Image: Stepping Into intern Amelia Gates stands inbetween her colleague Alicja (left) and supervisor Beverley Jefferson (right).
The Tasmania State Office of the Department of Social Services (DSS) has successfully welcomed several talented interns with disability into the workplace through the Australian Network on Disability’s Stepping Into internship program. Assistant Director Beverley Jefferson was thrilled that her most recent recruit, Amelia Gates, was able to use the experience to discover her career potential.
Amelia came to the program with one particular issue she was keen to explore. She lives with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, which causes unpredictable bursts of pain, and she wanted to test how she could work around her pain in the workplace.
A few very simple adjustments, and she discovered it was remarkably manageable.
‘Amelia just needed the flexibility to have time off when her disability impacted too intensely, and access to a microwave for heat packs,’ said Beverley.
These straightforward, easy measures made a world of difference to how confident Amelia felt at managing her illness in the workplace.
‘I learned to embrace how my pain appears to others. I’m now happy to explain to any curious colleagues why I sometimes have a heat pack attached to me like a fifth limb,’ she said.
Having never attempted full-time work before, Amelia had wanted to test just how much work she could take on. Once she realised her disability was nothing to hide, armed with pain-management techniques and confidence, Amelia soon realised she was very capable of full-time work.
Beverley was very pleased with the outcomes of the internship, saying the whole team gained from the placement.
‘Amelia’s confidence grew significantly and she quickly became a valued and respected member of our office. We extended her employment by six months, which was great for her and us,’ she said.
Amelia has now accepted a new job that perfectly aligns with her university studies and is excited to put her degree and work experience into action.
‘I don’t have the same concerns going into this new job that I did before I completed Stepping Into. I now feel confident in my ability to manage any pain and not hide my disability from co-workers,’ she said.
Beverley is delighted that Amelia has now found ongoing employment and describes the internship as a ‘resounding success’. When asked if disability is a barrier to employment, Beverley responded:
‘Disability should not be a barrier – in fact, that question should be flipped. Ask instead: do employers create barriers for people with disability?’
About Stepping Into
Stepping Into is a national internship program run by the Australian Network on Disability. It matches skilled university students with disability to roles offered by organisations actively seeking to employ people with disability as part of their recruitment strategy and in their graduate programs.
Since Stepping Into started in 2005, more than 1,200 students have gained internships with over 110 organisations across Australia. It has become a valued talent pipeline and an effective foundation from which organisations can:
- Change attitudes
- Build disability confidence
- Improve hiring practices
- Enhance inclusive leadership
- Cultivate a diverse and inclusive workplace culture.
A rewarding experience for both the intern and the host, 96 per cent of Stepping Into supervisors said they’d volunteer to do it again.