First job a perfect fit for Brian after employment support and work training


Brian is one of WISE Employment’s newest placements, having only been in his first role for the last 10 weeks. Like many of WISE’s job seekers, the non-profit employment services provider has been working closely with him for over a year supporting him with the preparation and training required to secure his very first job, which he describes as exciting, fun and enjoyable.

Brian, who lives with an intellectual and psychiatric disorder, was extremely eager to start work. When he first joined WISE Employment in 2016, he was introduced to his Employment Consultant, Karen, who was able to prepare Brian for the workforce.

“When I first met Brian, I could tell that he was very excited and adamant about wanting to start work. After getting to know him, I could see that he was an extremely honest and loyal person and I knew these qualities would help him secure a role. We did need to put in some groundwork to get Brian in a position to start applying for roles, this included personal support, training for work and general employment preparation that we specialise in for those who have not worked for a long time.”

“After this had been completed, we were ready to start approaching employers and decided to contact Chris from Kelpomex and explained that Brian would be the perfect addition to the team,” said Karen.

Brian has been employed at Kelpomex for nearly three months, and is responsible for sweeping the workshop floor, ensuring the workshop is clean and is now learning how to bag fertiliser.

“I’m very thankful to WISE Employment and Karen. They helped me get a job that I actually like!” says Brian.

Thanks to WISE Employment, Brian has been able to attend work twice a week. Due to his disability, he is unable to drive and also needs assistance with his work uniform – the team drives Brian to work each week and help him get ready for his shift, for which Brian is extremely grateful.

“It took me some time, but they got me a job and I’m very happy. WISE Employment is very supportive, helpful and friendly,” Brian enthuses.

Brian is very excited to celebrate WISE Employment’s 25th anniversary and hopes the program continues to help others as much as it helped him.

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

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

From the South to the North, employment helps David reclaim his confidence and future

David B

David took the long road back home to Darwin after suffering from addiction that led to the breakdown of his life in Adelaide, including the loss of his own car detailing business. He has now found his feet again thanks to WISE Employment and employer Scott at Northern Panel Works.

With an automotive background, the team at WISE helped David get set up to re-enter the workforce by introducing him to some local employers in the field. They also helped him secure funding that enabled him to purchase the things he would need to secure work, including a new tool set.

“The guys at WISE really went the extra mile to help me and I’m so appreciative of everything they did to get me a job. I really needed a fresh start and it turned out that my hometown of Darwin was the place I could do that,” said David.

When Scott at Northern Panel Works heard about David and his skills, he didn’t hesitate to give him a try. Despite having minimal experience in panel beating, his automotive know-how gave David the edge and he worked hard to learn as much as he could on the job.

“I’m so grateful to Scott as he has gone above and beyond as an employer, supporting me in whatever way he can including training. It was tough to get started as I hadn’t done any repair work in the past, but with the help of the guys I’ve been able to find my groove,” said David.

Employment has not only helped David with his health and purpose, but by being employed again he has regained his confidence and feels much more secure in himself.

“I was a broken man two years ago but with this role I’ve been able to turn a corner and start looking to the future again. I’ve got myself a car and have moved into my own home; in just nine months I’ve experienced such a change in my life,” explained David.

Scott is now in the process of helping David on his next journey by assisting him in applying for a mechanical air conditioning licence, which he hopes will lead to a business opportunity for him.

“David has been a huge asset to my team, he is one of the first in every morning and helps prepare the workshop so we can start work. We’ve learnt a lot from each other and I’m glad I’ve been able to give back and help steer his course for the future,” said Scott.

David still believes he has a long way to go in terms of getting completely back on track, but after nine months of working at Northern Panel Works, he is confident he will get there.

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

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

Sign Language Australia co-founder Donovan, born Deaf, proud to extend Auslan program for children with autism


Donovan, 61, was born Deaf and into a loving generation of Deaf family members. For Donovan, Australian Sign Language (Auslan), is his native language and written English his second language. However, it wasn’t until he met close friend Barry on a basketball court aged ten, that he realised not all children with a hearing impairment grow up with families communicating in Auslan, the language of the Australian Deaf community.

“My parents are Deaf, my brothers, sisters and nieces are also Deaf. Deafness extends across four generations in my family with my grandparents and their kids also born Deaf. I was raised learning Auslan and assumed all Deaf kids grew up in a similar environment,” said Donovan.

When Donovan met Barry, they became friends instantly. It wasn’t long before Donovan realised that for Barry, growing up with parents that didn’t sign was a lonely experience. This was a pivotal moment for both of them and the beginning of a beautiful friendship and partnership.

Today, Donovan is instrumental in connecting the hearing and Deaf community through Sign Language Australia; a business which he founded with Barry. Together they’re on a mission to improve the lives of their fellow Deaf Australians, by sharing the language and culture of the Deaf community with the Deaf, hard of hearing or hearing communities.

Sign Language Australia has been operating for one year and through the support of WISE Employment, Donovan has been able to extend the program offering with workshops for children with autism.

“WISE supports many people who are disadvantaged or disabled and their knowledge and understanding of diverse communities has meant we’ve been able to help children who have autism learn sign language to support their speech skills or as their main way of communicating. This is a wonderful thing and something we’re proud of working together on.”

“I work with a lot of Deaf children and a lot of them have no knowledge of Auslan, with their parents wanting them to go to a mainstream school using oral language. These children become frustrated with the mainstream oral language – they need the visual language of Auslan to communicate. I know how frustrating it was for Barry growing up and hopefully in time the parents we meet will start to embrace Auslan primarily, combined with the oral language,” explained Donovan.

For Donovan, connecting the Deaf community with the hearing community is a real passion. Donovan married a hearing woman and together they have a daughter who hears; contributing to his desire to teach those that are willing to learn and fine-tune their Auslan skills in the wider community.

In terms of the wider community, one thing that Donovan is most proud of is developing a ‘Totally Auslan Weekend Camp’ program with Barry. This camp means “voices are off” for the entire weekend as beginners partake in a number of Auslan lessons and activities whilst also putting their skills to practice with role playing.

“I love that my day job enables me to help people embrace the Deaf culture in a number of different ways, be it through workshops, training or weekend camps. It’s been a great journey and with the support of organisations such as WISE Employment my hope is that we continue to grow, employ more staff and help more people,” said Donovan.

As Donovan’s aspirations for Sign Language Australia grow, so too does his friendship with long-time friend and business partner Barry. To find out what’s in store next, please visit Sign Language Australia on Facebook.

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

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

Barry, born Deaf, co-founded Sign Language Australia to bring Auslan to more Australians


Barry, 61, was born Deaf and grew up in a household learning Italian and English. As a strong oral student, Auslan (the sign language of the Australian Deaf community) was something he first discovered at the age of ten at a basketball game with other Deaf students. This was a pivotal moment in Barry’s life, where he met Donovan who was set to become his life-long friend.

Barry first came across WISE Employment when he partook in one of its programs under the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Unit in South Australia. The program provides a range of services to support the Deaf community. Through WISE and this specific unit, Barry was able get ongoing support and career development assistance.

From there, Barry started to teach Auslan and more recently joined forces with his friend of fifty years, Donovan, on a business venture that supports the Deaf and hearing community.

Today, Barry is well-known and highly regarded in the Deaf community across Australia. Moreover, he and Donovan have embarked on a new venture, Sign Language Australia, offering training programs for Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing individuals, families and corporate organisations as well as those living with autism. For Barry, the icing on the cake has also been securing WISE Employment as one of his clients.

“WISE have been fantastic from the outset; personally, and professionally. They’ve always understood how I’ve wanted to bridge the cultural and language barriers between the Deaf and hearing community. More recently they helped us secure funding for our business to expand and support children with autism, which is something we’re very proud of.”

“WISE are also great advocates of our courses; in fact, we’ve taught Auslan to some of their hearing staff and we’ve also had two Deaf employees participate in our courses,” says Barry.

Barry’s friendship with Donovan comes with many inspiring and funny tales. Whilst it began during a game of basketball, they also went to school together, grew up in nearby homes and they’ve supported each other with their expanding families, whilst growing a business. When Barry and Donovan aren’t in training, Barry shows off his comedic skills with his “Naughty Hands” show.

Naughty Hands is a great way for me to shine the spotlight on Deaf culture in a fun and engaging way. It’s interactive, it makes people laugh and by the end of the show not only are you learning how to sign in your favourite naughty words, you’re equally learning a thing or two about Auslan. I love it! And I enjoy taking the show to comedy festivals around the country,” explains Barry.

Barry is optimistic about the future of bringing Auslan into more people’s lives. His aim is to improve the lives of his fellow Deaf and hard of hearing Australians, by sharing the language and culture with all Australians.

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

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

From personal injury lawyer to disability advocate and WISE Board member, Patsy Toop shares 25 years of highlights

Patsy Toop

Patsy Toop was a top personal injury lawyer who, on a daily basis, was witnessing the challenges of people who had obtained disabilities trying to integrate back into the community. When she met one of the founders of WISE Employment in 1992 she could not resist becoming an integral part of the organisation that was committed to changing the disability employment industry.

With her strong legal reputation and passion for community projects, Patsy became the first female board member for WISE Employment and was also the brains behind the original naming of the organisation – Work Integration Supported Employment (WISE) Inc.

“It was my sister-in-law that introduced me to WISE initially and at the time I was looking to get involved with an NFP. I thought WISE was a revolutionary organisation and was excited to be asked to become part of it,” said Patsy.

The WISE Board, who all act in a voluntary capacity, have had minimal turnover of members over the last 25 years and Patsy attributes this to the cohesiveness and strong relationships that they have built. “Even though we all come from corporate backgrounds, we are not afraid to go against the grain and push the boundaries in terms of our creative and strategic planning,” she said.

“We all work so well together but we also understand the importance of seeking external expert advice to ensure our ideas are current. My proudest moments have been when we’ve collaborated with others and created think tanks to establish programs that have made a true impact on the community.”

The highlights for Patsy include the work WISE has managed to conduct in a very competitive environment to establish exciting projects, such as its work in social enterprises. She believes the people that helped establish and continue to run these programs have phenomenal skills at supporting those at a disadvantage to obtain meaningful work opportunities.

Patsy has always lived in Melbourne and established her own law practice in 1999. She built it up with her partners to become one of the largest employment law practices in the city before selling it in 2013 so that she could focus on her passion for music.

Patsy is a country music enthusiast, achieving tremendous success later in life with her band ‘The Long and Short Of It’. She’s recorded two albums in the country music capital of the world, Nashville, and is about to open her own live music venue in Yarraville later this year.

Throughout her career she has always been committed to helping those who need a bit of extra support and is also a board member for the State Sports Centres Trust and Seaworks Foundation. Patsy was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2010, for exemplary service to the community of Williamstown through heritage and maritime, and for WISE service and service on other social welfare organisations. In 2016, Patsy was recognised for her advocacy and community service as a recipient of the 2016 Victorian Honour Roll for Women.

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

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

Through adversity came hope for Paul due to his ongoing relationship with WISE Employment


A decade ago, Paul ’s life took a tumble as he was involved in a life-threatening car accident that left him enduring 12 operations and ultimately the amputation of his right leg. But, never one to give up, Paul persevered through the extensive rehabilitation process and within a few years was able to walk again with the help of a prosthetic.

However, the biggest challenge that awaited Paul was returning to the workforce. Prior to his accident Paul was a labourer, and even though he had beaten the odds in recovering, he was unable to go back to what he was doing before. This was when he was first introduced to WISE Employment and was set on a course that would change his life forever.

The team at WISE worked extensively with Paul to try out various roles and industries that might pique his interest. It wasn’t until one of the roles involved him working with children that he found where his passion lay. From there his employment consultant worked closely with Paul to secure funding for the qualifications that he would require for this type of role, including a Certificate III in Education Support and first aid training.

For the last three years Paul has been a dedicated tutor at Banksia Gardens Community Services, where he was able to work his way up to co-ordinating his own study group at the Hume Library. This was a passion project for Paul, as his enthusiasm helped him build this program from the ground up all the way to being recognised in a state-wide award as runner up in 2016.

“I began my journey with Banksia as part of their ambassador program where I would give presentations to young people in the community about my accident and living with a disability,” explained Paul.

“This enabled me to build my confidence and start working with the kids based on my own experiences.”

From there Paul was made an employee at Banksia and has been working with primary school children ever since as part of the study group program.

“I’ve absolutely relished the experience I’ve had with Banksia and it means a lot to me to be able to make a difference in kids’ lives. Every day is completely different and bringing smiles to the kids’ faces keeps me motivated when I go through periods of struggle with my leg,” Paul adds.

Paul has been with WISE for the last six years and is extremely grateful for everything the team has done to support his employment since his accident.

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

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

Tiffany discovers a passion for making pizza at her first role through WISE


Tiffany is a friendly, warm 23-year-old who came to WISE Employment earlier this year after being referred to the service from a friend. Her positive attitude and bubbly nature stems from her appreciation in finding a job that she enjoys, working at Pizza Fresh, after completing training via Interskills Training (RTO 6653), the training arm of WISE Employment.

She’s responsible for a number of tasks at the local pizza shop, including making pizzas which she has discovered she really enjoys.

Tiffany has an intellectual disability, suffers from depression and anxiety and also ADHD and she says that going to WISE changed her life.

“WISE looks at who you are, not what you are and they’ve helped me overcome many barriers,” Tiffany said.

“My job and the team I work with make me feel more motivated and engaged.”

“WISE really took the time to learn about what I enjoy and worked together with me to find something that I might like to do for work.”

Throughout her journey with WISE, Tiffany highlighted that it’s the level of respect she has received that has made her feel more confident.

“I’ve learnt to give things a go because of WISE, they’ve shown me that I’m important as well,” she said.

Tiffany also highlighted that she believes employers are now more open to hiring people who have a disability, or mental health issue, as they have realised people like herself are reliable and keen to work.

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

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

Meet Sam: the jovial lad fighting cancer with a smile and with a mission to give back


At the age of 23 and on the week that Sam was accepted into the Victoria Police Academy, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – Stage 2B.

Unfortunately for Sam this wasn’t the first time his passion for serving the community was put to a standstill; one year prior to Sam’s diagnosis he was discharged from the Army due to a shoulder injury. As it turns out, there was a hidden tumour in his shoulder and it later spread and developed into a visible lump in the neck.

“As a young guy, you think you’re bullet proof – particularly when you’re in the Army and it all comes to a screeching halt. I should have been out partying and having fun with everyone. Instead I was undergoing intense treatment that physically took its toll,” Sam explained.

Following his treatment Sam was directed through Peter Mac to WISE Employment who, upon reviewing his skill-set, medical restrictions and ongoing tests; found him a role as a concierge at The Bank Apartments, Melbourne. Here, Sam is responsible for managing the front desk, security and conducting floor checks throughout the building.

Sam is now in remission. He’s gone from being extremely physically able, to suffering the side effects of treatment such as fatigue, reduced concentration and limited physical capacity. The words cancer and disability are rarely grouped together but for Sam the treatment led to a 30-kilo weight gain and the fatigue meant a change to his work requirement status at Centrelink, which WISE facilitated.

“WISE has helped me a great deal. They’ve always been professional and given me a sense of hope. When you’re going through this, the longer it goes on, the more you think; how is my life going to be and what will I be able to do? You want to be a productive member of society and make a positive impact on the community.

Since being employed, WISE call in every two weeks making sure I’m not overdoing it by taking on more shifts, and that equally my employer understands my limitations at work and the appointments and scans I need to have,” said Sam.

Sam is known to his colleagues and the residents at the Apartment as a chirpy chap that’s always smiling and eager to help. He wants to extend his desire to support the community with an end goal of returning to the Victoria Police Academy.

“When diagnosed I spoke at a Relay for Life [fundraising event for Cancer] and the guys that I played footy with and the community came to support me; I would like to give back to them and the wider community through policing,” Sam said.

In the meantime, Sam is determined to lead a fulfilling life, share his story with others and continue working and spending time with his family and friends.

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

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

Convinced he would never work again, Andrew hit rock bottom before WISE Employment helped him up


Four years ago, Andrew was suffering from severe anxiety and depression which was heightened by a very stressful work environment at The Royal Adelaide Hospital, a role he eventually had to give up. Over the next few years, Andrew spiralled downhill, moving through a variety of assisted employment providers where no-one could help him get back on his feet and into the workforce.

This was until he was referred to WISE Employment earlier this year. Andrew was extremely impressed with the different approach and support he was offered. “WISE Employment was so easy to work with, they really listened to me and understood what I was comfortable with and what I wanted,” said Andrew.

The team at WISE provided Andrew with a lot of one-on-one coaching and reassurance, as well as guiding him through the process of finding work and ensuring he understood the expectations every step of the way. “I never felt rushed or pressured into taking on a role. WISE helped me to first start building my confidence and changing my attitudes, as I was in a really negative place when I first met with them,” added Andrew.

WISE prides itself on working with candidates to find the right balance of securing employment that they are capable of, at a pace that is realistic. Rather than pushing Andrew to apply for roles that were already being listed, the team worked with him to identify work places that Andrew would like to work at and then contacted these businesses on his behalf.

It wasn’t long before WISE had secured an interview for Andrew at a local motel for a cleaning position, something he was skilled at and keen to do. Andrew was so pleased with the result, “WISE even went with me to buy some good clothes for the interview and coached me through the entire process. I could not believe that I got the job that I wanted.”

There was a time a few years ago when Andrew would hide away and play video games for days on end. Now, thanks to a more positive mindset, he has found new motivation and enjoyment out of other hobbies, such as gardening. Andrew continues to have weekly appointments with the team at WISE to ensure he is happy and comfortable with the role he is in.

“This whole experience has been a massive change to my self-esteem and I’ve got such a positive outlook on life. The slightest thing used to send me off to a dark place, whereas now I can really see a future,” beamed Andrew.

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

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

Alice, living with scoliosis, finds the right role for her at St Vincent De Paul


Alice came to WISE four years ago as a timid person suffering from scoliosis and with a mission to find more work. As a shy person who doesn’t really enjoy being in a group and whose disability limits her ability to stand or sit for too long, Alice needed help to find the right role for her.

Through the support at WISE, Alice successfully completed a Certificate III in Retail and Administration and secured a role as an administration assistant at Les’s Carpet Cleaning. With transport arranged by WISE, Alice was able to put her new skills to work. When her employment with Les’s Carpet Cleaning ended after two years, Alice was able to increase her hours at her other job at St Vincent De Paul and is now responsible for supervising Saturdays.

Throughout her journey, Alice also found herself battling depression, which with the help of Megan, her Support Worker, she feels she has been able to overcome. Alice has a new-found confidence and has grown from not wanting to talk to anybody, to being able to supervise a team on a busy Saturday. She explained that it was having someone to talk to that helped her come out of her shell and get to where she is today.

“Before I went to WISE, I couldn’t talk to anyone or be in a group. It was having someone to talk to and that listened to my problems that got me out to try different things,” she said.

“WISE were so helpful and supportive.”

Alice is now responsible for opening and closing the St Vincent De Paul shop on Saturdays, organising the volunteers and supporting people with training and development. She has not only found a job that suits her and that has helped her to grow, but she also now feels like she’s part of a family at work.

Throughout her journey of employment, Alice believes that employer attitudes towards people with a disability have been very positive.

“If you can do the job and know what needs to be completed, employers are happy regardless of whether you have a disability or not,” she 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.