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Case study: Jack - Disability Support Worker

Jack works in a community outreach program supporting people with intellectual disabilities and loves sharing his passion for sport.

Jack is a disability support worker for a not-for-profit organisation in regional Victoria. He works in a community outreach program supporting people with intellectual disabilities and loves sharing his passion for sport.

After completing a Diploma of Sport and Recreation Management, Jack was working at a local gym and aquatic centre as a supervisor, when he ‘fell into’ his career in the disability sector.

“When the summer finishes, work becomes less frequent,” Jack explains. “While I was doing an interim manager’s job, the guys would come in and run programs for people with disability; I got chatting to them and asked questions about what it was like to work in the job. They said there was a shortage of men in this industry, so I sent in my resume and went from there.”

Five years later, Jack is now a support worker for a community-based outreach program in Shepparton.

“We are a guiding hand and take our clients out into the community to support them with daily tasks, such as shopping, going to appointments and participating in sports. We also support them to keep up with regular necessities at home like keeping things clean and taking the bins out.”

Jack is passionate about sport and enjoys sharing this pastime with the people he supports.

“I love the fact that I get to go out and do things that I enjoy, like sporting events, which also bring great joy to the people I support.”

Jack says there are a lot of misconceptions about working in the disability sector.

“Some people say, ‘it must be really rewarding, but I wouldn’t have the patience to do it’,” he says.

“I agree with them; it is rewarding and there are times where it takes patience. But I think it’s one of those things; once you’re in it, you learn how best to communicate with each person and it’s not as hard as you might think.”

Working in the disability sector gave Jack the opportunity to complete another tertiary qualification and he is currently doing a course in Australian Sign Language.

“In my experience, there’s a lot of opportunities for on-the-job training and ‘learn as you go’. I was also lucky enough to do a Certificate IV in Allied Health.”

For anyone considering a career in the disability sector, Jack believes communication skills and being a ‘people person’ are important.

“You need to be caring, compassionate, be able to show empathy and put yourself in the situation of the person you’re supporting and their family. It gives you more perspective. I recommend giving it a go – if you’re a people person, it will be a good job for you.”

Jack’s story is one example from the many organisations and individuals dedicated to supporting people with disability in Victoria. Organisations may offer service, work opportunities and training that differ from those described here.