixed, and more investment made to encourage new providers launch and fill the huge gaps in the disability services sector.

Finally I would like to say a huge thank-you to the children, young people, and their families who I have had the pleasure to know and work with over the past 7 years. It has been an incredibly humbling experience, and one in which I will treasure forever.

James Asciak
james.asciak@wildrumpus.org.au