I’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.
After I finished school, I started uni and was working in home care to get me through study. But I thought I was only doing it til I got a “real job.” I ended up moving to Sydney because I got a “real job” as a personal assistant in a big office in the city, but I lasted my 12 month contract and then I was gone so fast! It turns out I am not suited at all to office work like that. It was really dull. I went straight back to work in the disability and community care sector.
For me, the sector is a safe space. As a rule the staff I’ve worked with are more socially aware and accepting. You can be as gay as you like, have whatever colour hair, be from any cultural background. Just do your job well.
In my current job, I work with high support needs clients. I started here 6 weeks ago in Day Options, the only part of frontline work that I haven’t yet done in a permanent position. I case manage clients, trying to help them achieve various life goals in areas ranging from leisure and spirituality to education, vocation and independence.
I write programs to help them achieve these goals. Other staff and volunteers then run the programs, and I monitor and evaluate them. I also get to take clients out on community based activities to assist them to engage more in their own community.
I don’t really have a “typical day.” I work 4 days a week. Two days are for taking clients out on outings. The other 2 days are my admin days where I’m writing programs in preparation for those 2 days or for the volunteers. In terms of what sort of things we do, it’s whatever me and my clients come up with. We’re going to the circus on Monday. On Tuesday we’re going to Narrabeen, then the movies, the Powerhouse museum and out for lunch.
Recently, we went fishing because one of that particular client’s goals is to improve range of movement. One of my colleagues has a group of clients who are really adventurous. They all learnt to ride a bike down near the Cook’s River. Then they went on a speed boat round the harbour! My Monday group likes a lot of bushwalking, but lately it keeps raining us out because the weather has been horrible!
I enjoy my job. It gives me a reason to get out of bed. I think I’d end up calling in sick if I was in banking! I know that if I don’t show up, it impacts on other people a lot more directly than if I was in admin or something like that. Work gets me out of bed because other people rely on me. That said, I’m not one of those people who say “I want to help them, I want to care for them.” I like my clients’ company. I enjoy spending time with them. So I actually enjoy coming to work! Other people say “ugh, work, I hate Mondays.” For me, it’s fun. I go fishing!
- TRUE STORIES: Joseph Majambere – Supporting people from all backgrounds to become who they wish to be.