When Rochelle approached atWork Australia, she was recovering from long-term drug dependency, living with a mental health condition in a rehabilitation facility, affecting her ability to work and live a fulfilling life.

She is now a Senior Contact Officer employed with atWork Australia, helping other Australian’s living with disability find good work.

We sat down with her to talk about her journey into employment. Ranging from her favourite memories as an employee to how employment changed her life, read more about Rochelle’s story below. 

Tell us a little about your time before finding work? What did your life look like?

I had not worked in over 15 years due to a severe mental health condition, I felt totally overwhelmed at the thought of looking for work and terrified at what would happen if I did get a job. I didn’t have any recent experience of working and I did not have confidence that I could manage employment and my barriers. I had lost hope of living the life I had dreamed of as a child and was disheartened by my lack of understanding of how to navigate the job market.

What is your position at atWork Australia and what office are you located in?

I am the Senior Contact Officer for our national atWork Australia Disability Employment Services Contact Centre located in Joondalup, WA.

How long have you been working with atWork Australia?

I have been working here for 5 years.

What motivates you each day to go to work?

The job satisfaction of helping people to progress into employment that can literally change their lives and lives of the people around them. I love to speak to clients and help them to decode the system as it can be confusing and complicated.

What has been a highlight of your time with atWork Australia? Is there any story that stands out?

I was able to tell my story of how my life was changed through atWork Australia and employment at the Abilities expo in 2017 and 2018. I was happy to be able to showcase the company and what we do for clients every day as I had firsthand experience of the difference atWork Australia is able to make in people’s lives. After the speech in 2017, I was approached by a few people who said that what I had shared gave them hope for the future, while I found it incredibly humbling it also filled me with pride at the same time.  In 2017 I was one of the employees of the year for atWork Australia – Western Australia. It was amazing to be recognised as a valued team member and reminded me that with the right job and right support, anyone can achieve, maintain and progress a career even with significant medical barriers or mental health issues.

You came to atWork Australia via Disability Employment Services (DES) – tell us about your experience of looking for and finding work?

I was a Disability Support Pension (DSP) volunteer and within a few weeks, I had my first job trial. While I didn’t progress into that role, I was offered a position within atWork Australia as an Admin Assistant. Modifications were made to my role requirements so that I could start right away, which was great. I’ve since progressed in atWork Australia from an Admin Assistant to a Job Coach and now, Senior Contact Officer.

How did sustainable employment improve your life?

How hasn’t it! Every single part of my life has been improved, from the simple things such as being able to go out to dinner, buying my friends and family gifts at celebrations and special holidays, to improving my mental health, confidence and feelings of self-worth. Some of the highlights of my life these days maybe a bit boring but I love the fact that I can pay my rent and bills on time without having to stress about it. I have been able to get a reliable car and I can afford health insurance. I can travel interstate and have even been overseas for the first time as an adult. I have been able to role model to people in my life that employment is an important part of people’s lives, connecting them to diverse and caring groups and communities.

What advice would you give to someone who finds themselves in a similar position to what you were in?

The process of finding a job is challenging and can be disheartening. Patience and hope are essential as well as openness and willingness. I wish I knew it was going to be easier than I thought, and that people cared and were there to support me when I didn’t know what to do or how to move forward. I would also tell them to sign up to atWork Australia, we are always wanting to help.

Living with a Mental Health Condition or know someone who is? We support people with mental health conditions to find good work. Let us help you too. 

We are proudly supporting Mental Health Month, find out more here