True Stories

Mariam Hussein – Building relationships and careers

I get bored easily, so when considering university degrees, I wanted to do something broad so my options weren’t limited when it came to careers. As such, I did a Bachelor of Business and majored in marketing. I am able to use the skills I learnt at uni, such as building and developing relationships and marketing in my job as an Employment Consultant with Afford Employment. (Which by the way is perfect for me because it is so varied – which means I am never bored!)

A key part of my role is relationship building. I have to build and maintain a network of employers across all industries, which then allows me to offer my clients more choice of jobs. I constantly look for new opportunities to develop new contacts and meet new people. From when I’m shopping, eating out or even visiting the mechanic, I’ll strike up a conversation and foster a relationship so that in the future I can hopefully secure a job for one of my clients.

My clients range in age and gender, and are also people with disability. Some have had troubled lives, lack trust and are very vulnerable. As such, I work extremely hard to develop a good rapport with my clients so they know that I am always here for them, that I will do my best to support them.

I split my day in half. I tend to spend the morning in the office, tending to emails, meeting with clients, helping them with job applications and resumes. Then in the afternoon I’ll hit the road to check in on my clients in jobs, provide training or have meetings with employers.

The best part of my job is seeing someone grow and develop. I have one client who has flourished. When he came to me he was so shy and this prevented him from communicating. I support him through a retail course and assist him to find a job in a shop stacking shelves. As his confidence built, he started talking to and assisting shoppers and now his confidence has grown so much he works on the check out. Knowing that I supported him to overcome his barriers is incredibly rewarding.

Mariam Hussein
Employment Consultant DES, ES6
Afford Employment

Maria Esguerra – Positive work for positive outcomes

Some people might think it a little odd, but one of my personal interests is reading up on psychology research. I find journal articles and current research on employment and mental health, as well as on integrated employment programs. Not only do I find it fascinating, it also helps me expand my professional knowledge for work.

Maria E

I’m a Job Development Officer for CPL Mylestones Employment. I have 30 people in my caseload and my role includes supporting people with disability and mental health concerns to become job ready. This may involve creating a resume, organising appropriate training and study for them, and developing their interview skills. Then, I source an ideal job for them based on their needs and interests and provide ongoing on-the-job support for them as well as the employer. In addition to this, I spend a lot of time connecting with and liaising with my clients’ carers, case managers, doctors and psychologists to keep them abreast of the clients’ career progress, and to also for me to learn how their new job is gelling with their home life and treatment. The ultimate aim for each client is that within a year, they will be independently job ready and won’t need the support of CPL Mylestones Employment to find and maintain work. While many people are able to achieve this, there are some that will need long-term ongoing support.

My Bachelor of Psychology and training in mental health definitely helps me on the job. I have always been interested in human behaviour, helping people and being able to give back to the community. My education and training is vital for work, where I am working with people with mental health concerns. It helps me to better understand them, spot their behaviour patterns, pick up on signs and symptoms of certain conditions, and it also helps me to find the right role for each person.

The highlight of my role is seeing the positive impact that getting a job in a good working environment makes on my clients. Their confidence increases, as does their overall life satisfaction as they realise that they are an important and valuable part of society.

Maria Esguerra
Job Development Officer, ES8
CPL Mylestones Employment

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