Melissa Webster is a visionary leader who is spearheading ADHD Australia’s ambitious goals to drive systemic change for people with ADHD in Australia.
Joining in February 2023 as Voluntary CEO, Mel brings her years of experience leading community and health care services, but more importantly, her lived experience with ADHD and as a parent of her son with ADHD.
Mel was diagnosed with ADHD during her university years. Looking back on her childhood, she remembers being ‘quirky’, over-talking, interrupting and being seen as difficult and disruptive. When she was feeling completely overwhelmed at university, Mel was taken under the wing of Fiona, a staff member who encouraged her to investigate an ADHD diagnosis. Moving forward, Fiona helped her find strategies for managing her ADHD and provided accommodations that helped her succeed.
“Fiona helped me to change my environment. For example, I started to use memory books and sat exams by doing audio recordings. She was a lifesaver and the support she gave me to break down the barriers I faced daily was literally the difference between me succeeding and failing.”
Along her journey, Mel has experienced challenges in her day-to-day life but has also found that her ADHD in many ways has helped her succeed in her career.
“My ADHD super talent is that I can channel enormous energy into the things I am passionate about. It is the reason behind my success in delivering business objectives to ensure greater quality, excellence, learning, innovation, and positive outcomes.”
“I do often struggle with time blindness. I can forget I have a meeting with people and not show up or be an hour late. At times when I have surges of energy I can over-commit and charge ahead. I’ve learned over time to manage this and to check in regularly with people to see where they are at.”
Mel’s son has ADHD and they are like ‘chalk and cheese’, which shows how ADHD is very different for everyone. And whilst they are both disorganised and struggle with time management, the strategies they use to manage life are different.
“At home, life can be complete chaos with both my son and I having ADHD. We have some similar tendencies around things like forgetfulness, which is not conducive to slick family functioning! While our challenges and strategies are different – we both manage, we succeed and we make it work ”
Mel’s personal experience is the reason she is so passionate about helping others to build strategies and is so driven to break down the many systemic barriers facing people with ADHD.
“I am focused and determined to equip everyday Australians with the knowledge, tools, and strategies they need to create an environment where those with ADHD can thrive. An environment that is truly inclusive and one where there is every opportunity for those living with ADHD to achieve their potential and live their best life. It’s not a ‘nice to have’, it’s a must.”
Mel shared how ADHD can make it challenging to manage relationships and has even cost her friendships over the years from being misunderstood. Watching her own son grow up with ADHD has only fuelled her fire to better support other young people who are struggling to be heard, understood and supported. That is why she believes it’s imperative that everyone with ADHD should be able to confidently disclose their ADHD at work, school and with friends and be understood.
“You wish so much the world would understand. In addition to being widely misunderstood and the differences in how it presents being vast, ADHD is also a ‘hidden disability’ which is exactly why it needs the work of ADHD Australia to shine a light.”
Well-positioned as this voice, ADHD Australia is driving changes at a policy level by working with government and service providers to champion neurodiversity. ADHD Australia is educating and helping workplaces, schools, and communities to better understand and support people with ADHD. Mel is also driving collaboration with other ADHD organisations to create a global network that will share and bring best-practice initiatives, knowledge, support, and resources to Australia.
Outside her work at ADHD Australia, Mel’s career has spanned over 15 years where she has driven transformational change across operations, people and culture, safety and quality within the community services and health care sectors. Mel is also currently the Chief Operating Officer at Melba Support Services in Victoria. At Melba, she oversees operations and works with a large team to promote human rights, supporting independence, and partners with individuals to achieve their personalized NDIS goals.
So, with valuable lived experience and a successful career in health care and disability sectors, Mel is leading ADHD Australia in bringing about positive change for people with ADHD in Australia.