True Stories

What makes an ideal Support Worker?

Author Mel Schlaeger

Melanie Schlaeger has both lived and professional experience of disability. She recruits her own support workers, and some of them have been outstanding. Here Melanie tells what’s important to her when selecting who to work with:

Working in the disability support field is such a variable space. It is not a “one size fits all” kind of career choice. But in my experience there are a few key qualities and traits that it is important to be mindful of when entering the industry or selecting your support staff.

From my perspective these qualities are, being mindful of and respectful to the individual you are supporting. In practical terms, this means trying to avoid feeling that you are creating a life for someone because you are present in their life. You may instead like to consider the concept that your role in someone’s life is to support the life they have created for themselves.

This doesn’t mean someone may not ask for your input.  But considering this concept has in my experience helped to create and maintain positive dynamics and relationships between my staff and I. It is also important to me that our personalities are compatible. That’s because it is much easier and more enjoyable to receive support from someone that you get along with and can have a laugh with when you find yourself in a funny or tricky situation. And that’s almost a daily occurrence when you have a disability.

People who struggle to not be over opinionated when supporting someone can sometimes unwittingly put a strain on the relationship with the person they are supporting. This is because many people with a disability have a few support crew in their lives, and  that creates so much opportunity for different opinions. So, it is important that the person being supported and the worker can acknowledge when it is appropriate to express opinions.

In my opinion, a person’s willingness to learn and be open minded is far more important than any qualifications. Qualifications can be learned, but every situation needs first to be approached with the right attitude. Like any other opportunity for work, support work has capacity to challenge you, drain you and make you excited. But, if you think of your relationship as a partnership that has to be the right match, then you are setting yourself up to create something that wont disappoint both parties.

Melanie Schlaeger

Meet our 2017 Workmate of the Year – the amazing Veronica!

veronica crop 3


The carecareers’ audience across Australia has voted and declared Muswellbrook’s Veronica Matheson as the 2017 Workmate of the Year.

Veronica was one of 10 finalists shortlisted to win this year’s award.

Described by supporters as “a beautiful, warm, kind and giving person with a heart of gold and the patience of a saint” she was a clear winner based on your Facebook votes.

“I am just very flattered,” she said.

“But you couldn’t do this job without a great team behind you because working in the disability sector is a total team effort and we have a brilliant team here.”

Veronica, who works as a manager for Joblink Plus in Muswellbrook supporting people with disability to find employment locally, said it was a role and career that relies totally on a love for the job.

“It’s just so rewarding. Seeing the smile on people’s faces when they get a job and make it work – and the difference it can make to their lives is just amazing,” said Veronica.

We had some brilliant nominations this year from right across Australia – and unfortunately we could only shortlist 10!

And it was a tight competition.

Veronica was voted Workmate of the Year ahead of Gippsland’s Narelle Barlow and Adelaide’s Harbinger Singh.

Thanks everyone for nominating, and for voting. Your comments, and your enthusiasm remind us all of why we all chose a career in our sector in the first place.

And for even more feel good, we’ll leave you with this final comment from Veronica:

“I was just saying that this is the first time I’ve won against someone else. I did win senior girls champion in primary school, but it was a very small school and I was the only senior girl.”

While we may not be the most competitive of sectors we certainly have a lot to reward and celebrate.”

In our eyes, you’re all winners (but this year the iPad goes to Veronica.)

True Stories: Mim Kuipers – Finding work for individuals, with benefits for the whole community

Mim is an Employment Broker with My Place Foundation in Busselton, South West WA


I didn’t intend to create a career for myself in the disability sector, but initially “fell” into it when I started doing weekend respite with a young lady in my own home. She was a delight to have, and it piqued my interest. I was also extremely impressed with My Place Foundation, and their values and high regard for their clients and staff. My background is retail management, small business owner, and sales and marketing. I didn’t ever consider that these skills would lead me into the disability sector; however my current employment fits perfectly with these skills.

The work I do:
I find employment or help individuals with disability to set up their own small enterprise, according to their interests and passions. Many individuals with disability have never been afforded the opportunity to work, due to perhaps not fitting well with existing employment pathways, or having been deemed not capable of working. The “My Work” programme (formerly Open Workforce), which My Place Foundation in WA has set up, was initially set up as a pilot project to show that it is a very viable option for people with disability to work. They can and often want to work, and if we can approach this with creativity and finesse we can make it happen.

What I value most about my role:
The employment programme “My Work” has been an incredible platform to educate and inspire the broader community to consider how they can be instrumental in bringing about positive change for individuals who have often been pushed aside. Finding employment roles in local businesses for individuals with disability has shown the broader community what is possible when we start to think and act more inclusively, and that it not only has a great impact on the person gaining employment but also the staff, and others around them. It is often said that the person with disability, brings something uniquely wonderful to the workplace that no one else could. Most of our participants have never had a paid role before. To be earning a wage for the first time in their lives, gives such a sense of pride.
Please click on this link to see some of our participants in their newfound work places.

How the NDIS changed the way I do things
NDIS has given people the opportunity to make more choices, and the ability to pursue their interests and goals in a much more viable way than ever before. Employment is certainly something that can and is chosen for individuals to pursue.

My Employer:
My Place Foundation are a disability service provider in Western Australia, who have always been committed to providing individualised and flexible service according to a person’s unique needs. They are very versatile, and provide an array of different supports. It has been an honour to have been employed by such a forward thinking organisation, who have the highest integrity.


TRUE STORIES: Joseph Majambere – Supporting people from all backgrounds to become who they wish to be.

Joseph is a Support Planner (Case Manager) with Community Care Options (CCO) in Coffs Harbour, NSW

Joseph Majambere  5

I was born in Burundi, a small country located in Central-East Africa. In 1993, at 11 years of age, civil war broke out in my country – I lost my father as a result of the war and due to survival needs, our family was unable to grieve for him. My family and I lived in a refugee camp for the following 14 years. Living in the refugee camp was extremely formidable, adjusting to a new way of living, I experienced numerous times of hunger and starvation. I often felt extremely scared and we did not feel safe. On many occasions we left our tents and slept in the forest, as we were in complete fear that killers would come during the night and murder us.


My mother became unwell and this became a normal state for my family. As the eldest child of my siblings, I assumed responsibilities and cared for my mother and my siblings. I grew up before my time and missed out on experiencing my childhood and adolescence. As time and the years moved forward, I was familiar with this way of living and embraced my circumstances – although I had no material possessions, I had great wealth in the love I shared with my family and the refugee community.


In the camp, I became a Youth Leader and encouraged children/teenagers to become involved in the Norwegian People’s Aid’s (NPA)  ’Right to Play Program’ (a NGO that established various activities to address needs of the refugee population such as emotional trauma; assisting people to maintain their health, hygiene and well-being; farming and knitting cooperatives to develop economic independence);  and becoming involved in NPA’s ‘Coach to Coach Program’ (various sporting activities, for example, soccer, netball, marathons, rectangular jumps) – Norwegian People’s Aid provided the opportunity for some play time, social interaction and teamwork for young people to enjoy and be part of in the camp. The work NPA achieved left a lasting impression upon me and was life-changing for me.


Ten years ago, my family and I arrived in Australia, unable to speak English and were settled in Coffs Harbour. This presented another totally different culture that I learnt to adapt to. I found this to be very personally challenging as Australia has so much freedom, I had never previously been exposed to the level of freedom enjoyed in Australia and the diverse culture. I learnt to write and speak English. As I have grown, my confidence has increased and I’ve become more comfortable and familiar with the Australian-way-of-life. The support I received in Australia is truly appreciated.

TRUE STORIES: Jenny Papara – It’s not a walk in the park, but I love my job.


Jenny is a Support Worker with Centacare, Queensland

Jenny Papara 2

I entered the sector because I wanted something very different than what I’ve done in the past.  I’ve done nursing in aged care and I have done behaviour at school for 10 Years, then my husband and I had our own business.  And now I work in disability and what an amazing job it is.

Atypical’ day for me is very varied and full –  with clients’ food and clothes shopping, banking housework,  medication,  personal care and doctors’ and other appointments.  I work out of Centacare’s Sunnybank office.  The support this office gives me to do my job is amazing.  I’m very lucky.

This job is not one where you sit down all day. This is a job that you have a lot of responsibility on your shift.  You need to make sure you’re on top of things with your clients.  Make sure you understand what the doctor is saying.  You need to make sure you’re giving the right medication to the right client, to right dosage, the right paperwork in place.

We don’t have the NDIS here yet, but we are learning a lot about how our clients will benefit from it and we are looking forward to it.

Supporting your clients and empowering them in their everyday life is a beautiful thing.   It’s not a walk in the park. I’m not going to lie.  But the best thing about the job is my clients. I love my job. I love coming back to work so I can make a difference in their lives.

If you’re a person who is not afraid of hard work and wants to learn something new every day, then this could be the job for you.


Jenny Papara


Sunnybank, Queensland


TRUE STORIES: Vanessa Adzaip – I never gave up

Vanessa is an Auslan program coordinator and lecturer, supporting deaf children, young people, and their families to improve their communication skills. Vanessa also works with professionals who want to study Auslan.


Vanessa Adzaip


I am a Deaf person raised by hearing parents who never lost hope despite the challenges I faced. My family sent me to a special education school offering a Deaf unit.  I found myself very comfortable and happy with classmates who were like me, because I could communicate and understand them completely, so much better than at hearing school.


My performance in my secondary years inspired me to keep on dreaming for more success with the enlightenment, love and support of my dear parents and relatives. I enrolled at Holy Name University taking up a Bachelor of Secondary Education majoring in Special Education and Computer Science.  I was very anxious, knowing that I was the only deaf student enrolled in the university.

True Stories: Dale Clark – If I can, anyone can…

Dale Clark


About three and half years ago, after being self-employed for many years, I decided that I was fed up with what I was doing and chasing money owed to me.  So I made myself unemployed and after a few visits to a job agency the opportunity came up to start a Cert III in Disability through the Pathways Program which was supported by Nexus and another organisation.  When it came to the work experience part of the program, Nexus gave me the opportunity to do so in one of their group homes.

Soon after this was complete I was employed by Nexus as a Casual Disability Support Worker Level 2 and after six months I gained a permanent Level 2 position.
After another seven months I was given the opportunity to work as a temporary Level 3 Key Worker position which in the last few months has been made permanent.

The Disability Sector offers so many opportunities and if I can relearn and commence a new career at 51 years of age anyone can. It’s wonderful!

Dale Clark
Level 3 Key Worker (DSD 3)
Nexus Inc
Moonah , Hobart

True Stories: Kathy Taylor – My one regret is that I didn’t do it sooner!

Photo of blogger Kathy Taylor

Before entering the disability sector I worked in a small goods factory for 10 years. A family member worked in the sector and suggested I try a career change and go work with him at Nexus Inc.

At first I was scared about the change, in particular the fact that someone apart from my family would be relying on me to care for them. After a gentle shove from him I bit the bullet and approached Nexus about a job. After completing a 3 week short course about community services I commenced work on the 27th November 2006.

I was allocated 3 houses to work across a on a casual basis and within 3 to 4 months I was offered a trial permanent position. This was the start of the best experience of my life.

Working with the residents is so rewarding. You feel like you can make a difference to how somebody sees themselves. It’s great going on outings, holidays and most of all just spending time with awesome people.

In 2009 I was offered a chance to try out for a House Manager position. This was something I had planned to do in the future, so when the opportunity arose I took up the position. This gave me a whole new outlook on things.

Over the time I have seen the sector grow and change for the better.

I only have one regret about entering into this sector and that is that I didn’t do it sooner!

Kathy Taylor
House Manager
Nexus Inc.
Granton, Tasmania.

True Stories: Lucinda Bruce – Doing what I can to help out

Lucinda is an All Rounder – a Business Services Supervisor with the Endeavour Foundation in Mackay, Queensland.

Lucinda Bruce

My role pretty much is helping out wherever needed. I returned back from Maternity Leave this year to find my role as Esafe Supervisor had changed as well as where I was situated in the workplace.  I perform office duties on a daily basis as well as filling in whenever a staff member is away on holidays, to help out!

Endeavour Foundation Mackay is a great facility that offers great opportunities to those with a disability. It’s been an honest privilege being a part of this company.

I continue to learn something new every day and Endeavour has inspired me to follow on with where I want to be in life. I’ve met some fantastic life-long friends along the way!

What I most value about my role is the experience with several different people with an intellectual disability. They have shown me to value life and given me a more positive outlook on life. We’re all different in our own ways and every one of us is perfect in our own way. I get to mentor and be a guide to many supported employees who make working in this sector worth it by helping them achieve their goals and help them life a normal life.

Lucinda was a finalist in carecareers Workmate of the Year 2106.  Part of her nomination read:

“Lucinda is a true all-rounder, who works hard, gets on with everyone, shows respect and care to all and is a real asset to our workplace.  Lucinda is also studying for her Certificate 4 in Business by correspondence, while working everyday Monday to Friday and raising a baby…

Lucinda is a very caring, compassionate person and has earned the trust and respect of all of our Supported Employees/Staff/Families/Carers.  Lucinda deserves our respect, gratitude and appreciation for all the hard work and care she puts into all of the tasks she does at our work place. “

Lucinda Bruce

Endeavour Foundation

Mackay, Queensland.

True Stories: Prue Clark – No two days are the same

Many of us easily ride a bike, kick a ball or swim in the pool on the weekend without a second thought. But for some children and adults with physical disabilities, they need hours, days, months or years of physiotherapy to be able to move with ease.

CPL has a team of expert Physiotherapists across Queensland to help improve the gross motor skills (like sitting, standing, walking and lifting) of children and adults with disabilities.

Prue Clark is a physiotherapist working for CPL

Prue Clark, one of CPL’s Physiotherapists in Townsville, said that while no two days are the same, every day is about helping clients to achieve their full potential for physical independence.

Working amongst a team of seven Allied Health professionals at CPL’s Townsville service, Prue helps over 15 clients every week with specialised exercises, therapy or equipment to help them participate in everyday activities and environments they enjoy.

Prue said she starts each day with a cup of English breakfast tea and a smile.

“Over my two and a half years with CPL, I’ve never had the same day twice!” Prue said laughing.

“My day can range from travelling to help a client in their home, to a school or community visit, running a group therapy class like hydrotherapy, or a client appointment at our Townsville office.

“From age range to individual needs, every client and every appointment is different too.

“One client might have a goal of improving at a sport or in play time, where another might need help with balance and core stability, or it might be time for an equipment update or review.

“I love that I can support each client in a different way to help them achieve their individual goals,” she said.

Aside from working in CPL’s Townsville service, Prue is also part of a team of three who tackle a 10 hour drive to Mount Isa for outreach services three times a year.

“In one week, we would provide at least 150 hours of service between the three of us,” Prue said.

“We visit around 15 clients out in Mount Isa that otherwise have limited access to physio, speech or occupational therapy.

“We also assist a variety of staff with professional development opportunities so they can better support people with disabilities in their community,” she said.

Prue Clark

CPL – Choice, Passion, Life



TRUE STORIES: Carron Bullock – Patience, encouragement and understanding

Carron Bullock is Manager, Townsville and Surrounds for Cootharinga North Queensland.   She provides support to staff, customers and their families and has worked in the sector for over 35 years.  She welcomes the NDIS which ‘means our customers and their families have a greater say in what type of service they want and who delivers this.’

Carron Bullock (Community Support Manager - Townsville)

I entered the sector so I could learn how to be a positive role model and help make a difference in someone’s life.  I have enjoyed working with customers who moved from home into supported accommodation.  This was to learn how to cook and prepare their own meals, attend to basic household tasks such as cleaning and washing, and learn how to budget and pay bills and do grocery shopping.  Anything that would assist them to live by themselves.

The customer then moved out into their own home with very little support.  I still see some customers from the past around town and it makes me proud to know I played a part in their independence.  It’s rewarding to see customers are managing well and some are in new relationships.

I value the friendships I have made and the people I have met. Every single person I have worked with has taught me to be the person I am today. It hasn’t all been easy. I have been yelled and sworn at, told to mind my own business and told to get out. Of course I never went anywhere. I look back now and laugh with some of those customers. With patience, encouragement and understanding I was always there.


Carron Bullock

Cootharinga North Queensland


True Stories: Tania Hornberg – Preparing young people for the disability jobs of the future

Tania Hornberg - True Story

Tania Hornberg is a person with a spinal cord injury trying to lead an ‘ordinary’ life in rural Queensland in all its fullness, including accessing the support for leading an active community and social life.

For years, she has been held back by having the control of funding and design of services outside her own hands. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is set to put the power back in her hands, with new, targeted support and better coordination of access and services.

The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme will generate a growth in the sector, with thousands more job opportunities. Tania believes it is a basic human right to receive adequate lifestyle support funding, and why she is committed to sharing here experiences with young people.

“For my quality of life and in my experience as a person with a disability, it is very important that we engage with young people and make them aware that there are good careers in the disability sector,” she said.
Tania Hornberg works part-time and has recently become a workshop facilitator with projectABLE, a free program for high school students offering an interactive disability awareness and an insight into careers in the disability sector.

Her openness, out-going nature and honesty have made her a natural for the role. Ongoing training and support will help her engage with school groups, and develop new skills for her advocacy work and career.

Tania, along with a team of projectABLE presenters in Townsville, recently held her first successful workshops with mixed groups of public and private school students. It was a fulfilling experience, she said.

“I’m proud of having the opportunity to use my skills to make people aware of the range of career options available in the sector. There are a lot of young people with the nature, the aptitude and the passion for advocacy work or to be good support workers or to design the next generation of wheelchairs,” she said.

“With the NDIS kicking off, people like never before have the opportunity to look at the type of services and support they might need, think outside the square. “They’ll be saying ‘this is what I need’ and we’ll need more workers who can deliver on what people like me need.”
Tania Hornberg

Contact projectABLE


True Stories: Martina Cross – There’s no business like show business

Martina Cross and Amy Lawrence performing their roaming act The Tattered.

For many people with disabilities, being able to communicate your thoughts, feelings and emotions can be a daily challenge. But thanks to CPL’s Screech Theatre, and one very dedicated CPL employee, people with disabilities have found their voice on the stage.

Martina Cross, Director of Screech Theatre first started with CPL five years ago as a support worker.

“I’ve have always been interested in drama and theatre performance – I was the child that was always dressing up and putting on shows for all my friends and family!” Martina said, laughing.

“I studied applied theatre at uni, which is a little different to traditional drama, because it uses drama and acting in the community for a reason.

“At CPL, we use theatre and drama for therapy and to help our clients improve their communications skills and confidence.

“I’ve been coordinating Screech Theatre for the last three years, and I love it because it provides an avenue for people with disabilities to express themselves in a different way. The confidence they gain in the drama room can be transferred into every day confidence,” she said.

Martina describes the best part of her job as “seeing performers overcome huge barriers to achieve things like speaking for the first time, or using a new communication device in front of an audience.”

“We had a performer last year who was 22 and was nonverbal – he had never spoken. But after four years of drama and performance training with Screech, he used his communication device for the first time in public, on stage. It’s these kinds of stories that make my job one worth having,” she said.

Martina explained that Screech Theatre is currently planning their next performance, which is a collaboration called ‘Beyond the yellow brick road’, which is based around the Wizard of Oz and Dorothy’s next adventure!

“I’m really passionate about having every client involved and participating – we modify activities for each session so all ability levels can be included.

“Screech Theatre’s participants are all interested in different parts of theatre too – from production, directing, costume and set design, dancing, singing and of course acting. I like to encourage each individual to pursue the parts of theatre they enjoy the most,” she said.

Martina Cross

CPL – Choice, Passion, Life


True Stories: Debbie Grant – A job where you learn every day

Debbie Grant web

Many of us easily jump out of bed in the morning, have a shower, brush our teeth and start the day. But for some children and adults with physical disabilities, beginning each day is a little more challenging.

We learn how a CPL Mobile Carer supports people at home and how she’s been improving her skills with the help of a new conference.

CPL provides personal care services in the homes of more than 600 clients in Queensland, helping them with everyday tasks that many of us take for granted.

Debbie Grant is one of CPL’s Mobile Carers, and travels all across Moreton Bay and the Sunshine Coast supporting a range of clients to start their day and get out into the community and live the life they choose.

Debbie has been working in the disability sector with CPL for 18 months and says it’s one of the most rewarding roles she’s ever worked in.

“As a school student, I did some work experience at a school for kids with disabilities and it’s taken me about 30 years to get back to this career,” Debbie said.

“I love my role and I love coming to work every day because I get to meet some amazing people, and hopefully I get to improve their daily life,” she said.

From assisting someone to start their day to meal preparation or taking kids to movies in the school holidays, no two days are ever the same for Debbie.

“Our clients are all individuals and they should be treated as people, not their diagnosis,” Debbie said.

“You shouldn’t just go in and do a task, shower somebody; you’ve got to involve the clients, and you’ve got to show dignity and respect at all times.

“I’ve learnt that, more so now than ever, I need to empower clients to make the choices themselves.”

“It’s a job where you learn every day: I learn from clients; I learn from fellow staff members; I learn from parents of clients.

“I realise that instead of concentrating on their disability, I need to concentrate more on their ability.”

“We need to be providing the best quality service we can; we need to be people-focussed, and we need to provide care that has continuity for our clients.

“Everyone needs to be focused on the person not the disability, but the person as an individual,” she said.

CPL – Choice, Passion, Life


True Stories: Charbel Trad – Making today better than yesterday

Charbel Trad, CPL

True Stories: Charbel Trad – Making today better than yesterday

Did you know that CPL provides services for more than 8,000 children and adults all across Queensland? We have many dedicated employees who work hard to make sure that every one of our clients receives the services they need to live the life they choose.


One such employee is Charbel Trad, one of CPL’s Service Facilitators at our Browns Plains service.

Charbel has been working with CPL for four years and shares with us what a day in his life looks like…


8.00am – I arrive at work with a coffee in hand, time to get ready for a busy day!

8.30am – Time for our morning team meeting! This is where we discuss what is happening across the day and make sure that everyone understands what’s coming up in the few days ahead. It’s also a great chance for me to check in and say hello to many of our support workers who I don’t see every day. This is also where I collect everyone’s timesheets to make sure we all get paid on time!

9.00am – Now it’s time to check my phone messages and my in tray for anything that may have happened over night or that I missed yesterday afternoon. Many of our clients have overnight or evening support, like meal preparation or assistance with getting into bed for the night. It’s my job to check in and make sure everything went smoothly.

9.30am –My email inbox is packed! I need to spend some time sorting out and replying to emails this morning. I’ll organise some meetings with staff and also clients and families for next week, plus book some of our new employees into CPL training. We have three new support workers starting next week; it’s exciting that our team is growing.

10.00am – I jump in my car and head out on the road for some home visits with our clients. We meet over a cuppa and I check in to see that they’re happy with their services and discuss any changes they might like to make. My motto is ‘make today better than yesterday’ so it’s important to me that our clients and our staff are supported in the right way to achieve this and live the life they choose.

1.00pm – Back in the office after a quick bite to eat, I’m now going to spend some time working on rosters and this involves a lot of phone calls to staff and clients. It’s my responsibility to ensure there aren’t any vacant shifts and I work together with my team to make sure everyone knows what hours they are working and where. I have to say I work with some fantastic clients and staff – it makes me love coming to work every day.

3.30pm – Tomorrow our Browns Plains service is hosting some training for our new support workers – time to set up the meeting room for local induction and manual handling training. I will be facilitating the training tomorrow which is something I really enjoy – it’s great to have the time to meet our new team members and welcome them to the CPL team.

4.30pm – Home time! I’ve got a busy day tomorrow.


What is a Service Facilitator?

CPL has a team of Service Facilitators who work in nearly every region across Queensland.

Every day they work with CPL’s clients and their families and make sure they’re happy with the services they are receiving.  How? Often Service Facilitators communicate with many different organisations outside of CPL (Department of Housing, Public Trustee, Department of Communities) to make sure our clients are receiving the best support.

They also help to supervise, train and support Personal Care Assistants (PCAs) and Support Workers in their team to ensure everyone is working together to provide the best possible service.

Do you or someone you know think they have what it takes? Visit to find out more.

CPL – Choice, Passion, Life


True Stories: Seini Apolosi – Making a difference every day


I am a Support Worker who is devoted to my clients, and I have been working in the sector for around 6 years.  Each and every day there are always new challenges to be met in regards to the needs of the children and individuals with special needs.

The support I provide is based around the individual’s goals and needs and I am fully behind the decision of the NDIS scheme to give more power to the clients.    NDIS will assist in people being able to make more support decisions for themselves.

I work for Caring Choice in South Australia.  Working with this company has improved my skills as a Support Worker – not only as an employee but also on a personal level as well.  I find that the management and staff are always such a great support for myself and others.  They monitor and make sure our performance standards are met and adhered to. I have much praise for my employers and colleagues.  Caring Choice’s head office is located in Malvern however they support individuals in the Adelaide Hills and Metro suburbs along with Regional SA.

I entered this sector based on my motivation to work and care for individuals.  By nature I am a passionate and committed person who believes in good work ethics, loyalty, integrity and in helping others in need.  I hope this will help others to realise how good it is to become a Support Worker and see how much of a very rewarding career this can be.

My typical day varies based on the clients I am allocated to work with for the day.  I might take my clients on an excursion to Victor Harbor, shopping or watching a movie.  I also organise fun activities that both the clients and I can enjoy doing together.  I will also try to ensure that each day is filled with fun, laughter, joy and fulfilment for my clients.

In my spare time I enjoy spending time with family, shopping, going on holidays, spending time with my BFF as well as AFL and Rugby.

What I enjoy most about my role is just knowing the difference that I can make to an individual. No matter how little or big a contribution I make or do, I know that every single day, hour, minute or second I go to work I’m helping to improve an individual’s life.

Seini Apolosi
Caring Choice

South Australia

True Stories: Mavis White – Changing people’s lives


Mavis White

For over a quarter of a century I have worked in the human services sector in a full time capacity. I’ve worked in aged care, dementia care and disability services.

I have been in a middle management role in the disability services program at Somerville Community Services Inc. since 2002. Somerville operates three distinct programs across the Top End of the Northern Territory:

  • Disability Services – includes supported accommodation and a social participation program,
  • Family Services – delivering free counselling and family support services, community programs and supported accommodation.
  • Financial Services – services to individuals and groups to assist them to successfully navigate financial crisis.

During this time I have been fortunate to hone my leadership skills whilst maintaining a very hands on role with the people we support. The balance of management duties with direct care support is what I find most rewarding.

I am committed to and passionate about the work I undertake. I am passionate about improving the lives of people with disability and ensuring that people with a disability have opportunities to experience a myriad of life experiences. At Somerville we believe strongly that people’s lives and personalities are not defined by their disability. We take great pride in our endeavours to provide a person-centred service that supports people to think big, aim high, identify and work towards meeting their desires and aspirations.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to use a number of my hobbies and interests in my roles within the disability sector to ensure people’s needs, wants, desires and aspirations are being met. Hobbies and interests including: swimming, watching sports such as cricket, tennis and NRL, attending live shows particularly music and dance, playing cards, cooking, gardening, watching movies and reading.

I believe in the principles and practices of person centred active support. While I work with people with quite profound disabilities the team and I ensure that the people we support have opportunities to be actively involved in all activities of daily living to the best of their abilities. Over the years this has meant that people we have supported have developed sufficient skills to be able to gain employment, have reduced staff supervision and supports and ultimately lead more fulfilling lives.

I love the lifestyle of Darwin and the freedoms and possibilities of working on a five acre block brings. I have been able to do things a little differently and provide some unique life experiences not usually experienced in suburbia. We have established a menagerie of different ‘farm’ animals at our property. Through caring for their pets the people we support have learnt new skills. Skills such as: cleaning the chicken coup, collecting the eggs, spreading hay, feeding the pigs, chickens, turkeys etc. Skills also in caring, nurturing, being responsible for another (even if it is a little piglet). These skills are then being transferred to other people; behaviours of concern are reducing including self harm.

At Somerville we believe it is essential that we lead by example and work together to ensure we live in an accepting, tolerant and inclusive community. To this end I try and ensure that the people we support are involved in as many community events as possible that meet their needs and wants. Events such as participating in the Top End Gran Fondo (a bike ride / race) or Royal Darwin Show Art Exhibition. We have also attended live concerts, pub jam sessions, theatre, festivals, sporting events, you name it, and the people we support have been there with bells on!

I do what I do with the belief that we can and do change peoples’ lives.

Mavis White

Somerville Community Services

Northern Territory

True Stories: Jennifer Colorado – Making myself useful

Jennifer Colorado

The first time I came across people with a disability was when I was training to be a teacher in my home country of Colombia. I was on a teaching practical and there were three boys with special needs in the class. They were so lovely and showed me that there were so many different people in the world, so I thought what not work with people with a disability?

I’ve been in Australia for over five years now and at first I worked in a nursing home. But I found it too emotional and got very sad working with people who waited for friends and family to visit day in and day out, yet they rarely received visitors. I found a new role working with people with Alzheimer’s disease, which I enjoyed, but wanted a permanent position. I saw that Senses Foundation was advertising and applied to work with them. I have been there as a Support Worker ever since.

Every day is completely different at Senses. You never know what is going to happen and can’t expect anything in particular. You have to be flexible. My favourite thing about my role is the clients. They are absolutely amazing and achieve so much so often. I take great joy in seeing them achieve. As a Support Worker I am assisting people with vision impairment and with a disability aged 16 and over. Working with teenagers right through to seniors means I have to work out different things for people of all ages to try because it’s rare for someone who is 16 to like the same things as someone who is 70! Developing new routines and activities is important because it helps cultivate new skills and experience new things.

The people I have support have helped me learn and grow too. They helped me overcome my biggest challenge – communication. English is my second language, so I struggled with that at first. In time, my confidence in my English grew after spending time communicating with my clients. Having people be more patient when listening to and talking with me helped me become more patient and improve my communication skills with others.

Completing a lot of study has definitely helped me be a better Support Worker. I’ve done a Diploma in Community Welfare, Certificate III in Homecare and Community, Certificate III in Education Support for Special Needs, Certificate IV in Human Resources, as well as additional training in communicating with deaf and blind people and people with challenging behaviours through Senses. I try to keep busy all the time and do things that are useful to my job and life in general. Life is precious, so I don’t want to waste it.

Jennifer Colorado
Support Worker
Senses Foundation, Western Australia

True Stories: Elaine Carr – The career of choice

Elaine Carr

I always knew that I wanted to work with people and do something selfless. I never realised where it would take me though.

I started off working for a few health and disability services in the United Kingdom while I was studying at uni. A year into my studies I realised that uni wasn’t for me. So I took off and backpacked around Asia and Australia. I had a working visa for Australia and while working in a small mining town in Western Australia, I met Mick – my future husband. That wasn’t part of the plan, but I ran with it and settled in Australia. Once my visas were sorted out, I turned to finding a career. I narrowed it down to two choices where I could help others; aged care or disability. I chose disability because I thought it would be more interesting and challenging. It was the best decision I ever made.

Despite having absolutely no experience in the sector, Nulsen employed me as a support worker in a home for people with high care needs. Within my first year, Nulsen enrolled me in a Certificate 3, then 4 in Disability. Doing the training offered such an insight to the world of disability care. It was fabulous.

After a year and a half in that home, I was transferred to a home where the clients had challenging behaviours. Today, it’s a few years down the track and I’m still there. However, I’m no longer a support worker, although that is a part of my role as the Residential Services Manager.

I love to learn, so while working at Nulsen I’ve put my hand up for every training avenue possible. I participated in a mentorship program which allows me to be a mentor to other staff members. I’ve become a trainer and assessor of manual handling which means I can teach others correct lifting and manual handling techniques. I’ve also completed my Diploma of Community Services Coordination which was brilliant and helped pave the way for me to become a Residential Services Manager.

Training isn’t just good for yourself and your own development; it’s good for the people with disabilities that you support too. Training has made me more confident in my abilities and has opened up my eyes to other possibilities and ways of doing things. It also helps keep you up to date with new ways of doing things, policies and procedures. It’s almost as if training completes the picture of working in the care industry. It marries theory with working with people with a disability and your peers.

I never thought that when I started at Nulsen that I’d be a manager only four years later. But my motto is “If you don’t ask, you don’t receive”. So I asked my managers about new courses and training opportunities, I asked about new roles and job availabilities and by doing so I’ve completed numerous courses and climbed the career ladder. The possibilities in the disability sector are endless. There are no boundaries on what you can achieve.

Elaine Carr
Residential Services Manager
Nulsen, Western Australia

True Stories: Amber Ericksen – Stepping out of my comfort zone

Amber Ericksen

It was my son who led me to working in the disability sector. At just two-and-a-half, he was diagnosed with high functioning autism. I needed work, so figured that given my son’s diagnosis, working in the disability sector made sense. Despite having no experience, I found a job where they were willing to give me a chance working on reception. Given my life experience with my son and his condition, when a position managing the organisation’s respite service opened up six months later, I was offered that role. For the next seven years I moved through every position possible such as running social groups, after school programs and respite for children.

Then I saw a case management position advertised at Anglicare Victoria. Although I had plenty of case management experience in my roles to date, none of them carried the title of case manager. I figured that this was a great opportunity to step up my career, so I may as well apply. I felt that there was no harm in trying, and it was better to give something a go, rather than just wonder ‘what if?’. Plus, if I’d stayed in my comfort zone, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

I have been with Anglicare Victoria for the past 18 months as an Intake and Assessment Officer (previously known as Disability Case Manager). The ultimate aim of my role is to provide guidance and advice to people with a disability and their families. Anglicare Victoria plays a short-term role in these people’s lives, helping them by providing information, assisting them to apply for funding, or developing goals and plans with them. I am essentially clearing the clutter and confusion for these people and empowering them to develop skills and strengths so they can leave our range of services and do things independently.

There is always something new to do each day and the success stories is what makes the job so worthwhile. There’s nothing that beats being a part of a family’s success.

People fascinate me, which is one of the reasons I’m now studying to be a psychologist. After my day in the office, I head home and study in the evenings, after my family duties are done. Prior to this degree, I’ve completed a Diploma in Community Services and a Certificate IV in Disability.

I’m excited about my future once I’ve completed my psychology degree. But I’m also very excited about the future of the disability sector, especially seeing that the government is really starting to take a good look at the industry and implementing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). It’s such a positive thing and makes me think that it will result in greatly improved services for people with a disability.

Amber Ericksen
Intake and Assessment Officer
Anglicare Victoria

True Stories: Paul Drewitt – Know WHY you do what you do

Paul DrewittI began my teaching career as a Primary School teacher but quickly became involved in special needs education to advocate for children with learning disabilities in order to access more of the curriculum. From the onset I took a keen interest in developing Education Adjustment Plans and leading teachers in processes to make modifications to their programs to meet the needs of students with intellectual impairments.

10 years ago I came to Henbury Special School as a teacher and quickly established a classroom routine, meeting outcomes to facilitate independent living skills. In particular, I have taken an interest in frontier augmentation techniques including introducing eye gaze technology to the NT.

To know WHY you do what you do is the key to remaining motivated and having an impact beyond the norm. I was very lucky early on to understand this, which keeps me pushing forward each day to develop new ways of meeting outcomes for students with disabilities.

I am now in a leadership role and realize that leadership is primarily about change and having the courage to push through and implement that change which directly benefits children with intellectual and/or physical disabilities.

Paul works as a Senior Teacher – Curriculum, Assessment & Reporting in Darwin, Northern Territory

Paul’s employer:

Henbury School is a purpose built Special School for students with disabilities in both the Middle Years and Senior Years of schooling.

Classrooms are complex, dynamic in nature and multi-level according to how students access the curriculum. Henbury’s Motto is ‘Preparing for Future Lifestyles’ and this overarching dedication guides each student’s annual Education Adjustment Plan or Transition Plan.

As well as its main campus the school also has students learning in outreach classrooms which are based at Casuarina Senior College, Darwin High School, Sanderson Middle School, Dripstone Middle School and Nightcliff Middle School.

Henbury School also strongly supports student learning via valuable community partnerships with the school house, the Op Shop, The Patch and a number of business enterprises and leisure venues around Darwin.

True Stories: Sunil “The pursuit of happiness”

Sunil Bhakri Ceo

The Pursuit of Happiness

Having been in recruitment my whole career and ran two successful businesses, in 2012 my wife and I decided to start our own aged and disability care service organisation, ADS Care. She had already been in the industry for 4 years and her dedication, professionalism and caring approach convinced me she should have the freedom to run an aged and disability care service the way she wants.

Initially I was in the background mainly assisting with non-operational tasks, such as websites, attending seminars and conferences, recruitment etc. As with most start-ups the first few years were very tough in terms of generating an income while maintaining our values of high quality care, individual choice and re-enforcing the values of participants.

As we grew I found my self spending nearly 100% of my time on day to day activities which involved training and mentoring support workers on the field. This is where I achieve my greatest satisfaction,

One example I always like to share is that 2.5 years ago we were supporting a 13 year old boy with Down syndrome. Although he has a beautiful heart he was prone to absconding, hitting, self-harm and general non-conformity issues. However we persevered and learnt more about his needs and wants.

I have supported him for approximate 100 hours without charge over this period in conjunction with his key support workers. Now 2.5 years on he has stopped hitting, never absconds, is active in the community and it is pleasure to be around him as we listen to his music and disco dance.

This participant has changed my life because after 25 years I now know what I was meant to do in my life. Although I am the CEO of ADS Care I am very hands on and relish the opportunity to play a  part in the development or progress of people who need care.

This is a hard yet rewarding industry and I appreciate it more with each passing day and thank Care Careers for letting me share this life changing story.

Sunil Bhakri CEO

ADS Care

ADS Care operates across the Greater Western Sydney area in NSW.

Mariam Hussein – Building relationships and careers


I get bored easily, so when considering university degrees, I wanted to do something broad so my options weren’t limited when it came to careers. As such, I did a Bachelor of Business and majored in marketing. I am able to use the skills I learnt at uni, such as building and developing relationships and marketing in my job as an Employment Consultant with Afford Employment. (Which by the way is perfect for me because it is so varied – which means I am never bored!)

A key part of my role is relationship building. I have to build and maintain a network of employers across all industries, which then allows me to offer my clients more choice of jobs. I constantly look for new opportunities to develop new contacts and meet new people. From when I’m shopping, eating out or even visiting the mechanic, I’ll strike up a conversation and foster a relationship so that in the future I can hopefully secure a job for one of my clients.

My clients range in age and gender, and are also people with disability. Some have had troubled lives, lack trust and are very vulnerable. As such, I work extremely hard to develop a good rapport with my clients so they know that I am always here for them, that I will do my best to support them.

I split my day in half. I tend to spend the morning in the office, tending to emails, meeting with clients, helping them with job applications and resumes. Then in the afternoon I’ll hit the road to check in on my clients in jobs, provide training or have meetings with employers.

The best part of my job is seeing someone grow and develop. I have one client who has flourished. When he came to me he was so shy and this prevented him from communicating. I support him through a retail course and assist him to find a job in a shop stacking shelves. As his confidence built, he started talking to and assisting shoppers and now his confidence has grown so much he works on the check out. Knowing that I supported him to overcome his barriers is incredibly rewarding.

Mariam Hussein
Employment Consultant DES, ES6
Afford Employment


Maria Esguerra – Positive work for positive outcomes

Positive work for positive outcomes!! Some people might think it a little odd, but one of my personal interests is reading up on psychology research. I find journal articles and current research on employment and mental health, as well as on integrated employment programs. Not only do I find it fascinating, it also helps me expand my professional knowledge for work.

Maria E

I’m a Job Development Officer for CPL Mylestones Employment. I have 30 people in my caseload and my role includes supporting people with disability and mental health concerns to become job ready. This may involve creating a resume, organising appropriate training and study for them, and developing their interview skills. Then, I source an ideal job for them based on their needs and interests and provide ongoing on-the-job support for them as well as the employer. In addition to this, I spend a lot of time connecting with and liaising with my clients’ carers, case managers, doctors and psychologists to keep them abreast of the clients’ career progress, and to also for me to learn how their new job is gelling with their home life and treatment. The ultimate aim for each client is that within a year, they will be independently job ready and won’t need the support of CPL Mylestones Employment to find and maintain work. While many people are able to achieve this, there are some that will need long-term ongoing support.

My Bachelor of Psychology and training in mental health definitely helps me on the job. I have always been interested in human behaviour, helping people and being able to give back to the community. My education and training is vital for work, where I am working with people with mental health concerns. It helps me to better understand them, spot their behaviour patterns, pick up on signs and symptoms of certain conditions, and it also helps me to find the right role for each person.

The highlight of my role is seeing the positive impact that getting a job in a good working environment makes on my clients. Their confidence increases, as does their overall life satisfaction as they realise that they are an important and valuable part of society.

Maria Esguerra
Job Development Officer, ES8
CPL Mylestones Employment


Natalie Morton – Creative work with innovative results

natalie_mortonI’ve worked in the health field as a social worker for 30 years now. I’ve worked as an individual, couple and family therapist in community health settings and private practice.

I also worked part-time for 11 years at TAFE teaching in the community services modules. Eight years ago, I started working as an external consultant for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Through this role, I discovered the disability sector, an area that I had never specifically worked in before.

The longer I worked at Cerebral Palsy Alliance and heard more people’s stories, the more engaged I became with the organisation and the work they did. I moved from being an external consultant to a permanent consultant for Social Work at Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

I am the clinical leader for social work and support the organisation through training, supervision and mentoring and general consultancy. Typically the consultancy has to do with procedures and policies, service process and new initiatives that relate to client and carer wellbeing.

Currently, I’m also completing a Masters in Narrative Therapy and Community Work, which is a wonderful therapy in supporting clients to make long term changes in their lives and to see themselves differently.

I’m excited about continuing to use this new knowledge and techniques to support the social and emotional wellbeing of Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s clients.

The ultimate reward of my job is working with clients. But I also love being able to be creative and think outside the box with both clients and staff.

I have the precious opportunity to learn from the other social workers (each of who have unique and special skills) in my team and this inspires me to be even more creative and innovative in my work.

The biggest challenge I face is managing the variety and busyness of the role. I try to overcome this by planning my diary effectively and saying ‘no’ when I realistically can’t do any more work.

I’m definitely time poor, but I’m opportunity rich, which makes my work all the more interesting.

I’m a better person for working in the disability sector at Cerebral Palsy Alliance. I’ve learnt to see people for who they truly are.

Natalie Morton
Consultant for Social Work, SPS10
Cerebral Palsy Alliance


Anita Le Lay – Working with authenticity

Uniting Care Portraits_ Anita Le LayI’ve worked in the care sector for 22 years. I’m a social worker by trade, and that’s where I started my career in the sector. It began in the UK, where I was working with young people with mental-health issues.

During the 1990s when the Disability Services Act was reviewed. A lot of services required change, so I did a lot of work in that area, looking at things such as accommodation, employment and transport.

It was all about empowering people with disability. It was difficult work, but it was essential and rewarding. I even opened one of the first disability specific vocational educational and training programs.

Today I work as a Director for UnitingCare. Having worked my way up from the ground level, I’ve had the opportunity to see both the frontline and the corporate services side of things. It’s been extremely helpful to understand both elements as it helps to meet people’s needs and address changes in the sector.

As a Director at UnitingCare, I am responsible for a 22 million dollar portfolio and over 220 staff, covering the greater Metropolitan Sydney, South-East NSW, the NSW Central Coast and ACT.

My job is all about helping a leadership team to support operations, services and projects in those areas, and to assist people to understand their role in this endeavour, to work towards specific program goals and outcomes, to work safely and to enhance quality of life for the people Uniting Care support.

A key component of my role is also leading the transformation of UnitingCare services so they are ready for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Something that I’ve believed in every step of my career is that I think no matter what level we work at – from frontline to executive management – is that people who do the best in their role are the people who bring their authentic self to work.

To me, this means living and working with truth and with purpose, and in the care sector, this means caring and striving towards supporting other people to be the best they can and to be included and valued in the community.

Anita Le Lay
Director, EM14


True Stories: Navaya Ellis – Quality work

I’ve always had an interest in contributing to and building better societies, which is why I studied politics and sociology at university. I ended up working in journalism because I enjoyed research, writing and telling people’s stories, but found I couldn’t make the difference to society that I wanted to within the media. The care sector on the other hand gives me the ability to help ensure everyone has opportunities and a good quality of life. The other thing that’s great about the sector is that life experience really counts here – it doesn’t always come down to degrees and qualifications.

I’ve been in the sector for 15 years now and held a variety of roles in mental health and disability day programs and residential settings, and I’ve also done a lot of project work. During my time in the sector, I often didn’t know where a role or project might take me, but I always just went with it as it helped me learn and lead me to my current role.

I’ve been the Quality and Service Development Manager at On Track Community Programs for seven years now and it’s an incredibly varied position. My responsibilities include internal auditing, working with external bodies to ensure On Track is meeting the appropriate industry standards, contributing to annual reports, writing tenders, managing the quality management system (QMS), and working with the executive and staff to ensure documentation is accurate and service delivery is achieving the outcomes and needs of our clients. I also run some training sessions and mentor staff so everyone has the opportunity to continually improve.

My days are never dull. One of the reasons for this is that I don’t base myself out of head office – I don’t even have an office space there. Instead I float around as many of On Track’s sites as possible, working out of them for a few hours or days so I can stay in touch with what’s happening on the frontline. This also allows me to see first hand the positive results for our clients and to hear their success stories, which is my favourite part of working in the sector.
Navaya Ellis
Quality and Service Development Manager, CS10

True Stories: Therese Everton – Healing hands

Healing Hands! I had two goals as an adolescent: I wanted to be a physiotherapist for children and I wanted to live in Australia. I achieved both of these things. After studying my degree in Scotland I moved out here and have been working in the care sector for 34 years. Of that time, I have been with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance for the last 13 years.

What I particularly like about working as a physio in the disability sector is that people with disability have complex cases – it is not just treating one body part – so it means that through my work I can make an even bigger impact to their lives as I’m treating more than one thing.

Working as a physio in the sector means that you are part of a holistic team that supports the person; each of us with our own speciality, such as occupational therapy, speech pathology, or psychology; but all of us working towards a common goal of enabling and improving quality and enjoyment of life for the client.

The most important element of my job is education. While it is all good and well for me to provide amazing treatments for the client, I also need to be able to empower parents and carers to be able to implement treatments at home for their child. The most rewarding part of my job is when parents are excited and proud to tell me that due to my teaching them, they can see that they’ve personally made a difference to the child’s movement.

A typical day for me involves seeing four or five clients, generally at their home, school or centre, doing assessments, implementing interventions and providing treatment. Then on top of the practical, hands on work, I also have to write reports on the days sessions for doctors, families, schools and other therapists, plus I write funding applications for things like equipment and toys for patients.

I love being a physio – each case is different and I have to solve unique problems every day. I also stay interested and engaged through professional development, reading articles, and attending conferences. There is so much progress and ongoing research in the field and I am excited to be a part of that now and into the future.

Therese Everton
Physiotherapist, SPS9
Cerebral Palsy Alliance

True Stories: Sharon Tierney – Providing solutions

I had been working in recruitment for a number of years, but it got to the stage where I wasn’t getting much job satisfaction because the people I was recruiting actually didn’t need my help finding work – they were all highly experienced, professional people. Realistically, they could get jobs without my assistance and solutions.

Plus the company I was working for was purely profit based and that didn’t really align with my values. So I looked for an organisation that attracted me in terms of their values, operation and quality. The Mai-Wel Group ticked all these boxes. An added bonus was they were about helping people who needed it.

I started off as a Casual Support Officer. Three months later I secured a permanent part-time position with Mai-Wel LabourForce Solutions. Then I worked my way up to Assistant Manager, and today I am the Manager of the Cessnock and Kurri Kurri sites. Across these two sites, I manage12 staff who provide employment services for people with a disability.

We’re currently assisting over 150 people to gain meaningful, open employment. My role is all about connecting with people, building trust and relationships. I connect with staff, giving them guidance, support, supervision and encouraging job growth; I connect with business partners in the community; and I connect with our job seekers.

Since starting at Mai-Wel, I have embarked on my Masters in Disability Studies. This coupled with my original qualifications in business and marketing gives me a holistic framework to support people with disability to find work. I love what I’m learning at uni and the fact that I can instantly apply it to my work.

The hardest part of my role is that we service a regional area that is highly disadvantaged, with low levels of literacy and numeracy, high levels of unemployment, and a family cycle of unemployment and people living off welfare. But I don’t let that stop me.

Together, my team and I put in place support and interventions to support people to build skills and knowledge to change their attitude and circumstances. And that’s what I love about my job – we’re not just finding people work, we’re finding them solutions to change their lives.

Sharon Tierney
Manager, Mai-Wel LabourForce Solutions, ES9
The Mai-Wel Group

True Stories: Nada Gebara – Hard work pays off

Request - True Stories Picture Nada Gebara
I’m what my director calls a Corporate Refugee – someone who escaped the corporate world and found a haven in the care sector. For 20 years I worked in investment banking and finance. Working in that environment for so long, I had no idea that there was such a large care sector out there, because I wasn’t exposed to it in the corporate world – even though I was born with a physical disability myself, whereby I have to wear custom made boots in order to walk.

After caring for my father, who was bedridden with dementia, I decided I wanted to get away from the corporate world and working away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney find a local job. I was fortunate enough to get a contract as an Administration Support Officer with UnitingCare.

I was overwhelmed at first because I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into. But before long I realised what an amazing place the sector is. I discovered that unlike the corporate environment, the care industry is all about giving, empathy, hardwork, compassion and smiles.

The skills I learnt in the private sector is helpful in the care sector. When my first contract at UnitingCare finished, it was renewed and then I secured a permanent position, working my way up from Administration Support to Administration Team Leader, and now my current role as Regional Support Officer to the Operations Manager.

My role is incredibly involved, from organising projects, events, forums, meetings, training to general office duties, as well as being part of the Person-Centred Approach team. There isn’t a set routine in my job as every day there is a different story, challenge, crisis or success, so it means I have to be flexible, calm, organised, time-manage effectively and be able to juggle things.

I love what I do and where I am today. I worked hard to get here. The best part of my role is being able to share my experience and skills with others. I also love the sense of achievement I feel when I complete a project – and there is always many of them to be working on!

Nada Gebara
Regional Support Officer to Operations Manager, CSS5

True Stories: Melanie White – Looking for growth

Request - True Stories Picture Melanie White
Looking for Growth!!   When I was in year 10, I did my work experience placement with a social work organisation. I enjoyed it, yet when time came around for me to start uni, I ended up starting a Science degree in Economic Geography. I didn’t like it, so saw the uni careers counsellor and with their guidance, switched to a Social Work degree. It’s funny how things work out like that.

A requirement of my degree was participating in practical placements. My second placement was with UnitingCare and from that placement I secured part-time work with the organisation while I was finishing my degree.

After my degree I was invited to apply for a position with them that focused on young children and families, and child protection, whereby I had to work creatively to solve problems, help support families, help parents be the best they can be and handled crisis intervention in a variety of environments such as personal homes and group homes.

I made the switch to the disability, still within UnitingCare, on my return from maternity leave. I discovered that the skills I developed as a social worker were transferable to disability. I’m currently the Acting Manager of UnitingCare Disability’s Flexible Options Programs, which is about service provision such as respite, living skills and skill development programs to children, young people and adults with disabilities.

As the Acting Manager, I oversee the operations of the different programs, supervise and support staff, manage projects, look after budgets, develop a good team culture, and assess operation and service models that will work well with the NDIS.

Over the years I always have looked for opportunities to learn and grow, so have done secondments to different areas in the sector such as mental health. Being open to learning has helped me progress through my career, so has inviting feedback on my performance, and taking the time to regularly self-reflect.

I have been working as the Acting Manager for a year now, and have just applied for the permanent position. It is early days for me as a manager, so I’m looking forward to learning from other leaders around me and developing further.

Melanie White
Acting Manager, M11
UnitingCare Disability

True Stories: Kristie Mears – Loving work

When I was 18, I wanted to try something new and have a bit of an adventure. So I moved to Queensland and entered a business administration traineeship. It happened to be for an organisation who supported people with disability to find work.

The traineeship was meant to take me a year to complete, but I managed to do it in just six months. This freed up a lot of my time at work, so I ended up supporting employment case managers. I loved the work and it inspired me to pursue a career working with people with disability.

Upon my return to NSW, I became an Employment Consultant at Mai-Wel LabourForce Solutions. The main part of my role is to assist job seekers who have a disability or mental health challenge to find work.

This might mean organising vocational courses and training for them, supporting them through job readiness programs, establishing work experience for them, developing a resume, organising transport, teaching interviewing skills, and reducing any barriers they may have to gaining employment.

Each day starts off with a 30 minute meeting with my colleagues where we discuss available jobs and what job seekers might suit these roles. Afterwards I follow up on the actions that arose during the meeting, which generally involves sending emails and making phone calls.

The rest of my day is usually spent with job seekers, discussing progress updates, skills development, taking them to their interviews, and supporting them in their work experience appointments.

The most rewarding part of my role is seeing job seekers achieve – and this is different for each person. For one it might be overcoming social anxiety and phobias, for another it might be being able to look at someone when their speaking, making a friend, or it could be getting a client into a course, and helping them find a job.

The hardest part of my role is trying to motivate job seekers who don’t want to change. I try to do that by helping them discover that they can find work in a vocation they love. Doing something you love makes all the difference at work – I speak from experience!

Kristie Mears
Employment Consultant, Mai-Wel LabourForce Solutions, EDS3
The Mai-Wel Group

True Stories: Jenny Kemp – Innovative support for children

I’d always pictured myself working with children. I can relate well to them. I think being the eldest of six kids helped with that! I decided on becoming an Occupational Therapist (OT) as it provided the interaction with children I wanted and gave me the opportunity to work with a variety of people in a variety of ways.

Over the years I’ve worked in a range of settings including community health, private practice and running training for people in the early childhood industry. Within these areas I often worked with children with disability and I found that I enjoyed this the most. This then lead to a career in the disability sector.

I started off at an assessment centre where I helped diagnose children with disability. I then got a six-hour a week OT role at Lifestart. That slowly grew in hours and so did my involvement. I moved up into an area manager role where I oversaw a group of OTs who were part of innovative projects and then became the Innovations Manager.

The heart of my role is being responsible for how Lifestart delivers support to children and young people with disability and their families.

As such, I work strategically at an organisational level, working with team members to be as responsive, creative and innovative as possible to provide the best possible care and support to children with disability, as well as ensuring both the child and their family’s needs and wants are met, and that everything we do is person-centred.

There’s no such thing as a typical day at work for me. I’m rarely in the same office all day long and each day I’ll tackle a range of things such as policy, considering different methods for collecting and applying family feedback, evaluating programs, and managing my team and attending staff meetings. I also have to collaborate with other agencies and the community.

The best part of my role is the diversity. I get to work with a range of people and help them in creative ways. The most challenging part of my job is the sheer volume of work it entails! Yet I can’t imagine working in any other sector.

Jenny Kemp
Innovations Manager, EM12



True Stories: Cara Anderson – Marketing with meaning

When faced with making a decision about what university degree to do when I finished high school, I opted for the one that I thought would be interesting: a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations, majoring in marketing and journalism.

Indeed, that degree has provided the foundations for a diverse and fruitful career. It seemed inevitable (and most welcome) that I would end up in the care sector, as my family always instilled a sense of community within me, whereby we were encouraged to give back and make a difference to the lives of others.

I have worked in the care sector for seven years now, holding a variety of communications and marketing roles. Each role has helped me develop as a communications and marketing professional, expanding my skills and experience, as well as paving the way for me to become a Certified Practising Marketer (CPM) through the Australian Marketing Institute.

Being a CPM has been a positive step in my career, as it has contributed to my professional development and ongoing learning, and it has allowed me to foster other people’s careers by mentoring them.

I have been at Break Thru for four years now and am currently the Marketing and Communications Manager. It’s an extremely busy role and no two days are ever the same. Even when you plan your day perfectly, something always comes up that needs your immediate attention and your neatly scheduled day goes out the window.

That’s perhaps one of the greatest challenges of my role – juggling competing deadlines and impromptu projects. I’m able to overcome these little hurdles by being organised, having good time management skills and being surrounded by a wonderful team who I can rely on. I oversee a team of four, plus some external contractors to ensure all of the marketing and communications needs for Break Thru are met.

My team and I are currently working on social media and digital communications strategies, are updating our 90-day plan for different elements of the business, plus we’re tendering for new business opportunities.

The best part of my role is hearing about the positive experiences that Break Thru has had on people’s lives, whether it be helping them find a job, aiding them in their recovery, supporting their mental health or accessing their community, then I have the privilege of sharing their stories via Break Thru’s communication networks and campaigns. The marketer in me also loves seeing my projects and strategies come to fruition as I feel a sense of success and accomplishment.

As for my future in the sector, I plan on staying in it. You need to love what you do in life, and I love marketing and making a difference to people’s lives.

Cara Anderson
Marketing and Communications Manager, BGP11


True Stories: Ashely Chettleburgh – Caring for all

I wish that I’d found the disability sector earlier, instead of only four years ago. But I’m here now and it’s the place I’m definitely meant to be.

After high school I did a range of different jobs, but nothing really clicked until I entered the care sector. I got my first taste of the sector while working as a security officer in a mental health unit at a hospital. Even though it wasn’t part of my job, I always made the time to speak to the patients and I seemed to be able to connect with them. This made me consider a caring career, such as a paramedic or mental health nurse, but before I enrolled in further education, I saw a disability support worker role advertised at Aspire and applied because it gave me the opportunity to start helping people immediately.

As a disability support worker I worked with clients with a range of needs. I worked my way up to a senior support role for a challenging behaviour unit, then moved into an office-based job to support accommodation managers. The HR team then poached me for the work health and safety (WHS) role. This became my current position of Safety and Wellbeing Officer. During my time at Aspire I’ve done loads of training in a variety of areas. Right now I’m doing my Certificate 4 in Work Health and Safety, and then I want to do a Diploma of Human Resources. My theory is that you need to continually learn and train so when the opportunity arrives to climb the ladder you’re ready to go.

The Safety and Wellbeing Officer role is largely divided into two areas: safety such as all the WHS requirements, programs and procedures; and wellbeing, which supports staff to live a healthy lifestyle. I’ve always been interested in health, so this role is perfect for me as it combines my desire of helping others and living a healthy life. The care sector is all about caring for others, but I think we need to remember that we can’t provide a good quality service to clients if we’re not caring for ourselves as well.

Ashely Chettleburgh
Safety and Wellbeing Officer, CSS6

Drisana Levitzke-Gray – Young Australian of the Year 2015

carecareers would like to congratulate Drisana Levitzke-Gray on being named Young Australian of the Year for 2015.

Drisana Levitzke-Gray - Young Australian of the Year 2015

Drisana, a 21-year-old from Perth, has worked towards the promotion of diversity and acceptance of deaf people and for the rights of deaf children around the world to learn Auslan.

During her acceptance speech on Sunday, Drisana stated “It’s a human right that they have that access. Auslan is my language, but it’s an Australian language and that makes it yours.”

Auslan is the sign language used by the Australian deaf community, with its own history and traditions.


True Stories – Amy Butler-Interactive Administration role

Thanks to trial and error during high school work experience, I knew that when I completed year 12 I wanted to work in an office. I started off as a junior legal assistant in a law firm, working my way up to reception and then into a legal assistant role. After seven years working in the law firm, I felt I needed more variety and also wanted to contribute to an organisation that made a difference to the lives of people who need it most. An opportunity came up at Aspire Support Services, and since I’d only heard good things about Aspire, I applied.

I’ve been Aspire’s Receptionist and Administration Support Officer for the last two years and I love my job. What I particularly enjoy about it is just how people-focused and interactive it is. I get to meet and greet everyone including all the staff and clients, so it gives me the chance to get to know people well.

My role is quite busy. I answer the phones, manage the stationery orders, do some finance work such as taking payments, looking after petty cash and doing the banking, I also have to update files and databases and handle all the mail. Additionally I run Aspire’s newsletter, whereby I coordinate the content, publish it and distribute it.

Up until recently, I’d never had any qualifications in administration, rather I’d learnt everything on the job. I thought it would be useful to do my Certificate 4 in Business – it certainly was! I studied online and had 10 months to complete the government funded course, but I managed to get through it in five months. The training taught me so much, including how to use more computer programs and how to do so more efficiently.

Seeing as I enjoyed studying so much, I think that perhaps I’ll look into gaining additional qualifications in the future. I’ve always been interested in finance and since I do a bit of that in my current role, it might lead to another opportunity at Aspire – which is where I plan to stay.

Amy Butler
Receptionist and Administration Support Officer, CSS2

Aspire Support Services

True Story: Lilly Wicks – Open to opportunities

True Stories - Lilly Wicks with Nariah

As a new graduate, I wasn’t aware of where my qualifications could take me. 12 years ago I completed an Applied Science degree in speech pathology. Upon graduating I secured an early intervention role at Lifestart. While I’ve been with the organisation ever since, I’ve had the opportunity to change roles every two years, working my way up to my current position as a Professional Services Manager. I think I’ve moved around in the company so much because I was always willing to grab opportunities when they came up.

Having worked in a variety of different roles over the last 12 years has helped me grow and develop, and ultimately helped me to become a better manager and achieve the position I have today. Through my career, I’ve been able to learn to understand people better, discover what motivates them, improve my interpersonal skills so I can connect with others and help them thrive at work, as well as learning how to think and work creatively and implement innovative ideas and strategies.

In my initial role as a speech pathologist, I worked with families and schools. Then I helped facilitate some parent training programs. Next I stepped up to an area manager role where I oversaw a small team and helped support a group of families. I’ve also worked on and coordinated major communication research projects and funded programs. These days, as a Professional Services Manager I develop training for staff, support staff to maintain and build their skills as well as enhancing their professional development. I also have the opportunity to help future professional services specialists by organising practical placements for university students within Lifestart. Additionally, I write policies and learning and development programs in my area of expertise.

A typical day in my working life includes speaking with an educational provider about potential workshops for my staff, developing a webinar on how to set up university student practical placements, creating and uploading clinical resources onto the staff blog, consulting as a speech pathologist specialist, and working as a part of a committee for a large project. Occasionally I still get to do some face-to-face speech pathology work with families, but I’m predominately supporting staff.

Like every role, this one has its challenges such as being time poor, dealing with budgets and ongoing recruitment. But those challenges pale in comparison to the overwhelming positives I encounter, such as seeing staff excited and inspired about their work, and having a front row seat to the positive experiences and progress that Lifestart’s families and staff have.

I’ve been the Professional Services Manager at Lifestart for 18 months now and I can’t see myself anywhere else in the sector just yet, but I imagine when the time comes I’d like to further my involvement in learning and development, technology and research.

Lilly Wicks
Professional Services Manager, SPS 10

True Stories: Chris Buckman – Finding the right fit

I’ve had so many jobs in my lifetime that I’ve practically lost count. It took me awhile to find the perfect career, but now I know I’m in the right place.

After high school I entered into a 12 month traineeship in accounts. It wasn’t the job for me. I didn’t really want to spend most of my time in a file room. After the traineeship was up, I struggled to get a job, so I called on the help of a disability employment service since I have cerebral palsy. They helped me out and I got to try plenty of different things, but nothing felt like the perfect fit. By chance, the person managing my case was going on holidays and he got me in to fill in for him. It was great, helping people with a disability get jobs. When the case manager came back, I spent some time working at the local council, focusing on disability issues. Before long, the disability job service started to expand and I was offered a job there, finding placements for people with disabilities. I worked there for five years before I was ready for my next challenge.

That challenge happened to be at Challenge Community Services. I applied for and succeeded in getting the role managing the open employment  arm of the organisation, where I ran a small team and continued to help find people with a disability meaningful work.

I was always keen to learn something new, so when a role came up three years later managing Challenge’s business service department where people with disabilities worked in supported employment such as a recycling operation, timber workshop and ironing service, I went for it. After three years there, I started to feel stagnant again and I wanted a change. I left Challenge and went into aged care, but during my stint there, I realised I missed disability work.

This realisation set me back on my path and I was lucky enough to get a job back at Challenge as the Day Programs Manager, where I’d coordinate day programs and activities for our service users. Now I’m the General Manager, Northern Region, Client Services. It does mean that I have less direct contact with the clients, but it also means that I get to organise systems, deliver services in the right ways and establish new service areas therefore giving even more opportunities to people with a disability at Challenge.

It’s true, I have had many different roles in the care sector, and at Challenge. In my mind, it gives you a better picture of what the whole organisation is about. And considering that one day I hope to be the CEO of Challenge, I figure the more I know and understand, the better.

General Manager, Northern Region, Client Services
Challenge Community Services

True Stories: Athena Kontonis – Best of both worlds

Athena KontonisMy introduction to people with disabilities was at high school. My home economics class ran a program where students from a school for people with disabilities would come to our class once a week and cook with us. I remember thinking how awesome an idea it was. From then I was interested in disabilities and teaching and learning, but wasn’t sure how to proceed. By chance, I was looking in the university courses guide at the end of my final year at school and discovered a Bachelor in Applied Science in Intellectual Disability Studies degree and thought it would be perfect.

Placements in the disability sector was a primary component of my degree. Within a month of starting the degree, I had a short placement. The following year I did a month-long placement. In my final year I had to do 12 hours a week for the entire year. Each year I selected a different speciality to do my placement in so I’d experience the spectrum of the sector. That final placement lead to my career at Oakleigh Centre Industries, the employment arm of Oakleigh Centre in Victoria.

Straight out of uni I was offered a casual position as the Production Supervisor in the supported employee program, where I assisted and taught people with disabilities work skills. After about six years in that role, I became the Quality Coordinator for Oakleigh Centre Industries, which saw me away from the supported employees and instead working in an office developing standards, policies and procedures. These days I have the best of both worlds as the Learning and Assessment Manager. My role is complex, with my responsibilities including; assessing the skills and needs of the supported employees, employees and the business and organising appropriate training as a result; overseeing and maintaining the quality management systems; managing a team; running a viable business; ensuring customers’ needs are met and managing occupational health and safety (OH&S) concerns. My role also changes, adapts and expands as the business and the industry evolves, plus it’s busy, but that’s a good thing because I love a challenge.

The best thing about my role is seeing people with disabilities achieve. Some learn new skills, some progress to such a degree that they can obtain open employment, and some love their work at Oakleigh so much they don’t want to leave! It’s true, we have some supported employees that have been here for 40 and 50 years!

I feel lucky to be where I am today. If I hadn’t stumbled upon the course in the university guide, who knows what I would’ve done. It just goes to show that you never know how incredible your future could be if you don’t take the time to consider your education and career options.

Study and change your life – and others at the same time.

Athena Kontonis
Learning and Assessment Manager
Oakleigh Centre Industries

True Stories: Casey Grey – Listening to learn

Listening to Learn!! I’ve been in the care sector for a decade now. Like many, I came into it by chance. I’d finished high school and had tried careers in both hospitality and retail, but hadn’t found the right fit for me. I then saw a traineeship advertised with the House With No Steps, which interested me. I loved the idea that every day would be different and that I’d have the chance to build some great relationships with people. I applied and was successful. I started off as a Support Worker and am now a Personal Outcomes Measures Interviewer.

Study has been an important part of my career. I’ve done a Certificate III in Community Services, a Certificate IV in Disability, Training and Assessment, and a Diploma in Community Service. All of the courses have been relevant to my job, but what I especially liked about them was that I could continue working while studying and the training focused on what I was actually doing at work. In line with my current role, I am a trained Personal Outcomes Measures (POMS) Interviewer. POMS is a collection of 21 different questions and areas of life developed by the Council of Quality Leadership []. They were developed to find out what people with disabilities want or need in their life.

My role means that I get to spend a lot of time with people, chatting to them and interviewing them using the POMS strategy. It is incredibly rewarding because I get to meet a range of extraordinary people and hear their amazing stories. It’s also very positive because from the person’s answers, we then work with them to bolster the areas of their life that need it and to help ensure that they continue doing the things they love. The key is listening to the people the House With No Steps supports and then acting on what has been said. When you truly listen to someone, you have to follow their lead. You can’t have any preconceived ideas – you must be present in that moment. You also need to listen beyond the words they’re saying; you need to watch their behaviour, their body language, their interactions with others and listen out for what they’re not saying. I feel like I’m privileged to be able to do this and that the House With No Steps clients are willing to let me into their lives.

Every person that I’ve supported over the last decade has shaped me in one way or another. Since I entered the industry quite young, a lot of my values have been contributed to by the people I supported. But more than anything, they’ve taught me to accept my own unique self and never to be afraid to express your own individuality.

If you’re leaving school, why not consider a career in the care sector like Casey. School leavers can find out more here.

Casey Grey
Personal Outcomes Measures Interviewer
House With No Steps 

True Stories: Nick Pascuzzi – Just be yourself

Nick.jpg – Cars and driving is one of Nick Pascuzzi’s favourite hobbies

My relationship with FSG is a little different to other people’s. I am both a staff member and a client. It all started when I was a teenager. I joined one of FSG’s social groups for people with a disability. I joined the group so I could mingle with other people and make friends. I also let FSG know that one of my dreams for the future was to get a job, so they helped make that happen by enrolling me in a 12 month community literacy program. The course really made a difference to my life! It helped with my English, math and money skills. I wasn’t really good at any of that before, but now I am.

After that course, FSG asked me if I was interested in doing a traineeship with them. You bet I was! I said to them; “You don’t need to tell me anymore. I don’t have any questions – just sign me up now!” So that’s how I became a staff member and a client.

I’m the Office Administrator for the Leisure and Events team. My job involves answering the phone, computer work, filing and general office duties. I also help out at our events when I’m not attending them as a client. I love everything about my job. Every little bit and every big bit.

The study I did for the traineeship was a Certificate 3 in Business Administration. It took about a year to complete. To my surprise, the trainers nominated me for the regional traineeship awards! To my greater surprise, I was shortlisted as one of the top three trainees! I didn’t end up winning, but that didn’t bother me. I didn’t need to win an award – I was just so pleased I got to do the traineeship. It was nice to be recognised though.

The traineeship has helped me understand more aspects of my job and taught me how to do so much more, which means I am more independent and need less help from those around me. Mind you, if I need help, I’ll still ask for it!

Having a disability hasn’t ever stopped me doing anything. Well, the muscle and nerve disorder has prevented me from playing sports, but that’s it. I try hard at everything I do, including my work. The most important thing all people, but especially people with a disability, need to remember in life, and when trying to get a job is that you just need to be yourself. Just look where it’s gotten me! Who knows where it’ll take me next.

If you have a disability and are interested in a career in the care sector take our Career Quiz to find your perfect job today.

Nick Pascuzzi
Office Administrator
FSG Australia – Freedom. Social Justice. Growth

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: Helena Young – My story

When I started at university my first career of choice had been dietetics and I always wanted to work in a hospital setting. I had been told that for dietetics, I would have to major in chemHelena-Young_editedistry for my B Sc degree. I had to choose one more subject in first year and the subject coordinator at the desk on my first day at university suggested Psychology 1, which I knew nothing about. However he convinced me with the simple statement, “Psychology 1 is going to be very useful to you”.

In the first year of BSc, I met lots of students from all sorts of backgrounds and it was a stimulating learning environment. I made friends with a group of young women who were all aiming towards Occupational Therapy (OT) as a career. It sounded like an interesting profession and I “hung out” with the OT group most of the time.

True Stories: Harkeet Sandhu – A helping hand!

When I finished high school, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. There wasn’t a specific job or career that stood out to me.

So I chose a degree that I found interesting and figured that everything else would fall into place. I did a Bachelor of Science in Psychology at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. I was fascinated by the human mind and how people interact. I thought that a psychology degree would offer me many skills and open up many doors for me. It did.Harkeet Sandhu

The first door the degree opened for me was the door to the rest of the world. After uni I went to South Africa to volunteer. I spent three months at Horizon Farm Trust doing a variety of things including conservation work, building and developing recreational activities for people at risk of being recruited into gang cultures such as people with mental health problems.

It was an exciting, rewarding adventure. And I wanted more of it.

True Stories: Helen Walker – Multi-skilling was a prerequisite when I entered the sector!

Helen Walker_edited

I oversee the service and systems management of my organisation, including financial management, staff supervision and support. I also coordinate service funding and policy development, reporting to the Board of Management and liaison with the community and our funding bodies.

I entered the community sector as a volunteer. I had just moved to a totally new area and had three young sons, two with disabilities. I desperately needed an outlet and contact within the local community.

I started as a meals on wheels driver and then worked as an office receptionist at the local neighbourhood centre, before being employed as the ‘pay person’ at the centre.

True Stories: Gerry Foo – A family affair!

I’ve had experiences working in disability services on and off for a number of years and I keep coming back to it. I’m very drawn to the sector as I feel it is important to recognise individuals and give them a voice. It’s also a family affair as my husband also works in the sector and my children have had direct contact with it through volunteering. One of my daughters is also considering the sector as a career path.

For me, it all started when I graduated from high school and worked as a Teacher’s Aide at a special needs school in Singapore, where my aunty was the principal. After that experience I studied law and pracGerry-Foo_editedtised for a year. I then ran a series of businesses and migrated to Australia in 2004.

I got into the disability sector in Australia through volunteering at Sunshine 5 years ago, where I now work as the Fundraising and Community Engagement Manager. My initial volunteering role involved helping out with Sunshine’s annual art exhibition and then a position came up in their Community Access Program, working with clients who had high support needs.

True Stories: Gail White – The most gratifying career!

An interest and a love of the involvement with disabilities made my decision very easy to make the change to new horizons. The awarding challenges of day to day involvement and being able to help and assist clients is one of the most gratifying experiences I have ever been involved in.


I especially love the way that you are never judged and are taken as you are and for the person that you are. I could never put into words just how great it is to be so welcoming and so easily accepted by the clients that I come into contact with.

True Stories: Emma Riley – Making a difference through physiotherapy!

During my physiotherapy training I had a placement in disability and I really enjoyed it, so I decided to explore this area further by volunteering at an organisation called the Self-Help Group for Cerebral Palsy in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was an amazing, eye opening and fulfilling experience that I intend to repeat.

In a typical daEmma Rileyy for me at work I will usually have a visit booked to a see a client at their home, school, workplace, or maybe a playground. I need to first prepare for the visit by gathering appropriate materials, assessments, toys and relevant information on the client.

At a visit (depending on where we are up to) we discuss the client’s needs, functional goals, current level of achievement, and in conjunction with the client/family/carers, we discuss ideas of how we might address the goals set, then follow-up on progress.

True Stories: Craig Bellamy – Keeping people fit and healthy at work!

I started working at The Mai-Wel Group’s Transition to Work (TTW) Program, developing training sessions for our clients, who are young people with a disability, around work related topics that helped to improve their transition from school to employment.

Some of the topics covered included reverse marketing for employment, through cold calling. I also covered the expectations that employers have for new employees, and the responsibilities that new employees have themselves, including keeping up personal appearances and having a good attitude at work.Craig-Bellamy_edited

I was then lucky enough to be approached by Mark Newton to apply for a Health and Fitness Instructor position in Mai-Wel’s Pro Active Inside ‘N Out Program. Mark was the author of Pro-Active, which originated from his idea that staff and supported employees can be fit and healthy at work.

During my interview for the position, which I got, Mark commented on the tremendous rapport that I had built with many of the clients in the TTW Program. Along with my ability to build that rapport, I feel my education also helped me to secure the role. I have a Certificate III in Fitness as part of a TAFE Plus program at the University of Newcastle and I’ve also completed a Business degree.

True Stories: Chris Duffus – 91 sets of traffic lights!

For 7 years I travelled from Wollongong to Sydney for my job. On a good day it took me 1 hour and 20 minutes to get through the 91 sets of traffic lights, but these days it takes me 2 minutes and two sets of lights to get to work!

Chris Duffus_edited1

I was working in a marketing role for a large company in Sydney and was being paid well – but I paid for it. My job took up a lot of my time and I sacrificed a lot. I had a young family and was looking to change careers paths. Fortunately, just at the right time, I saw an ad in the local paper for my current job.

I’ve been working as the Operations Manager at The Disability Trust’s Illawarra Vocational Services (IVS) for 6 years now. Our supported employees provide lawn mowing and garden maintenance services, and some packaging services, for businesses in the Illawarra region. We’re like family to many of our employees and we provide support to them in many areas.

True Stories: Cecily Michaels – Value from being a volunteer!

As a person who has volunteered since my school days I find my position with TRI Community Exchange very rewarding as it is an incredible organisation to work for, under the inspirational guidance and direction of Jane Uff and my brilliant colleagues, who are all dedicated, talented and inspiring people. It is an honour to be a part of such a team.Cecily-Michaels_Tri-Community_edited

My role is to inspire people to volunteer for Home and Community Care (HACC) services for the frail aged and people with a disability, so they can remain in their homes. The other part of my role is to support these services in recruiting, training, managing and retaining volunteers.

TRI makes many worthy contributions to the sector through their affordable and competent computer and IT skills training, communityNet news, information and resource website for the community sector, and in its work with multicultural communities in the Nepean, Hawksbury and Blue Mountains regions.

I also volunteer as a Board Member of the Springwood Neighbourhood Centre Cooperative and also as a Project Manager for a prevention project in the occupied Palestinian Territories, against gender based violence, particularly targeting children and incest. I have just returned from a 3 week monitoring trip and am humbled by the incredible work this small partner organisation is undertaking with only volunteer staff.

True Stories: Bryn Hoskins – Volunteering to employment!

Photo of Bryn Hoskins VolunteeringI work in Frontline Support as a Support Worker at The Mai-Wel Group in Newcastle. Mai-Wel has a Day Centre and offers Community Access programs in Skills Development and Social Participation. In my role, I support individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities to access the community and realise their potential. Never had thought that my volunteering would lead to employment!

Eight years ago I completed a trade as a plant mechanic. I was not satisfied to continue to pursue this trade as my vocation. I worked casually and intermittently for 12 months before having a discussion with a friend about his current volunteer work. I thought it sounded interesting and decided volunteering one day a week was just the thing for me.

After three months of volunteering  I was offered a casual position which quickly grew into a permanent role. I have been with the same employer for seven years now and have never regretted my change in vocation. From the moment I began my volunteering work I knew I had an opportunity to have a profession which was fun, interesting and, most of all, personally satisfying.

Bryn Hoskins

Support Worker

The Mai-Wel Group

True Stories: Brendan O’Connell – e-Inclusion – work or play!

I first started in the disability sector as a casual Residential Support Worker whilst studying and I found it flexible and enjoyable, and it fit in with my lifestyle. The experience I gained in the role also gave me a firm grounding in operations at a service level and it certainly helps me now with understanding some of the challenges people face when living in supported accommodation and accessing services.

I’ve always had an interest in video, editing, photography, and all the associated equipment and technology, and I was first introduced to the concept and benefits of using this medium, as a form of accessible information for people with intellectual disabilities, when I was working in the United Kingdom (which was over a period of 4 years).

True Stories: Belinda Bennett – A Sense of Family and Community!

Belinda Bennett edited

I work for Disability Services Australia (DSA) travelling between Queanbeyan and Goulburn regularly as an Employment Consultant for a Transition to Work program.

I began work in the aged care sector 9 years ago as a Paid Care Worker in a nursing home and I have since progressed my career by taking on a number of roles including Personal Carer in aged care, Activities Officer for elderly people, and Diversional Therapist.

I started working in aged care when I was quite young and found that I really loved it for the social interaction with different people, and the sense of family and community.

True Stories: Anthony Rohr – Contributing to the sector!

I am the Human Resources Manager for The Mai-Wel Group and when I applied for my role I was attracted by what it offered for my career progression and the potential to use my existing experiences and skills. I also knew that what I would contribute through my role would benefit the disability sector, the community and people with disability.Anthony-Rohr_edited

A typical day for me can include a diverse range of activities, most of which contributes to maintaining or improving the environment that staff work in. This can include working on policies, such as flexible working arrangements, to resolving a conflict between staff or putting in place activities for training and development.

True Stories: Anna Buddo – It has, and continues to be, a positive experience!


I transferred from New Zealand with my husband’s work and when my second child was 2 ½ years old I was ready to re-enter the workforce.

My children were both under five so I wanted to be able to spend time with them, so therefore part time was ideal and being local was even better, as the thought of commuting and being stuck in traffic did not appeal. A role in community services ticked both of these boxes.

Working in the community services sector has the advantage of being able to offer part time and flexible hours, which is very important to me and the children.

I was unsure what to expect from working in the community as my whole working career had been working in a hospital, as a dietician. I have been very fortunate and have had three different roles with Hunters Hill Ryde Community Services. The first was as the Food Services Assistant, then as the Food Services Coordinator and now as the Team Leader.

Trues Stories: Anja Vukovic – Kick-starting my career!

During my Bachelor degree I studied sociology and researched many of the inequalities that our society faces. It left me with an urge to further advance my studies in that area and to also do more to support those who find it difficult to find resources and services.Anja-Vukovic_edited

After I completed my degree I ended up joining a very corporate, fast paced world working in management and sales at KFC and then Coca-Cola Amatil. These positions were certainly fulfilling in their financial and career aspects, but did not leave me feeling like I was giving back to my community.

When I saw my position being advertised by FRANS (Family Resource and Network Support), I knew it was my chance to kick-start a new career path. In my role I coordinate respite for families caring for children (between the ages of 0 and 18 years) with high support needs. I arrange for 1 to 1 care, or sometimes 2 to 1, that takes place in the home or community.

True Stories: Amanda Clarke – A massive leap of faith!

Amanda Clarke edited

It took a massive leap of faith to make the transition from working in a role providing financial planning and share trading advice within an investment bank to working for a not-for-profit organisation in the community services sector.

I had been working in the financial services sector for seven years after completing post graduate qualifications in Financial Planning and Stockbroking. I moved to Sydney from Western Australia in 2008 to follow my career goals (and I’ll be honest – the big bucks). Being alone in a new city, I took any opportunity I could to meet people at social and professional networking events in an effort to make some connections outside of the office.

True Stories: Aleks Duric – Every day is full of variety!

Aleks _Variety_editedI am responsible for implementing and managing fundraising campaigns, managing donor relations, sourcing corporate sponsorship and partnerships and increasing the awareness of spinal cord injury through various public relations activities including media releases and events, every day is full of variety.

True Stories: Alisse Green – Life is about people!

Alisse Green_edited

I love people and I believe life is about people. Without them there wouldn’t be much to life. At school I completed Community and Family Studies in the HSC and I then went on to uni and graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences, majoring in Psychology. When I ended up in this industry it felt perfect for me. I started at St George and Sutherland Community College (SGSCC) disABILITY in 2008.

Our clients are some of the happiest people I know and I just loving working at the college. I truly value the opportunity to be a positive influence in their lives. Simply by making them smile, giving them independence and helping them to learn, I myself can learn new things along the way.

SGSCC disABILITY provides support to people in the community with a disability. We have three main programs – Kringen, STEP and Literacy & Numeracy. I get very excited about trying new things in my work. Anything that helps make the client’s lives easier and of a better quality is awesome.

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.

True Stories: Jaclyn Albergoni – New to the sector


I’m completely new to the sector but it is the best day job I’ve ever had! I’ve been working as a Social Educator at Ability Options for 3 months now. I’m also an actor on Home and Away, so this role is perfect for me as it is very flexible around my acting commitments – and is much better than waitressing!

A friend referred me to the carecareers website and I applied for my role. I had an interview and was in the job after a couple of weeks. Ironically, I never knew this kind of work was available on a casual basis, but I’m glad I’ve discovered it.

True Stories: Rio Kuharski – On my days off I miss my clients

Rio Kuharski

On my days off I miss my clients

The aphorism, ‘It is better to give than receive’ epitomises my interest in community services. I have aspired to help people since childhood when I was brought up in the hospitality industry through the family business, however I did not have the opportunity.

After playing tennis professionally I chose to enter the tennis coaching industry based on my experience and knowledge. Unfortunately a void had ensued through tennis coaching as I personally felt like I was satisfying predominantly a leisure service. In other words, I had an underlying passion to give more to society.

True Stories: Charlotte McManus My marketing move from the corporate sector

One of the highlights of my day is around 10.15am when some of the people Sunnyfield support, who work in our factories, wander down to our corporate building on their morning tea break.Charlotte-McManus_roles

I get regular visits (and special handshakes) from Chrissie, who always shares his plans for the weekends and enjoys telling me what he has to nibble on for his break. I am always guaranteed a smile and quite often we have a laugh about what we have been up to.

Before Sunnyfield I worked for a couple of corporate organisations, both in Australia and the UK (as I am English), including global banks and some public relations, promotions and communications companies.

True Stories: Ann Gaudion – The many hats of support workers

Ann-Gaudion_edited The many hats of support workers

I moved to Wagga Wagga around 3 years ago to support my partner in a career progression opportunity and to be closer to family. For me, this meant starting again with finding new employment.

My previous employment history had been varied and I had worked in numerous different industries. I grew up on a fruit orchard and worked on the family farm packing fruit, and then later on I ran the family owned produce store. I worked in customer service for Zoos Victoria and then operated my own dog grooming business, and I also worked Part Time at Woolworths for 5 years.

For a large part of my working life I also worked as a professional horse riding coach and I trained and competed with horses to a high competition level.

When I came to Wagga I got a transfer to Woolworths and then tried telemarketing, which was not for me. I picked up our local newspaper one day and read a job advertisement for support workers. The thing that caught my eye was the heading ‘Do you have life experiences?’

I rang the contact number, discussed the position and applied for the job. As I had no idea what the role was going to be I researched community support worker on the web and thought, hey I can do this!

True Story: Maria & Gerard update – Part 1

Maria: Continuing to inspire

It’s been four years Gerard and I were part of a carecareers campaign. Every now and then someone comes up to me and says they recognise me from somewhere – the commercial! It’s even happened when I’ve been holidaying aboard a cruise ship. One of the best things about being in the commercial was inspiring others to consider a career in the care sector. Plus, of course it was wonderful to see Gerard shine and be recognised for the brilliant and talented person he is.

I worked with Gerard for 18 months prior to the commercial. My most memorable moments with him, besides doing the ad, was seeing him win an award at Tropfest, when he got his first job, and then his second at the Riverside Theatre. Gerard is such a character and definitely one in a million. I can’t imagine life without Gerard, which is excellent, as we’re still working on a number of projects together.

One of the things we’ve been working on is the Pathways to Leadership program. Together we have become facilitators of the program which means we get to host training groups and sessions on person-centred-practice (PCP), especially in preparation for the NDIS. We’ve been to loads of talks and conferences, presenting to different organisations, social workers, disability sector staff and families to discuss the importance of PCP. I think one of the reasons we work so well together is that we both simply want to get the message out there that we’re all people – no matter what differences we have – and by working together we truly demonstrate that.

True Stories: Tina Whiffen – Working it out

Tina-2I actually stumbled upon working with people with a disability in my first career. I’d just finished my Bachelor of Science university degree and was working as a horticulturalist in Welby Garden Centre  in the NSW Southern Highlands. Welby ran a sheltered workshop for people with a disability via Challenge Southern Highlands. In addition to honing my own horticultural skills, I helped train the people with a disability. I loved it.

Despite this, I continued my work as a horticulturalist in a few different places and eventually moved back to my hometown of Bega. It was here I realised that there was more to the world and I remembered the joy I experienced when working with people with a disability at Welby. I saw a job advertised as an Employment Consultant at WorkAbility, a service of The Disability Trust, and thought that would be a great opportunity to rekindle the feeling I had at Welby and to make a difference.

True Stories: Margaret Donnelly – Career development

Margaret-DonnellyCareer Development!  Following university, I worked in PNG for a number of years creating computer graphics for the signage and printing industry. I returned to Australia and worked in Retail Management whilst studying for a Cert IV in Human Resources, Workplace Training & Assessment and a Post Grad in HR Management in the evenings.

I used these new skills in a large retail organisation before deciding to try something new. I applied for a locum HR position with Northcott at Parramatta and spent a wonderful 12 months there. Working in the Not-For-Profit sector was inspiring and exciting. It fulfilled so many of my personal ambitions and the cooperative nature of the industry. After the cut throat world of competitive retail, it was refreshing to be able to share ideas and work collaboratively with other professionals to make life better for disadvantaged groups. Following my son’s birth, we elected to make a ‘tree-change’ and moved back to my home town to access eager grandparents and the sweet smell of nature.