Susan Wright

True Stories: Nerryl – Prefer to work direct to clients and help families

Nerryl-edited_Occupational-Therapist_ADHCI am an occupational therapist working with school aged children on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. I work with children with a moderate to severe intellectual disability, which is the primary diagnosis to be eligible for ADHC services.

Many of the children also have a physical disability to a greater or lesser degree. This can be as complex as severe cerebral palsy, or something like low muscle tone. Children attend schools for special needs, special classes in mainstream school or are integrated into mainstream classes, or have services provided at home. Children are treated individually or in groups.

True Stories: Tennille Owen – My first official employment!

Tenneille OwensI have been working as an Administrative Assistant for the Sport and Recreation Services department of The Disability Trust since August 2011. So far I have found it very enjoyable. My fellow colleagues in the service have been helpful with every aspect of the job from filing, photocopying and mailing. This is my first official office employment, after finishing my Certificate II in Business (I’m still studying Certificate III in Business Administration).

I was a little wary walking in but everyone has been very friendly, encouraging and understanding.

I have always wanted to do something to help the community, especially people who are disadvantaged in

True Stories: Luke Kent – job is very rewarding!

Luke-Kent_editedMy name is Luke Kent and I’m a Wiradjuri man. My family comes from the Wellington area but I have grown up in the Hunter Valley. I’m a Trainee Assistant in Nursing at a large residential centre at Stockton. I work in an accommodation unit with adults with intellectual disabilities.

I’d heard that Aboriginal Home Care was running a traineeship and people I knew encouraged me to apply. I went for an interview and was offered a traineeship. I completed a Certificate III in Aged Care Work and obtained my driver’s licence, which was fully sponsored as part of the traineeship.

True Stories: Simone McClenaughan – The power of words

Simone McClenaughanI can’t imagine a life without writing. I wanted to be a writer since I was a child and I never let go of that dream.

At uni I did a Bachelor of Arts, doing a double major in Creative Writing and Communication and a minor in Sociology. After I leapt into the world of writing, working on a range of consumer magazines in areas such as art, craft, homemaker, travel, health and fitness for over a decade.

But there was always a nagging in the back of my mind. I wanted to do something special, something worthy and important with my words.

True Stories: Sarah Delaney – learn valuable skills in community work

Sarah Delaney editedI work with the Australian Foundation for Disability (AFFORD) as the Team Leader for the Community Participation Program at Jamisontown.

The Community Participation Program gives adults living with disability the opportunity to learn valuable life skills such as cooking, shopping and using public transport, whilst also having a great time with music, art, sport and community activities. Each person in the program is encouraged to be the best they can be and to have fun while achieving their goals. Jamisontown has 20 clients and 6 staff.

I haven’t always worked in disability. When I left school I went to Business College and became a secretary, progressing after 5 years or so to the level of executive secretary in a company which manufactured metal cutting tools. While I really enjoyed the work, I was over the office politics and felt I needed to try something new.

Growing up, my grandmother had lived with us all my through my childhood and we had cared for her,

True Stories : Samantha Hellegers – Single mother and finding work

Samantha-Hellegers_editedI’ve been working in hospitality casually for a while now but I wanted to find a career for myself. I’m a single mother with a 6 year old daughter and I’m focused on making the best of our future.

I went to Centrelink’s Career Expo earlier this year and found out about Work Savvy Parents, who assist parents in finding work. I ended up joining one of the Work Savvy programs which included 12 information sessions on career development and finding work. There were about 8 participants involved.

True Stories: Rosie Power – From volunteer to Senior Coordinator

Rosie-Power-editedI work at FRANS (Family Resource and Network Support), coordinating Community Access Programs for people with disability aged from about 4 years old to 65 years old. The programs allow participants to experience cultural, sporting, theatrical and scenic opportunities in Sydney with their friends, and with support from FRANS workers. I am also involved in the coordination of a tri-yearly disco, as well as school holiday vacation care.

I started at FRANS as a volunteer. I was looking for a career that would allow me to meet interesting people, with a broad range of life experiences, joy and hardship. I also wanted to do work that was meaningful to the community, as well as practical and challenging. I didn’t want to be sitting at a desk working through routine paperwork.

True Stories – Rocellita Lacsina – Long history of changing jobs!

Rocellita-2I’ve had a long history of changing jobs, and even careers, prior to my current position. Before coming to Australia in 1999, I was an advertising copywriter and small business owner. Migrating gave me the excellent opportunity to pursue a different professional path – one that was more immediately rewarding because it aligned with my personal values and beliefs.

When my youngest child reached pre-school age, I did a distance education course (Graduate Diploma in Childbirth Education). At the same time, I started doing community volunteer work. The exposure and growing experience landed me a succession of highly-fulfilling, project-based work in community services (migrant settlement services, youth work, perinatal work, volunteer coordination). I realized then that working with the community was the way for me to go.

True Stories: Mim Balcombe – things are never boring!

Mim-Balcombe_editedAfter completing my HSC, I did not know what I wanted to do. I was not particularly excited at the thought of studying again and so I decided to look for work and see what interested me. I applied for a range of positions, a Trainee Receptionist position at The Mai-Wel Group being one of them. I was successful in gaining the Receptionist position which I held for three and a half years.

In this time, I gained a large amount of knowledge of the organisation and the surrounding community, had a wide variety of experiences, and started to get a feel for what I did and did not enjoy doing.

True Stories: Melissa Pitfield – everyday is different!

Melissa-Pitfield_editedI work for National Disability Services in the NSW Companion Card team. Companion Cards are issued to people with a significant disability who are unable to access the community without the assistance of a carer.

My role is to assess whether people are eligible for the card and I also promote the program to disability organisations, service providers and the general community to increase awareness about the program and to assist people to understand and complete applications.

After high school I completed a Bachelor of Applied Science in Occupational Therapy and I knew I was most interested in working with people in a community setting. At first I wasn’t quite clear on what this would involve and was unsure exactly what area I would end up working in.

True Stories: Matthew Old – Took the role and never looked back!

Matthew OldI entered the sector by chance when my sister organised an interview for me with another disability organisation in their transition to work programs. Having no real knowledge or understanding of the issues faced by people with disability it was a steep learning curve. I did, however, have experience working with young people and believing in them, to make the most of their lives. I took this into my role and haven’t looked back.

I now work as a Leaving Care Program Mentor for Northcott Disability Services in the Hunter region. I work with young people who are or have been in the care of Community Services and are about to make a transition into the Ageing, Disability and Home Care sector.

True Stories: Matt Spanko – my journey of learning

Matt Spanko_editedI was at university and had to do some work experience at DoCS (Department of Community Services). It was at that point I realised that this was where my passion and interests lay – in helping young people with barriers to participation. I have loved working across a number of services, age groups and disability types. Everyday is different and everyday I learn, and while everyday might not be fun I always have a laugh.

I ended up working for 7 years at DoCS and ADHC (Ageing, Disability and Home Care) as a Care Worker in a Day Program. This involved taking young people with a range of disabilities, primarily quite severe and challenging behaviours, out from their homes and into the community. Many of the clients were in group homes and had only just been moved from large institutions, so this provided us with even greater motivation to provide a safe, enjoyable and rewarding experience. I have now worked in both government and not-for-profit services.

True Stories: Martin Wren – Slide into disability work after illness

Martin-Wren_NOVAMore than 23 years ago I slid into disability work after a debilitating illness left me unable to hold down a full time job. My previous roles had all been in sales and marketing and the only reason I considered working in the sector was my inability to work for more than 4-5 hours, a couple of days a week.

However, by the time I had found a decent doctor and had made a complete recovery I had fallen hopelessly in love with my new work and my career has flowed on from that.

True Stories: Lis Tuck – It’s in my core

Lis-Tuck_editedI’ve told my story a lot throughout my life. When I was young my parents separated and there was a fair bit of tragedy throughout my childhood. I went to a Steiner school but didn’t finish year 12. My family and I had always been interested in Aboriginal affairs and when I finished school I had the opportunity to travel around Australia for 3 months with my mum and brother, and meet with lots of Aboriginal people. More recently I studied Aboriginal Studies at Tranby Aboriginal College in Sydney.

True Stories: Katherine Delbridge – Gain work through work placement

Katherine Delbridge_adjusted2My dad has always been very involved in the disability sector so I was exposed to it from an early age. When I finished school I decided to study a social research degree at university. At university took the opportunity with many of my assignments to study disability organisations and disability theory and history.

In my last semester I had to complete a work placement which involved completing a research project. I was very fortunate to be put in contact with National Disability Services (NDS) and was able to complete my work placement with the Aboriginal Resources and Pathways project. This was a great opportunity as I got to meet disability support workers and frontline professionals and hear about their challenges and triumphs. I was also exposed to the many policy areas which disability is subject to. This sparked an interest for me in wanting to gain a better understanding of the different policy areas and how they directly and indirectly effect disability service organisations as well as people with disability.

True Stories: Greg – never stop learning!

Greg_ADHC_editedI am a Registered Nurse at a large residence in Northern Sydney. I am the Recreation Officer for the centre and develop, program, organise and facilitate the recreational pursuits of the clients. I also provide an avenue for ex-clients to continue to participate and maintain their relationship with the other residents and staff.

I also provide training to staff, and liaise with various community groups to provide and promote inclusive recreational programs. One of my greatest
beliefs in this field is the need for people with a disability to have a presence in the community and the majority of my programs set out to deliver that.

True Stories: Kate Bowen – Mr. Potato Head, play dough, bubbles and more bubbles!

Kate BowenMr. Potato Head, play dough, bubbles and more bubbles – it really is fun and games being a speech pathologist working with children. What the children don’t always realise is that they’re practicing important communication skills at the same time as winning a game (which, let’s admit, the kids always win).

I never know what to expect each day at work, which is great and keeps you on your toes. Every child and family is different, so there’s always something new and challenging. I enjoy meeting a child, listening to them speak and trying to piece together what they’re doing well and what we need to work on. Always being on the go and working across settings in hospitals, community centres, schools and playgroups means that you get to meet lots of great people and learn from other professionals daily.

True Stories: Jillian Black – a family connection

Jillian and Brad Black My brother, who has a significant intellectual disability, has been an enormous influence in not only my life but the entire backbone of my family, making disability advocacy the dominant culture in our lives. But I never realised, until recently I could turn that personal passion into a career.

After completing a Bachelor of Communication in Media Arts I decided to take a bit of a left turn and head to Japan to teach English. I originally signed up for one year but that one year quickly turned into three.

After my time teaching abroad I returned to Australia to work for a disability employment service which saw me supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities in gaining access to the regular workforce.

True Stories: Jenny Spinak – Never thought I would end up working at Sydney Opera!

Jenny SpinakI never thought when I undertook my social work degree that I would end up working at Sydney Opera House one day.

In 2006, after spending many years working in the disability sector with both adults and children, I began working as Sydney Opera House’s Program Manager, Accessibility. The role was created as part of Sydney Opera House’s commitment to improving disability access.

My role involves managing the House’s accessibility program by overseeing its auxiliary access services and facilities, conducting regular staff awareness training, providing advice on physical building upgrades, implementing equitable ticketing policies, upgrading our website’s accessibility and customer access information, as well as creating student internship and employment opportunities.

I also organise live performance experiences for people with disability – through such initiatives as autism-friendly performances, audio-description of the opera, sensory tactile tours and sign-language interpreted performances.

True Stories: Jason Ballerini – Life change after accident

Jason Ballerini_editedI know for me it feels like I did not chose this line of work, I believe it chose me. As a fit and active 16 year old, with my life ahead of me, social work was the last thing on my mind. After a diving accident in 1996 left me a quadriplegic, not only did I lose the ability to walk, I felt as though all my options, dreams and aspirations washed away down that creek as well.

True Stories: Danielle Wright – surrounded someone with disability

wright_danielle editedAll my life I have been around someone with a disability. My father was diagnosed with Post-polio syndrome before I was born, and in my later years of high school he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. My mother is my father’s carer and she is a big inspiration to me. When I left school I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was working Part Time at Woolworths and completing a Cert 3 in Tourism and Travel, however that didn’t interest me. I wanted to do something more to help people, just as my mum helps my dad.

I thought about doing nursing but I was worried about whether or not I would like it, so I decided to go for a job as a care worker for ADHC. I didn’t know a thing about looking after someone but I got the job! The first time I showered a client with MS I had to brush the client’s teeth. After the job I cried as I hadn’t thought before how lucky I was even to be able to do things that seem so little but mean something major to someone else. I then started do more high care work and it really opened my eyes to the different types of disabilities people can have.

True Stories: Beau Thornton – The challenge gives me a purpose to keep going!

Beau-ThorntonI began work in the disability and community care sector when I was 19. I started out by accident when a friend raised the idea. I was quite apprehensive at first, but what I loved about it straight away was the people. Back then, I could not have imagined the career opportunities that have come my way in the last few years.

Today I am an Accommodation Manager, running the Community Justice Program (CJP) for Sylvanvale, based in Kirrawee. The CJP is aimed at preventing people with disabilities who have broken the law from reoffending, and also assists people with disabilities who are homeless or living on streets.

True Stories: Ryan Kiddle – Combine my skills and love of sport

Ryan-KiddleIf you had asked me 10 years ago if I would be working in the disability sector, my answer most likely would have been no. I grew up on the south coast of NSW and people with disability were not a big part of my life.

I was studying for my Bachelor of Education at the University of Wollongong with a focus on Physical Education, at the same time I started as a casual with Sport & Recreation Services at The Disability Trust. On my first day I was awestruck and new to it all, but today I’m one of the managers and look after a team of 75 casuals and 5 permanent staff.

True Stories: Emily Ninnes – There is no typical day!

Emily NinnesI’ve been working with people with a disability since I was 14. As a lot of adolescent girls do, I was babysitting for extra pocket money, in Armidale, where I grew up. One of the kids I was babysitting turned out to have a disability. When I was 14 and 9 months (thus officially able to work) I got registered as her respite carer.

Now, 13 years later, I am a Case Manager for the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Mary MacKillop Outreach.

True Stories: Matthew Martin – I still wake up and skip out of bed every morning!

Matthew MartinWhen I was in my third year of a Bachelor of Arts I was doing a research subject which led me to complete a project on job satisfaction with staff at a disability services organisation. It sparked an interest in me and I ended up getting a frontline position at the House With No Steps.

That was in 1993 and since then I’ve remained in the sector, working predominantly in the Wollongong area. In 1997 I started working at The Disability Trust where I still am today. Initially I was an Employment Consultant with Workskills Illawarra and then I worked at Illawarra Vocational Services – just some of the services the organisation provides in the area.

True Stories: Casey Goh – Steep learning curves

Casey GohI feel my cultural background has definitely helped me to be able to relate well to my clients at Sunshine, where I am working as a Casual Support Worker.

I was born in Malaysia and came to Australia with my family when I was 5 years old. At times I did experience discrimination when I was growing up, just like many different cultural groups. Even today I do experience it, but I think my openness in dealing with different situations and my constant exploration has allowed me to be able to overcome a lot of that discrimination. I have always pushed myself to be exposed to different things and to mix with all sorts of people. I am curious about everything and I’m able to overcome a lot of challenges.

True Stories: Nathan Christopher – Enjoying seeing clients happy as a result of our service

Nathan ChristopherI’ve worked in the sector for 4 years now and I’m currently a Project Officer for the Respite and In-Home Care Team at The Disability Trust. The service is based in Nowra and we provide in-home support to clients with disabilities throughout the Shoalhaven area.

My job is to coordinate and provide support to the care staff who visit clients in their homes. We have about 21 clients with a range of support needs, and a number of care staff.

True Stories: Sarah Jurd – Speech pathology is my dream job

Sarah JurdI have worked in the disability sector for around 13 years as a Respite Carer, Teacher’s Aide, Community Access Support Worker and Residential Worker. I think it was in my time as a Teacher’s Aide that I realised the level of support required for a child with a disability to access a school curriculum, is far outweighed by the actual amount of support that is out there.

I worked 1-to-1 with a child for 4 years, supporting her in the school I worked at. I found that the teachers were always supportive and willing to do what they could to help her, however they were often left at a loss as to where to go with her education, and how they could help her. The training the teachers get doesn’t always cover all the specific needs that each child might have. I felt frustrated, because quite often I also had no idea of what I could do to help the child I was working with.

True Stories: Rodney Martin – I value the relationship that I have with my clients

Rodney MartinI had a friend who was working at The Housing Connection (THC) and she used to tell me how much she was immersed and happy in her work, and I thought I might be good at the work too.

I’ve been at THC for 3 years now and I support a number of clients with their day to day activities, visit health professionals with them, or support them to access a chosen activity. I also help them deal with any day to day issues that they would like help with. I also meet with colleagues to build on our knowledge and skills together.

I value the relationship I have with my clients, which is a mutually beneficial two-way client-carer relationship. The relationship ensures that the clients have the best support possible and it brings me happiness and joy in my job.

True Stories: Julita Harris – From Carer to Transitional Accommodation Supervisor

Julita-HarrisI have been a carer for 23 years. My first experience came about when I started nursing with the aged and frail at Fairfield Nursing Home, at the age of 20. I stayed there for 15 wonderful years, until I decided to apply for a position to provide care to clients living in their own homes. I have had the opportunity to care for clients with various disabilities over the last 8 years.

I have worked for ParaQuad NSW for the past 4 years now. This time has been of great importance to me. I have gained an enormous amount of experience, understanding and education in this field of work. Initially I was a carer and then I was given the opportunity to become an onsite trainer.

True Stories: Charlie Newton – I found the perfect job for me through carecareers

Charlie NewtonI was lucky to find the perfect job for me on the carecareers website just a few months ago. I had just come back from an overseas trip and wanted to find some casual work, as I finished my Higher School Certificate last year and am having a break until I start uni next year.

For the past 5 years I have had some experience with the cousin of a good friend of mine, who has Cerebral Palsy. I have often been on outings with my friend and his cousin and I would help them out when I could. Through that, and other conversations I have had with my parents, I started thinking about what it would be like to work with people with disabilities.

As I needed to find some work, and also because I wanted to see what it would really be like to work in the disability sector, I decided to find a job to experience it first-hand. My family had heard about carecareers so I visited the website and did a search for casual jobs.

True Stories: Tracey Sherwin – Every day is different and extremely rewarding

Tracey SherwinJust a few hours after arriving in Australia with my family as an immigrant from the United Kingdom, I spotted a job ad in the newspaper for a role at Sunshine. I had worked with people with intellectual and physical disabilities in the UK so I was ready and willing.

I remember thinking when I walked into Sunshine for the interview, “I need to be here. I want this job.” Within a week of landing in Australia I had got the job and I am still here 5 years later.

I was a Direct Support Worker for 1.5 years and then I became a Team Leader, but that only lasted 6 weeks because I was then promoted to my current role as the Coordinator of Community Access Programs (Frenchs Forest ). Then in mid 2009, Sunshine won a tender for our Community Access Program (St Ives) and I was offered the role of coordinating that service also. I was happy to accept the great opportunity.

True Stories: Mark Perkovic – I value the diversity in my role

Mark PerkovicI grew up with my cousin who is autistic and even from that age I could see how challenging it was for him to get involved in the community. I studied Human Resources at university and before getting into a corporate environment I decided to work in the not-for-profit sector for a while…but I haven’t left it.

What I love about the current job I have at Workskills Illawarra is that there isn’t a typical day. As an Employment Consultant I have great flexibility which allows me to regularly meet new people, learn new information and go to new places.

Workskills, which is part of The Disability Trust, places people in a variety of roles from job trials to apprenticeships, casual, part time and full time positions. In its simplest form, my efforts are around helping people with disabilities to find employment.

True Stories: Rhiannon Kate – It’s not a job, it’s a privilege

Rhi Kate_editedI have been working in this field for 10 years now, starting straight out of high school as a teacher’s aide working with children with autism and as a Director of Special Needs Vacation Care. In 2005 I started working at the House With No Steps (HWNS) and have not looked back since.

I started out as a Trainee Support Worker in Day Programs at HWNS and then I worked in the Training Department. Through HWNS I have also been able to complete three industry related Certificate IV qualifications through the organisation’s amazing training opportunities. My very new and exciting role at HWNS is as a Person Centred Facilitator.

True Stories: Jade Morrison – I learn something new everyday!

Jade MorrisonI sort of just ‘fell’ into the disability industry. I was 17 years old and wanted to help people but I didn’t know how. TAFE recommended I commence my Certificate III in Disability Welfare and see where I went to from there.

It wasn’t long before I started working in group homes and day programs. I was even lucky enough to represent the industry at Canberra House and meet with John Howard (PM) for Disability Awareness Week. At the time, I was one of the youngest people in the field and was able to take some residents from the Group Home for a BBQ on the lawns. It was an amazing day.

True Stories: Steve Smith – helping people to achieve their goals

Lawn mowing and landscaping in the IllawarraSteve Smith

I entered the disability sector after many years in the motor trades and heavy industry, basically doing the same thing day in and day out.  I started to think that there must be more to life and a friend of mine was happily working at Illawarra Vocational Services (IVS), so I enquired with them.

I ended up starting as a casual and soon after I became a full time staff member – that was more than 17 years ago!

My day to day role at IVS is to take a crew of 4-5 supported employees into the open work environment to do lawn maintenance, landscaping and general maintenance jobs for different companies in the Illawarra area. I am one of 8 supervisors who work with our 44 supported employees – a few of whom have been working at IVS for 20 years.

When we are out for the day I teach the employees new skills in completing the jobs we need to do and I also help to hone the skills they already have. These kinds of jobs include lawn mowing, line trimming and general garden maintenance, with an emphasis on safety.