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Embracing second chances

Job seeker Renee Stephenson

Renee thought she would never work again when her family sold their newsagency. Having had an intellectual disability from birth that caused anxiety about new activities and places, and then losing her beloved grandmother, Renee found it difficult to cope with the thought of a new job. WISE staff slowly supported Renee to deal with her grief and to expand her employment goals and now she has a job that she could only dream about in the past.

Renee’s intellectual disability means that she has difficulty leaning new or complex information. When she met WISE St Albans staff she had her drivers licence but was not confident about venturing outside of the area where she lived. Although Renee said she wanted another job in a newsagency or Tattslotto outlet, we encouraged her to consider supermarkets or petrol stations as well. She was also encouraged to think about administration roles to use a business diploma she gained in 2006.

We referred Renee to specialist counselling to help her deal with her grief and helped her update her resume then helped her begin the search for work. In early 2011, a job became available at the Western Bulldogs AFL Club merchandise shop at their headquarters in Footscray, Melbourne. We coached her on interview questions, drove her to the interview and waited for her to finish. A WISE staff member stayed with Renee while she completed a paid work trial, explaining the duties and helping her settle in. Renee was then employed part-time and she has now been there for more than a year.

Renee has met the club president and been interviewed at a match in front of 22,000 people. In March 2012, Renee presented her success story to a youth engagement forum that included Federal MP Brendan O’Connor. In her speech she said: “My prospects weren’t looking too bright until I was put in contact with WISE St Albans. With their guidance, care and support I now had the courage to go back into the work force. Working with WISE and at the Western Bulldogs Football Club has not only given me confidence and independence, but it has also instilled belief in myself.” 

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