Deaire uses own journey to help others

Coming to the end of her studies and searching for work, Deaire McMullen, who has Cerebral palsy, first heard about STEPS from a university careers advisor. Nearly seven years have passed since Deaire first visited a STEPS Employment Solutions office, and we sat down with her to learn more about her journey from being a customer to sitting on the consultant’s side of the table.

How did you come to work at STEPS Employment Solutions?

“Most of the entry level jobs in my area were on the ground, on your feet kind of work. I knew realistically I wasn’t going to be able to do a lot of that, physically. I went to STEPS and signed up as a customer. One day my consultant said ‘our manager wants to have a bit of a chat to you’. I went into his office and sat down and he said to me ‘your consultant is moving into a different position, and you’ve got the qualifications and the experience. Do you want to apply for the job?’ and nearly six and a half years later I’m still here!”

Your role is changing to from working with both Disability Management Service (DMS) and Employment Support Service (ESS) customers to just DMS. What does that mean for you?

“DMS supports people with more temporary disabilities, illnesses or injuries. It’s tricky because even though on paper, DMS should be easier than ESS, you get more people with attitudes because they’re here because they have to be.

How does your own experience affect the way you support these customers?

“One thing I’ve always appreciated is that I can use my knowledge, because I’ve been on the other side of the table and I know how the system works. I can often just say to people ‘I’m here, I work 30 hours a week, I don’t get any benefits from Centrelink anymore, and if I’m here and I’m doing it, you can too’. That’s where I think I have a bit of a lead in how I do my job. I think learned experience is a very underappreciated skill.”

What’s one of the challenges you find in the disability employment industry?

“There can be a mindset that people with a disability can only do cleaning or hospitality or retail or something like that. It’s important to see that people with disabilities can do well in career jobs if a few little modifications are made.”

What is one thing you enjoy about being a part of the STEPS team in Maroochydore?

“One thing I love about the team here is that it’s never about what I can’t do. I have the same job as everybody else and if there’s something physically that maybe I can’t do, I just let them know and we figure it out.”

How has working with STEPS affected other areas of your life?

“I say to people if you met me six years ago you wouldn’t recognise me. I was a completely different person. I was very quiet, introverted person. I suffered with anxiety and depression myself and I was very insecure. I owe this job everything. I’ve got my own house now, I’ve paid off my car and I’m about to start home renovations. And that’s all from this job, from STEPS.”

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