Dave Stergo is singing his way to success thanks to WISE Employment

Dave S

Dave joined WISE Employment in 2008 and couldn’t be more supportive of their mission. Dave, who has depression and anxiety, explains that WISE Employment played a significant role in helping him manage his mental health, and allowed him to take control of his dream of becoming a musician.

Dave explains that his life before WISE Employment was dark, lonely and disconnected, “I found myself in a hole and I couldn’t see a way out. I didn’t have enough direction towards obtaining good mental health. I was lost within my role and felt like I wasn’t meant to be there.”

Adamant to improve his mental state, he found support and guidance through WISE Employment. He was matched with a support worker through PHaMs (Personal Helpers and Mentors service), and explains that was it was nice to have someone on his side.

Dave, who is currently studying disability and has a Certificate III in Individual Support, couldn’t be more appreciative of the work WISE does. He believes that society has a long way to go in terms of facing disability.

“There are a lot of questions around disability and employment. In my experience employers don’t always want to adapt and change to employ someone who is disabled. There’s still a long way to go in educating employers,” said Dave.

Dave is extremely grateful for WISE Employment and hopes that he can also help and educate people through his music. He explained that the PHaMs program helped him build the confidence to pursue music again, which he had left behind due to his mental health.

“In 2016 I was on The X Factor, something I never thought I’d do! My wife and Vadim (PHaMs support worker) were very encouraging of me doing this, and the experience gave me the confidence to start my own music business.”

“The songs I write about are based on my own experiences – my mental health journey and the people around me. I hope these songs can help or impact people going through something similar,” Dave said.

Dave looks forward to the future and seeing what WISE Employment achieves over the next 25 years.

Are you looking for work? Register your interest as a WISE Employment job seeker.

If you’re an employer, register your job vacancies online.

Kylie is baking and making her way to the top in catering role


Today, Kylie is a motivated and bubbly individual who takes pride in what she does at Classroom Catering. She has been receiving support from WISE Employment for almost three years and is really pleased with the service.

Kylie, who lives with an intellectual disability, wasn’t always this high-spirited. She explained that there was a time when she lacked confidence and the thought of being around people frightened her.

“I didn’t like to be around people, I’m actually a very shy person. I’ve had my fair share of down days and the team at WISE Employment were always there to pick me up. I did some classes through WISE and slowly built up my confidence,” said Kylie.

Thanks to WISE Employment and Kylie’s determination, she has now been working at Classroom Catering for nine months. Kylie describes the catering company as a very encouraging and respectful place to work. She explained that the people she works with are kind, caring and generous and, because of this, she has seen a huge change in herself.

Kylie also highlighted her relationship with WISE Business Manager, Renea: “Renea was fantastic! I had a few issues finding someone I trusted and when Renea stepped in I knew I could confide in her. WISE actually found me another catering job before this one, but I didn’t enjoy it and when I told Renea, she set me up with Classroom Catering the very next day!” said Kylie.

This is Kylie’s first job and she has been described as a ‘hardworking and valuable member of the team’ by Wendy, the Managing Director of Classroom Catering. Kylie explained that the role has given her a sense of independence and she actually looks forward to going to work.

Kylie is very supportive of what WISE does, however she believes that we still have a long way to go in educating and encouraging employers to hire people that have a disability. In the past, Kylie found businesses wanted to hire younger people that didn’t have a disability.

Kylie hopes that WISE Employment will continue to help people like herself for another 25 plus years.

Are you looking for work? Register your interest as a WISE Employment job seeker.

If you’re an employer, register your job vacancies online.

After nearly a decade as her mum’s carer, Devina returned to stable employment with help from WISE


Devina is a caring daughter and single mum who has selflessly put her family’s needs above her own; as a result, giving up work for eight years.

When Devina’s mum fell ill, she wanted to be there for her, so for the next 7.5 years provided full time support and devotion. When she passed away, Devina had to find the confidence to get back into the workforce and with two young fostered children in tow that was no mean feat.

“My mum was terminally ill and I wanted to look after her. It was challenging and at the time I also fostered two young girls who equally required my attention. It was a busy time, with no scope to work. I became depressed looking after mum, it was a difficult period in our lives,” explained Devina.

Devina came to WISE Employment in 2008, when she was ready to start looking for work. Her Employment Liaison Officer, Diane, helped her regain confidence. It became apparent that Devina’s skillset, combined with Diane’s strong ties to the local business community, would lead to a promising future for Devina and the beginning of an ongoing relationship for both of them.

Devina was placed by Diane at Biscay Greetings. This was the first and only interview that was required for Devina and over the last 9 years she has maintained employment and completed extra schooling and training whilst working for the company.

“By being able to get back into the workforce, I’ve regained my financial independence and confidence and enjoy working with a team and company that’s also been flexible with my hours, having younger girls. I’ve now taken on a managerial role and I love that just about every day is different and that I’m part of a growing company.”

“Diane and WISE were instrumental in getting me back on my feet when I was entering the workforce full time, not long after losing my mum and when my girls were coming to the end of their primary years and about to start high school. Diane was only meant to see how I was doing for six months into the role. There were times where there were tears; I enjoyed having a familiar face visit me at work. Nine years on, she still comes in to say hello and have a chat as there’s other successful job seekers that Diane has placed at Biscay Greetings too,” explained Devina.

After dedicating almost a decade of her life to her family when they needed her most, Devina is happy to have found herself again and with close ties to her community, terrific kids and a place to work, Devina’s future is currently filled with hope and promise.

Are you looking for work? Register your interest as a WISE Employment job seeker.

If you’re an employer, register your job vacancies online.

Personal experience introduced WISE Employment Chairman, Alistair Urquhart to importance of empowerment through employment


When Alistair Urquhart’s father returned from World War II with a missing arm, he rose to the challenge and didn’t give up on continuing his career as a livestock auctioneer and much more. This had a huge impact on Alistair growing up and he learned from his father’s resilience the importance of looking out for those who needed a bit of extra support.

It was this experience that influenced Alistair when he was asked to join the WISE Employment board in 1992, in a voluntary capacity, as one of the founding members. An extremely well-connected Melburnian in political and business circles, the team at WISE knew he would be a huge asset to the organisation. With a law degree and a keen interest in politics, Alistair was unanimously chosen to become Chairman and has led the board for the last 25 years.

Over that time, Alistair believes that the secret to success has been education, because knowledge leads to change. “As a board we pride ourselves on keeping up to date on the latest information and trends not just affecting the disability employment industry, but the wider business community,” explained Alistair.

“We have a strong commitment to governance and we all bring our industry skills to the table, however it is still imperative that we strive to learn, so that we can continue to innovate and adapt with the times.”

One of Alistair’s most memorable experiences with WISE was the initial visit to England prior to the organisation’s launch in Europe. WISE experienced a steady growth from one state, to many more over the first 15 years and then it was clear that international expansion was a huge opportunity.

“We met with numerous organisations in the disability employment field, influential politicians and business people on our first trip to England. It became apparent from then that our model and ideas around integrating people with a disability back into meaningful employment would really do well over there.

A big challenge to staff, placements and potential placements both in Australia and Britain is the regulatory framework of Government which is often quite extensive.

It was an exciting time for the organisation as we grew to a significant size and we continue to be really proud of the work we are doing overseas particularly in the social enterprise space, which we had already seen success with in Australia.”

Alistair’s role in his public affairs firm, Affairs of State, has enabled him to maintain strong relationships with political networks and the business community. This in turn has opened up numerous collaborative opportunities for the board in its strategic planning and governance.

Influenced by his year spent in Washington DC at the age of 17, Alistair also launched his own series of publications ‘Letter from Melbourne’ and ‘Letter from Canberra’, which are monthly public affairs bulletins that provide insight into public policy and Government decisions. He is also a part-time communications tutor at the University of Melbourne, School of Engineering.

Are you looking for work? Register your interest as a WISE Employment job seeker.

If you’re an employer, register your job vacancies online.

Benjie finds confidence, independence and acceptance in his role at Sugarloaf Café


Benjie lives with autism and joined WISE Employment after completing Year 12, eight years ago. After working at Sugarloaf Café, and with the support and encouragement from WISE Employment Mount Gambier, Benjie has been able to find confidence and happiness in his role as a kitchen hand.

Benjie, who is 26, was lucky enough to get a job at the café where he went to school. Sugarloaf Café is a commercial kitchen who cater for the school community.

“I really enjoy my job. After Year 12, they offered me the role and I’ve been there ever since – it was actually my first job! I work under two chefs and they’re very supportive. I love working here because I’m able to interact with other people, which has built my confidence and given me a sense of independence,” said Benjie.

WISE Employment has been guiding and supporting Benjie since he started at Sugarloaf Café. The team has frequent check-ins with him every fortnight to make sure he’s comfortable and still enjoys the job. Benjie described WISE as “very understanding and very helpful.”

Benjie speaks highly of the other employees at Sugarloaf Café. He was nervous and anxious when he started the role, but he instantly felt part of the team and genuinely valued.

Benjie believes that over the course of his working life, more people with a disability are being offered roles in the workplace.

“There has been a change in attitude, I think that more and more people are now accepting others for who they are and embracing their differences. I feel like more employers are chosing to hire people with a disability and acknowledging them as an asset.”

After working at Sugarloaf Café for eight years, Benjie is enthusiastic about developing his career in hospitality. He looks forward to the future and hopes that other businesses can take a chance on people who face a similar challenge.

Are you looking for work? Register your interest as a WISE Employment job seeker.

If you’re an employer, register your job vacancies online.

Peter celebrates a quarter of a century with Blundstone


As we celebrate 25 years at WISE Employment, Peter also celebrates his 25th year working with Blundstone at their factory in Moonah (Hobart), Tasmania. Peter’s journey with WISE Employment first began when his intellectual disability started to change, which meant he needed help to adapt things at work so that he didn’t lose his job. Through the Job in Jeopardy program, Peter was provided with in-work support and had new strategies developed to help him approach work tasks differently, ultimately providing him with job security.

25 years later, Peter is still working at the Blundstone warehouse and feels like he is a part of a family at the factory. In celebration of the milestone of 25 years together and to show appreciation, Blundstone organised an all-expense paid trip to Bathurst for a couple of days for Peter, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Peter said that what he appreciates most at work is the way they treat him like a regular person.

“People treat me like a person here, they give us a go and they don’t make me feel like I’m different,” he said.

As a cleaner at the warehouse, Peter has many responsibilities including gardening, packing and unpacking boxes and folding up large boot bags, amongst many other tasks. Megan, who has been Peter’s Support Worker for four years now, said that it is his positive attitude and dedication to his work that has enabled him to become a valuable asset to the business. She also highlighted that Peter is a great addition to the team because everyone can have a joke with him.

Working has enabled Peter to grow and enjoy many things in life outside of work as well.

“This job has given me freedom. It has allowed me to go and do other things I enjoy because I have money,” Peter said.

“WISE has been very helpful and understanding and Blundstone is the best company to work for because they know how to look after their employees.”

Are you looking for work? Register your interest as a WISE Employment job seeker.

If you’re an employer, register your job vacancies online.

Kitchen wiz Shaun is smashing it at The Bellum Hotel


Shaun has a disability that can make reading and writing a challenge, but his exceptional memory and ability to learn visually has allowed him to thrive in his role at The Bellum Hotel.

Shaun joined WISE Employment almost twelve months ago after hearing about their service through people he had worked with in the past. He was initially connected with Business Manager, Leigh, who couldn’t speak more highly of Shaun.

“I had the privilege of working with Shaun when he first came on board. He’s such a happy guy and I’ve loved working with him. His memory is phenomenal. I remember when we went for a meet and greet at The Bellum Hotel. Shaun is a visual learner, so naturally we drove the route he would need to take to and from work. We only needed to drive that route there and back once. It’s like his mind became photographic and the route we took became permanently etched in his mind,” said Leigh.

Shaun, who is 35, has had a plethora of jobs in the past. From helping out on dairy farms to working in the timber mills, Shaun has been able to build an impressive résumé. However, his last job didn’t work out prior to coming in to see WISE Employment, and he was eager to find something that he genuinely enjoyed doing.

WISE Employment had regular meetings with Shaun to ensure they linked him with an appropriate role that would excite him. Ready for something different, Shaun secured a role at The Bellum Hotel where he acts as a kitchen hand by restocking fridges, preparing food and sometimes even helps out in the garden.

Shaun is very appreciative of the team at WISE Employment, “they’re just awesome – such nice people and they’re very good at their jobs.”

Shaun has now been working at The Bellum Hotel for almost a year and the team have seen a huge improvement in his work ethic. They explained that he’s always friendly, well-presented and committed to finishing his allocated jobs.

“When Shaun first started, he was relatively slow at peeling the vegetables, but now we can’t believe how quickly he’s peeling them – carrots especially! We’ve been told he can do almost three bags in one shift,” said Leigh.

With the support of WISE Employment and his colleagues, Shaun has been able to establish relationships and build confidence, ultimately allowing him to improve his communication skills. Shaun is very grateful for his support network.

Are you looking for work? Register your interest as a WISE Employment job seeker.

If you’re an employer, register your job vacancies online.

After many ups and downs, Greg is determined to get his forklift licence back with the help of WISE


When Greg first walked into the WISE Employment office, he had his head down and felt deflated after losing his full-time job. The factory he used to work in had closed down and Greg soon found out afterwards that his forklift licence had also expired. This meant that Greg would have to go through a series of tests to get it back again.

Greg has a learning disability and whilst he has tried several times to complete the tests, he hasn’t been able to get his licence back. But with the help of WISE and his strong determination to become a forklift driver again, Greg is now on a mission to pass the tests and is well on his way to achieving this goal.

“I have trouble reading and writing, and going over the questions is really difficult for me,” Greg explained.

“WISE is helping me to study, they record the questions verbally because I struggle to retain things when I read them.”

“They’re not only helping me to get my licence back, but they’ve also helped me gain heaps of confidence.”

Whilst studying, Greg also works casually in a printing company and has done so for the last two and a half years. In recognition of his efforts in holding his employment for so long, WISE organised for Greg to go and meet the Manly Sea Eagles recently, an Australian rugby league club that Greg is a lifelong fan and member of. Through connections at WISE, Greg was able to go and watch the team train, as well as meet the players and the coach, a surprise that has touched Greg deeply.

“Things like that don’t happen to people like me,” he said.

Outside of work, WISE has also supported Greg by providing assistance with day-to-day things like teaching him how to pay his phone bills online and providing informal counselling support.

“The people at WISE have been a big help to me and they’re just really good people,” Greg said.

Are you looking for work? Register your interest as a WISE Employment job seeker.

If you’re an employer, register your job vacancies online.

Megan turned her life around with mental health support from the Personal Helpers and Mentors service (PHaMs)


Megan, a devoted mum with a much-loved partner and a thriving market research business saw her world change in the blink of an eye. Her partner passed away unexpectedly and the pain from such significant loss began to display in other ways, as she struggled to manage the day-to-day activities of normal life.

Megan was diagnosed with depression. She was grieving whilst trying to stay strong for her (at the time) seven-year old son and keeping her business afloat. It was hard to get out of bed most mornings and in the end Megan quit her business, started to binge drink and became unemployed.

“Everything seemed unattainable. For six months I endured this destruction, I could see no point to life,” Megan described this period of her life.

The turning point for Megan came when a friend told her about Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs), a federally funded mental health service offered by WISE Employment. Megan had a support worker through PHaMs who helped her establish a routine, manage home duties and health appointments. This program helped build Megan’s confidence and give her a sense of direction, which led to a decision to change careers. Megan enrolled in Certificate IV in Community Services and following the course, PHaMs continued to support her.

“PHaMs provided a support group and a place for me to go each week, to share stories, invaluable experiences and discover myself again. My mentor performed no chores for me at home, she never came in the morning to get me out of bed, nor did she make my son’s lunches. The beauty of the program is self-empowerment. I soon realised that I needed to commit to what I wanted from life and let no-one else dictate that,” said Megan.

Soon after completing her course, Megan was asked to share her story at a launch event where WISE staff, community stakeholders and PHaMs participants gathered to hear from WISE Group CEO John Bateup and Mr Anthony Byrne, a Federal Member of Parliament on the release of new government funding. Megan agreed on one condition – she was introduced to all the relevant businesses that attended so she could follow them up with her resume, eager to secure her first work placement.

“My confidence had built without me knowing it. Someone in the audience worked for Ermha, who offer support to individuals who are facing challenges resulting from a disability, mental illness, homelessness or substance abuse. Call after call, I eventually got my placement there and now four years in, I’m in a carers role and loving it,” said Megan.

MP, Mr Byrne, was so moved by Megan’s story and impressed with the work of the PHaMs team at Cranbourne, VIC that he made an announcement to Parliament on Megan and WISE PHaMs.

Megan believes that through the PHaMs program she is continually learning skills to live her life her way, and with hard work and dedication she looks to the future with confidence.

Are you looking for work? Register your interest as a WISE Employment job seeker.

If you’re an employer, register your job vacancies online.

Suffering from crippling psoriatic arthritis since 16, Nicole’s new job has helped her transform her life


After working with the same company for ten years, Nicole suddenly became unemployed and found herself facing one of life’s biggest challenges, cancer, on top of the psoriatic arthritis that had turned her hands to claws and left her walking with a stick.

Faced with many misfortunes Nicole fell into depression, but after two years of unemployment, decided to engage WISE Employment to help her find a job. This is when she turned her life around completely.

The team at WISE supported Nicole through learning computer skills, helping her to put cover letters together and lining up job interviews for her. Within about a month with WISE, Nicole landed a role at a local gym called Iron Studio Gym as a cleaner.

Having worked at the gym for nearly six months now, Nicole’s thirst for life and a strong dedication to her role has seen her kicking goals left, right and centre.

Having shed 15 kilograms since starting at the gym and now regularly attending dance classes and going out with friends on the weekend, Nicole explained how WISE Employment helped her to not only find a job that she loves, but also a workplace that introduced her to new friends and supports her to achieve personal goals.

“I used to sit at home all day and I didn’t know how to apply for jobs because I had never been unemployed before. WISE taught me how to use a computer and apply for jobs and they encouraged me to fix everything, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have a job,” Nicole said.

“Getting this role at the gym has helped me broaden my social network and get out of the house. We have barbecue and DJ nights and they have helped me to lose a lot of weight.

“I love my job, I enjoy the responsibility and I feel like the mother hen at work. I even go into the gym on my days off!”

Nicole now walks without a stick, regularly goes to the gym with her daughter and is thriving in a workplace that is understanding of her disability. She explained that WISE was helpful and encouraging at a time when she had no idea what to do.

Are you looking for work? Register your interest as a WISE Employment job seeker.

If you’re an employer, register your job vacancies online.