What do people think when I tell them about my job?

Written by Debra Howard

When I tell people where I work, some people say, “Where?”

Most people in Wagga Wagga know about Kurrajong Waratah as it’s the largest not-for-profit organisation in the area, but generally, people haven’t heard of Skills Options. It’s not until I talk about some of the activities we do that people raise their eyebrows – I mean, in what other job can you go to a music concert, lunch in the park and have an art session in the afternoon. People are genuinely interested in the work I do and they ask a lot of questions. People enquire about the hours, job description and training.

I tell them that our Manager usually employs casual staff to fill rosters as it gives them a chance to see if they like working with people with disability. Some of the casual staff now have permanent positions.

Once, a woman said to me that I must be a “special type of person” to work with adults with disability. I think she was referring to having lots of patience and being very understanding. However, I don’t believe that you need to be “special” to work with people with disability; it’s an enjoyable, rewarding job! Of course, it’s handy to have a great sense of humour!

The staff at Skills Options come from all areas of the community, and are all different types of people. I think this is why our service works. Although reactions to my work are mixed, attitudes in the community are changing as people learn more about the disability and community care sector. If you want to know more, ask someone you know who works with people with disability, or get in touch with the carecareers Careers Centre.


A Supportive Manager

Written by Debra Howard

I have worked on Skills Options, at Kurrajong Waratah for three and a half years – for me that’s a record! As you can probably guess, I really like my job. It took me a long time to realise that I wanted to work with people with disabilities. In the past, after working in a job for a few years, I usually wanted to change and try something different, but now I’ve found a job I like.

In this post, I want to write about Carolyn, the manager at Skills Options. She is very supportive in her role and she now has the distinction of being my longest ever boss!

Carolyn has worked with people with disabilities for many years. Caz, as most of the staff calls her, has lots of ideas and knowledge to share. Some days are very challenging but with a supportive manager some situations seem easier.

She once told me that sometimes when you hit a wall you need to become like water, and then you just find another way around – this stuck with me. Sometimes this is what it’s like working in the field of disability. I know that if I have a problem, Caz is there for me to help sort it out or to give me another perspective. Caz will step in and do part of another staff member’s roster if needed and I know that she wouldn’t ask us to do anything that she’s not prepared to do herself.

 I admire Caz for the person she is but also her sense of humour. I enjoy her stories about things that have happened in her life. She thinks that she’s not very good with small talk but I think we all can dispute that. Sometimes humour alleviates stressful conditions and I believe a sense of humour is important when working in disability sector.


What I’m looking forward to in 2011

Written by Debra Howard

Last year I finished my Certificate III in Disability and obtained a statement of attainment. This year, I’m looking forward to finishing my Certificate IV as I only have a few modules left, which I’ll hopefully finish before the end of February. I really enjoy the extra work and the knowledge I am gaining, so I think the next step will be a diploma.

I’ve always liked studying but somehow I enjoy it more when studying with colleagues. Ideas are bounced around the room and because we all work in the field of disability, it seems easier.
I have always liked to challenge myself at work too so I’ve developed a few goals this year.

For a long time I’ve wanted to teach a few staff members how to work our papermaking machine and to do bookbinding. I think it’s a great idea to share skills and knowledge at work – everyone benefits. Staff members can learn a new skill for themselves and they can then teach it to our clients.

We have our planning days at work soon. At these planning days we usually work through the aims and goals of our clients and discuss procedures too. This year, I’ve also been given the opportunity to teach some of my skills to other staff members, in some training sessions.

I will also learn how to screen print in another training session, which I’ve wanted to learn how to do for a while as I’d like to show our clients how to make different designs for Skills Options’ annual Christmas cards.

My manager has come up with a great idea that will incorporate our handmade paper with a print for our Christmas cards this year, and while I know it sounds wrong to be talking about next Christmas already it usually takes a whole year to get the artwork ready for our art exhibition and cards!


Continuing my training

Written by Debra Howard

I’m lucky that my employer provides many training opportunities and as a result I am currently studying four components of a Certificate III in Disability, and I have also enrolled to do a Certificate IV in Disability.

I’m also studying for my Certificate II in Auslan (the language used by members of the deaf community in Australia), but I’m thinking I might defer that until next year.

Last week I also had the opportunity to attend a course on dementia. I didn’t have a great deal of knowledge about dementia before doing the course but I’m now more knowledgeable on the subject.

The most fulfilling part of my job is the interaction between the clients and myself. I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I can help someone with a disability achieve a goal or even complete a task. My job as a Support Worker is not perfect but I must say that when I go to Music at Midday, lunch in the park or visit the pub for a social gathering in the afternoon, I feel like a bit of a fraud because I’m getting paid for it!
I do admit that working with clients with difficult behaviours is sometimes very challenging. I learn every day and some days when we have experienced challenging behaviours from a client, or a few clients at the same time, I take a deep breath and just get through the day. We have a great team of staff members that all help each other so I don’t feel alone or isolated.

I like to keep my roster fairly full and also change some activities at planning days. This keeps my interest, as previously the longest job I have stayed in is 2.5 years. I am now into my third year as a Support Worker.