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.