Mary Felton is DAISI’s newest reception and admin trainee. DAISI is a Ballina based charity that works with people experiencing disadvantage, particularly those with disabilities people who are ageing, and their families and carers. .

“Even in the short time she’s been with us, I can see Mary beginning to grow in confidence,” says Lori Kelly, Mary’s boss at DAISI.  “She has initiative and is adding to her skill set every day, we think she’s brilliant!” she adds.

Mary found employment with DAISI as a result of her work with Opportunity Pathways, a Social Futures service that supports people in social housing find work or training. 

“We are a lot more than a job placement service,” explains Lee Sherman, Mary’s program worker.  “A lot of our clients have complex backgrounds, they often lack support in practical areas of their lives, like access to computers, but also many find the job-seeking experience truly daunting and anxiety-inducing.”

Lee and the program’s approach is twofold. First, they work with their clients to build self-esteem and confidence.  This might extend to going shopping with them, helping them iron out any issues with their lives – like lack of access to transport or getting a driver’s license, to jointly writing their resume.

Then, when they are ready, Lee takes to the streets alongside people like Mary and introduces them to employers in an approach they call ‘reverse marketing’. 

Mary says that Lee and the Opportunity Pathways program have been a huge support. “Lee has been amazing. He’s always checking in and helping keep me motivated,” she says. 

Lee and Mary’s journey has been a long one.  Mary’s original plan was to become a chef. Lee helped her enrol in a Commercial Cookery course in TAFE and find a trial work placement in a cafe.  COVID-19 and the reality of working in a busy kitchen saw her look for a change of direction.

“I really don’t like to give up,” says Lee, “I knew we could find the right place for Mary if we kept at it.”

Working with APM, an employment agency, Opportunity Pathways negotiated a traineeship and wage subsidy to cover 90 per cent of Mary’s wages for the traineeship with DAISI.

Mary, who is a single mum, says her employment with DAISI has given her confidence, as well as a regular income and the opportunity to be a great role model to her daughter. Her new job is “showing her daughter that working is a part of life and if you want to get somewhere you don’t sit around doing nothing”.

Mary is undertaking a Certificate III in Business which she is enjoying and her goal is to eventually move into disability support work. 

Find out more about Opportunity Pathways by visiting the website https://socialfutures.org.au/opportunity-pathways/ or call on 02 6620 1800

Delivering services around COVID-19

Social Futures is committed to the continuation of delivering support services in a safe, practical and innovative way while navigating COVID-19.