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.

We support around 50 high support clients from the local areas and I coordinate the 28 staff members who work within the two programs. I make sure the day to day running of the programs is going smoothly, with the support of the Team Leader at each site. I also look after any students and volunteers we have and I make sure there are enough staff working at any one time.

Our clients are adults who have various intellectual disabilities including autism and cerebral palsy, and our service supports them to participate in the community. Staff take the clients on outings to places like the zoo, to go motorbike riding and ice skating, and even to get a pedicure! We want our clients to be as involved in the community as much as possible, and that involves doing everyday things that most of us take for granted. Some of our clients like to stay at the centre so we have activities there too.

We also have a special sensory room at Frenchs Forest which many clients use, along with other organisations’ clients who get great benefit from visiting the room.

Sunshine is such a vibrant and bright place to be that I still love it to this day. There has never been a day that I haven’t wanted to come in. Even though my primary role is to coordinate the staff I make sure I roster myself onto the floor whenever I can. I love the interaction with the clients and I want to stay connected. They teach me so much.

I’d recommend this kind of job to anyone but I’d also suggest that they see it first hand and perhaps volunteer initially. People working in a direct support environment need to be open, have a caring nature and be fairly adaptable. Support workers can be of any age and from any culture, and English doesn’t necessarily need to be their first language.

We train our staff in all sorts of areas, including manual handling, duty of care, and in occupational health and safety. We also go through the care plans of every client with each new staff member and there is an extensive induction process. Every day is different but this kind of work is extremely rewarding.

Tracey Sherwin

Coordinator of Community Access Programs



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