Pinch me! Is this really my job?

By Madeleine Donkin, 5 April 2017 , Comments

This is what Northcott Support Worker Sue Joyner said to herself last year when, as part of her role, she found herself on stage at the Riverside Theatres in Parramatta, grooving to Bruno Mars’ ‘Uptown Funk’ while participating in the Accessible Arts Program.

Sue was born in the UK where she trained and worked for many years as a physiotherapist. When her family permanently immigrated to Australia, Sue found herself ready to try something new.

It was ten years ago that she first saw the Northcott Support Worker job ad in the local newspaper. She remembers reading the ad and thinking to herself… “That sounds exactly like what I want to do”.

Sue remembers her first day and that she felt nervous and apprehensive about the role because so much of it was unknown. She found the role challenging, more than she thought she would, but because of the support and training she received from her managers and colleagues, her initial apprehension was swiftly removed.  She says, even today, “the role continues to offer challenges, but overcoming them is incredibly satisfying.”

“The training we receive at Northcott is phenomenal”, says Sue. “I’ve always absolutely felt fully equipped to take on a task because of the training I have received. In the time I have been here, we have collaborated with staff from other organisations and I am not sure that the same can be said across the disability industry. I’m so glad Northcott makes this commitment because it means I have the confidence to perform my role properly and well, which, of course, is so important.”

One of the biggest surprises to Sue has been the broad range of skills, ages and backgrounds of her colleagues. “There is certainly no ‘typical’ support worker’”, she says. “I’ve learned so much from so many peers. Plus I never would have believed the role offered as much variety as it does. There are parts of it that people would associate with support work, like personal care and assisting with meals etc, but I have also had so many amazing and fun opportunities. Not one day is ever the same! I’ve been wheelchair ice-skating, caught a River cat, sunned at the beach, dined out in restaurants, cooked up a storm, assisted to coordinate art shows and performances, sung a song in sign language, attended more sports than I ever knew existed… and most importantly, have had the honour to work alongside the most inspirational managers and colleagues to support some of the most charismatic and funny people I have ever met in my life.”

Over the last year, Sue’s role as a support worker has shifted slightly. She is now an assistant to Northcott’s Inclusive Workplace Project Officer, who is driving the organisation’s Inclusive Workplace Strategy. She physically supports him so he can concentrate on the role. The assistant role has given Sue a different perspective of Northcott because she is now working in the corporate side of the organisation and finds it really interesting.

“The most wonderful thing, however, is that the person I assist, or actually report to now, was one of the first customers I worked with when I started at Northcott. It’s just amazing to see the journey this man has made from a school leaver to driving a significant strategic project at Northcott”, Sue beams with pride. “When I first met him, I knew he had so much potential, plus a good dose of cheekiness”, she grins. “However, to see him so capable in this role, working for the organisation with which he started as a customer, is just fantastic. I can honestly, hand-on-heart say that I absolutely love my job. How fabulous is that?”


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