Get to know Maria & Gerard

Maria & Gerard's answers below have been transcribed from the carecareers TV ads and Q&A videos they appear in.

Get to know Maria

Watch Maria's Q&A videos

What attracted you to the sector?

I had a child with special needs. I realise how much work is involved in education. I gained a lot of skills in that area, I went and did all these courses, got all these certificates in sign language, wanted to know what was going in the community so decided to do a diploma community welfare course.

I found I was starting up groups voluntarily, starting off social groups for young children with down syndrome. With parent participation I found I was always being the initiator of sharing information with other parents, encouraging other parents, just educating, and I just found I became really passionate, really enjoyed what I was doing...I saw an ad in the down syndrome newsletter for team coaches/facilitators, and I thought "just go for it".

I went for the job and I got the job, and I started working as a team coach for about 3 years and I just loved the work. I loved that I was assisting young people creating their goals and dreams and how their goals and dreams were really happening for them. It was very rewarding and enriching sort of work. I was just really enjoying what I was doing.

Then the project coordinator was leaving and she wanted me to take the role on, so I basically got promoted into that role, and now I'm teaching staff. I employ team coaches to go in and teach the participants, our young people, how to create their goals and dreams. It's been a fantastic journey and it's always challenging, always something new to learn.

It's not like mundane work where I used to go to the surgery, I had to set up, had to do this, this and this, a sort of routine, while this sort of work is a lot more challenging, there's always something interesting coming your way, something different something new to learn, so yes it's very challenging and rewarding.

What do you enjoy most about working in this sector?

I enjoy watching our young people grow very independent, you see all these changes happening, seeing them get a job and leading a normal life like everybody else. That's what's really rewarding, that they're the same as every other young person, they have the same needs, desires, and dreams just like everybody else, and how we're all the same but we're all different, that's the exciting part about it all.

It's opened my eyes. I've learned that we're all pretty equal; there's nothing different as far as wanting those same dreams of having a relationship, or to move out of home and live away from mum and dad. It's been a real learning curve and opened my eyes up in a lot of ways.

What are the key challenges you face working in this sector?

Getting really good staff. I've got to go through a big process of employing really good staff. And now I know what to look for now because it was all new trying to employ new staff as I was never in that role before, and being placed in that role from being one of the workers who work up front with the young person and their family, to actually employ staff and seeing what type of person I feel really works with our young people, and you sort of can pick it up.

I can pick it up fairly quickly now when I interview staff, you just get a feel and you just know now what type of people will work with our young people. I'm protective too of young people and I'm looking after their best interest and I want the best possible staff to work with our young participants.

What is your most memorable project or experience working in this sector?

Gerard. It's absolutely amazing working with Gerard. When he won the Tropfest I was just beside myself, I was in tears with happiness, and I was really happy for him. That was very very rewarding to see him achieve so much, from being a boy at home who had all these great acting skills and being just there, and nothing was happening with it, to see him transform to actually winning the Tropfest as Best Actor, that was pretty amazing.

Get to know Gerard

Watch Gerard's Q&A videos

What do you like most about working with Maria?

She's there for me. She was there for me when I needed her the most. She has total faith in me and support, and I thank her for everything she's done for me, for the hard work and hard effort that she's put in. Maria is a good friend and also a good team coach.

How has it been being involved with the carecareers TV shoot?

Well that shoot went well, and I did well, and I spoke well. It was well spoken and well said.

If you were to employ your own support worker, what qualities would you seek in them to support you?

Give them a lot of advice, and to follow their dreams. I would say go for it, go out there, do what go to do, and no budging.

Update from Gerard: Gerard secured a role as a Theatre Operator at Riverside Theatres in 2011 which he is still doing today. "I like the staff of Riverside as they are nice people to work with and I like being around theatres," Gerard told us.