By Kathy Te Nuku and Stephen Prior, as told to Grant J Everett
Kathy Te Nuku and Stephen Prior are two staff members of Flourish Australia who began as people accessing our services. Today, they both work at Prestige Packing Co, Harris Park. Kathy and Stephen tell us about how they “climbed the ladder”, and how their roles add value to Flourish Australia’s business services.
KATHY: I’m a Peer Support Worker, so I’m able to provide the employees with a few different services. I help write up employment assistance plans, I deal with NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) paperwork, and I conduct CANSAS Conversations. I also encourage the employees to come and see me if they require any assistance from outside of Flourish Australia, as I can write up referrals for them if they want me to. I also help to hire new employees. We currently have a total of 140 workers at Harris Park, and we are still accepting new intakes.
Learning on the job
STEPHEN: I’m a Supervisor, also known as Team Leader. A major part of my job is encouraging the workers in their assigned tasks, but I also teach them new skills. I can train the employees to use equipment like the electric forklift, pallet jacks, hand trolleys, shrink wrapper machines, that sort of thing. When new people first start, often they’ll think that learning these machines will be too hard. But within a week, not only are they completing these tasks, they’re even teaching other people!
KATHY: I’ve had my current role for two years, but I’ve been with the organisation for six years all up. Before I was offered this current job by Fay Jackson (General Manager Inclusion), I was a Vocational Support Worker at PreEmploy. Before that, I went through the PreEmploy work preparation program as a participant.
STEPHEN: I’ve been in a team leader role somewhere between seven and eight years. I started off at Prestige Packing at West Ryde as a factory hand, and after five years I was promoted. I’ve maintained my role since.
‘When new people first start, often they’ll think that learning these machines will be too hard. But within a week, not only are they completing these tasks, they’re even teaching other people!’
STEPHEN: We deal with a lot of major brands at Prestige Packing. We’ve done a lot of packing for Shiseido Cosmetics and Colgate over the years, and at one point we packed Moshi Monster magazines. At the moment we have pallets and pallets of 3M stock, and we’ve been shrink-wrapping pallets of Steric Lemon Juice.
It’s common that most new employees who come to work at Prestige Packing haven’t been in paid employment for a long time. A lot of our new intakes have never actually been in a workplace environment before, and we get others who have been two, three, five years out of work. We treat everybody the same, though, and provide all of them with the same training and encouragement.
When people turn up on their first day, they’re usually a bit nervous and lost, and when we demonstrate the tasks for them they’ll often get a bit intimidated and not feel all that confident. But before you know it, they’re doing the job just fine. All you have to do is go step-by-step with people. I really enjoy teaching these new skills.
STEPHEN: We encourage people to pursue open employment when they’re ready. We teach them transferable skills, too, so our workers will go from not knowing a thing about warehousing to knowing a lot. It’s kind of like the Master teaching the Apprentice. So in addition to being a supported employment workplace that encourages employees to reconnect with work, people are also able to learn abilities that could help them in the search for open employment.
On the subject of skills: Wayne Petersen and his wife Lorraine ran a TAFE-certified Warehousing course on-site at Prestige Packing. The classes went for around two years in total, and I think 24 people took part. There were a couple who didn’t go all the way to the end, but all of the ones who stuck with it managed to graduate the course in 2017. In addition to getting Certificate III accreditation, they also learned new skills.
(You can read the full story of the Cert III in Warehousing in Panorama #67, the September 2017 issue – Ed.)
KATHY: I get a lot out of providing support to employees of Prestige Packing. By working in a disability organisation, there are new things I learn every single day. Even though I’ve been working for Flourish for six years, I’m still picking up more skills and experiences.
STEPHEN: As for my own goals for the future, for now I’m happy with the job I’m doing. The company has looked after me very well. So at the moment I’m quite content to stay and continue my work. I come to the factory every morning with a great attitude, and it rubs off on the people I work with here. They always seem happy to see me.
KATHY: Working for a disability company, it’s all recovery-based, and in being a Peer Worker I’ve learned so much. I’m still enjoying the role that I’m doing. So to somebody who is interested in entering the peer workforce, I would say go for it!