From LA to Melbourne, Joe Graffam jetted onto the WISE Employment Board, bringing his research skills to the frontline

Joe Graffam has a MA and PhD in Psychology from UCLA and in 1986 decided to move half way across the world to Australia, where he began a journey that would have a huge impact on the disability employment industry on the other side of the globe.

Over the last 30 years he has worked at Deakin University in several senior roles while conducting research on community integration of people with a disability and has been involved in the development of key degree courses around disability studies. Since 2003, his research has also focused on reintegration of prisoners post-release. He is a founding Board member for WISE Employment and is currently employed as the Pro Vice Chancellor, Research Training and Performance Enhancement at Deakin University.

The plan to establish WISE Employment was introduced to Joe via a mutual contact in 1992. He was extremely interested and passionate about the work the organisation would be doing to integrate people with a disability into more meaningful employment.

“I was approached by one of the founders to join the new Board, and it was an offer I couldn’t refuse because the WISE founder values aligned with mine, and the objective was to lead the way in this area. I knew I could bring in my research expertise to help.”

“Back then it was the time of sheltered workshops for people with a disability, and with the Disability Services Act coming into fruition, it was a really exciting time to see the industry evolve and WISE was among the pioneers in a new industry, opening up the world of employment to people with disability. Of course, WISE’s growth and evolution over time and the focus on disadvantage generally has been just as exciting and rewarding.”

Having been involved with the WISE Board for the past 25 years, in a voluntary capacity, Joe believes the group has a strong combination of innovative ideas and commitment to the community, which is the foundation of the organisation’s success.

His highlights include the work of the WISE Community Investment Division. There are many examples, one being a funded mentor program that has supported offender rehabilitation and helped them secure meaningful employment. This is an area in which Joe has done extensive research, and he has been able to provide insight to make the program a success.

“The way we have been able to diversify our funding so we’re not so reliant on Government money has been key. We have utilised our surplus to reinvest in programs that really add value to the people we are trying to help,” Joe said.

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