True Stories

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

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.

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