Real Clients. Real Stories.
Having someone to help you get the ball rolling can be the first step towards your next job and life pathway.
For Elliot, now age 45, the pressures of being a Young Carer (in his late teens and early twenties) alongside his own mental health problems and early unemployment, combined to create a situation in which his motivation was low, and he felt his prospects were limited. Elliot also had a negative relationship with alcohol, drugs and smoking, which he has worked hard to overcome.
He now speaks positively and articulately about his journey, including those from Nexus Human Services who have supported him, and the people who he in turn would like to support in future.
“I didn’t have a good early work ethic to be honest, and I had lots of challenges to overcome. I was dealing with mental health problems and Centrelink put me in touch with Nexus. My job coach was really helpful. He gave me the push I needed, and not in a negative way, but by giving me options and taking action. Sometimes you need someone who can understand the process and encourage you along,” says Elliot.
Nexus Human Services continue to support Elliot with his employment and in other aspects of his life and community contribution.
Navigating job seeking and employment can be overwhelming for people from all walks of life. This process can be significantly more difficult for people experiencing mental illness or psycho-social disability.
One such client is proud Ngunnawal woman Jessica of North Canberra, who has been supported by Nexus on her employment journey since 2017. Jessica, age 31, experiences the day-to-day challenges of living with schizophrenia and other mental health challenges. In addition to her symptoms, living alone was a contributing factor to feelings of isolation. She needed the financial and social benefits of regular employment. Like many Nexus clients, Jessica was referred through Centrelink, and linked up with an appropriate Nexus Employment Coach to meet her specific needs.
Jessica has been supported by Employment Coach, Mona to secure and maintain work at a local pharmacy, where she has been contributing with her strong work ethic and positive attitude. Jessica speaks highly of the support she has received from Mona who has built a rapport with her client, “Nexus were really good and understanding of my situation, and Mona has been helpful.”
If you would like to find out more about our Employment services, visit our website or contact our team today.
Finding the confidence to shine and succeed. Ishma’s story
Ishma, age 22, lives with her partner near Nambucca Heads, NSW. She has found a good employment fit working as a Support Worker in an aged care setting, and with the help of Nexus is enjoying her job. Ishma experiences severe anxiety and PTSD, which she says made it difficult to find and sustain employment. She was keen to share her experience and speaks with high praise for her Employment Coach, Kim, who assisted her with life and career changes.
“Kim and Nexus have done so much for me. I have a weekly appointment, but their door is always open, so if I need to, I can go in at any time. If Kim isn’t there, there’s always someone else I can talk to. If I’m having a bad day, they’ll get me through.”
With the right supports and development, Ishma has all the attributes that will enable her to shine and succeed, both personally and professionally.
If you need assistance and support due to a disability or mental health condition, contact the Nexus team today.
Andrea* has loved animals since her early childhood. She recalls entering a kids’ drawing contest and winning a book with facts about different pets. Soon she was volunteering to bring the school rat home during holidays, and adopting an axolotl. That’s when her passion ignited, and she dreamed of a career working with animals. Now in her mid-fifties, and facing daily challenges with depression and anxiety, Andrea is supported by Nexus Human Services to pursue her lifelong goals, while working on maintaining her financial security day-to-day.
Finding the right fit for employment and training
Nexus has assisted Andrea to find sustainable, part-time employment in home maintenance that is flexible enough to enable her to pursue her true interests through further study and hands-on skill development. With a particular love of dogs, and canine behavioural management, Andrea is also participating in paid dog walking, while undertaking e-learning to become a qualified Dog Trainer. The learning is done at her own pace and will lead to an accreditation that complements her existing skills and knowledge. Andrea has also set herself up as a sole trader with the intention of launching a dog training business, working one-to-one with clients across Canberra in the future.
“The staff at Nexus help me with all sorts of things, like updating my resume, enrolling in the training, and even helping me with some ideas for my own business, like ordering business cards and setting up an online page. I’m not great with computers, so they will talk to me on the phone or sit beside me, to help me with things like that.”
The importance of pursuing a passion
Several academic studies in the past twenty years point to the importance of “passion” for self-determined activities as a key component to achieving well-being (e.g Lyubomirsky et al. 2005 and Vallerand, RJ. 2012). With many Nexus clients coping with mental health problems and psycho-social disabilities, finding work that also brings satisfaction not only contributes to positive workforce participation and financial independence, but also achieves added benefits for mental, social and emotional wellbeing.
Andrea has been working with Nexus Human Services for around three years, after an initial referral from Centrelink during a period of unemployment. She says she has maintained consistent contact through phone and face-to-face check ins, and this has complemented the larger professional support network for overcoming her mental health challenges – which also includes a tailored mix of counsellors and medical services.
“I’m looking forward to having the independence to run my own business. They are helping me build my confidence. My body is getting tired as I get older, so certain types of work are getting harder on me. But I just love the idea of helping people with their dogs, through gentle training methods.”
Supporting the ‘whole’ person
While the primary focus of Andrea’s sessions with Nexus are around workforce participation and education, she points out that Nexus staff also act in a way that support mental health – helping her to feel accepted and heard.
“It’s a bit like a working friendship. You don’t just feel like a number. If I am having a bad day, they’ll listen about that too, and it helps. Eldine [Andrea’s Nexus Coordinator] in particular has been really just beautiful. Nothing is too much trouble.”
Client-centred support that focuses on holistic wellbeing and development, is at the core of Nexus Human Services’ approach. Staff have the skills, knowledge and ongoing professional development to support people no matter what their disability/abilities and circumstances. Support is accessible and inclusive – free from discrimination based on factors such as gender, culture, religion, lifestyle or socio-economic status. Each and every client is treated with dignity and respect.
Andrea sums this up in her own words, “They are really welcoming of people from all walks of life. They don’t judge based on where you’re at, or things such as your appearance. For example, I feel like I’m a bit weathered sometimes, with my tattoos and piercings, but they are accepting of me for who I am, and what I can be.”
While being interviewed about her experiences with Nexus, Andrea was kind enough to give some free over-the-phone advice to the writer of this piece, about her over-excitable Labrador puppy, which we are pleased to note has already started working.
Just as Nexus has made a measurable difference to Andrea’s work, education and life, we anticipate that Andrea herself will continue making a difference in the lives of people and animals in her community, into the future.
*Name of client changed on request
Unlike his interviewer for this story, Brian likes heights. He is in the process of obtaining his gliding licence. In fact, Brian likes all sorts of adventure activities, as well as travel, politics and creative pursuits, and plans to experience as many different and interesting aspects of life as he can in the coming years, as he splits his time between the Gold Coast and Canberra.
Brian is actively working in behavioural management in the disability sector, while overcoming the challenges of his own disability – Charcot’s Foot (a degenerative condition impacting bones, joints and nerves in the feet), a serious complication from his aggressive diabetes that affects mobility, and causes both insensitivity and pain. This limits the ability to work in certain professions, and generally requires reasonable adjustments to be made for employment.
Exploring options and pathways
Despite the various challenges life presents him with, Brian comes across as both pragmatic and upbeat when he talks about opportunities for the future. He recounts his time as a client of Nexus Human Services over the past three years (after an initial referral from Centrelink), and the positive role they have played as a sounding board for his pursuits in employment and further study.
“Their support has been very good on the whole, and they have helped me with keeping in touch with the job market, and recognising my own potential and interests,” he says.
Unlike some clients who may require more complex case management and employment coaching, Brian is able to be self-sufficient with his career and education goal setting. He has however benefited from having Nexus staff to explore options with and remind him to get things ‘into order’, such as updating his resume. This process has led him to his next planned step – enrolment in a Screen Media Diploma at Canberra Institute of Technology. Through this further study, he hopes to expand on casual skills he already holds in social media and other media production, that he has dabbled in as a ‘side hustle’.
“Nexus staff have helped me talk through some of the options, and to play through the next steps. They are available to answer any questions I might have, which in turn makes me more prepared to do my own research and make informed decisions.”
Coming back to basics for success
Brian acknowledges that disability needs are highly variable from person to person. He hopes that by sharing openly about his own experiences, he can encourage others to take the steps they need to get supports.
“My advice to others is to get the right mix of support they need for their own unique situation, and aside from that, get back to basics. Make sure your resume is up-to-date, do your research before you meet an employer, and practise in advance for your interviews. Confidence is key, and preparation can really help boost that confidence.”
This is great, practical advice, and these are all activities that Nexus Human Services assist clients with on a daily basis. Nexus works with clients across a broad spectrum of disability – from those with high degrees of capability and resources, to those who have complex disabilities, and significant barriers to employment. Building skills, employment resources, personal capacity and confidence, are all fundamental.
We wish Brian all the best with his future studies, career and gliding adventures, and thank him for sharing his experience with us.
There are many elements that factor into our overall wellbeing: good physical health; mental and emotional health; social connections; and financial security, among others. Finding and maintaining paid employment provides more than just a financial benefit. It is often a significant piece of the bigger wellbeing puzzle.
Phillip, a 35-year-old Nexus Human Services client, is testament to this. He lives with autism spectrum disorder and is on the NDIS. In 2017, Phillip made the decision to trade the bustle of Western Sydney for a quieter life in Canberra, where he is surrounded by a family and services network. This was a positive lifestyle decision that has seen Phillip go from strength-to-strength. He has been supported through his journey by qualified Nexus coaches, who assist not only with matters of employment, but also the development of other tools to support healthy living.
Finding the right employment fit
Phillip has maintained a job at Bunnings Warehouse for over a year now. It’s the perfect job for him at this stage of his life. His main duty is to water and care for plants in the nursery. This is a responsibility that he enjoys and describes as ‘relaxing’. He takes pride in doing his job well and ensuring that the plants have everything they need to thrive.
“In some jobs I’ve had you feel too rushed, but I like that in this job you can take your time. The plants need you to care for them properly and carefully, so they don’t die.”
At Bunnings, Phillip says he is supported to take his time and to do things to a high standard. This is often important for people with autism spectrum disorder, who may be challenged by roles that force them outside of their own space and time requirements, or to feel too hurried. Phillip describes his employers as supportive. Finding this positive job fit has been a boon for both Phillip and for Bunnings, where his employers report that he is growing in confidence, and beginning to take on additional nursery support, stock and customer service tasks.
Building on strengths and overcoming challenges
Prevalence of autism in Australia is now expected to be between 1 in 70 people (Autism Spectrum Australia, 2019). The neuro-developmental disorder impacts every individual uniquely, and these individuals have a lot of value to add to their communities. According to the ABS, workforce participation for working age adults with ASD, is around 40% lower than for those with no disability. Additional targeted supports can be highly beneficial in engaging people with autism in the workforce.
Phillip concedes that as someone with autism, sometimes social interaction can be overwhelming, but as he speaks to us, he sounds calm, confident and positive. He explains that the people who come into Bunnings are friendly, and that Canberra has a quiet community vibe that suits the lifestyle he has been looking for.
Nexus Human Services is experienced in working with both clients and employers to ensure a good fit. It’s about finding work that suits the needs and strengths of individuals. They also provide support to develop confidence, skills and knowledge for specific circumstances. For this, Phillip has worked with both Ryan and Naomi from Nexus, who he describes as helpful.
Adapting to change
For clients with autism spectrum disorder, sudden or significant change outside of routines, can present additional challenges. It is important that these clients feel supported to overcome any additional barriers. Being unemployed at a time when companies were not actively hiring – amidst the global pandemic – was a challenge for many people in Australia. In addition to this, social distancing measures have recently meant that staff are having to adapt to new ways to work.
“I work at Bunnings part time, but at the moment I can’t go in there because of the lockdown and the pandemic. It’s good that I still get paid, and I will hopefully be back there again soon.”
Job certainty is essential during tough times – socially and economically. Phillip expresses he is feeling optimistic and supported, so he is able to take it in his stride.
We all know that there is more to a fulfilling life than just work. While Phillip’s employment is going well, it was also important to him that he start making some positive changes around a healthy lifestyle. Nexus have assisted him to take positive actions in this domain. The rest he has driven himself.
“I’ve been really focusing on nutrition, and on cooking for myself. I had a personal trainer and I keep working at exercise and being healthy.”
While our Australian communities are experiencing ongoing uncertainty around the global pandemic, economic downturn, and other social challenges, it is refreshing to hear of clients like Phillip, who seem to be taking steps to maintain their wellbeing. We look forward to supporting him into the future – watching both his personal growth and the growth of those happy plants he so diligently cares for.
In 2014, ISIS invaded a small Kurdish region in North-Western Iraq. A village home to around 1,700 people, mostly of persecuted Yazidi beliefs, was attacked. ISIS fighters gave the citizens a terrible, unjust ultimatum – conversion to their specific Muslim belief system or death. Over 450 men, women and boys were killed over the coming days, and other women and children taken hostage. Across the surrounding region over 5,000 were killed. Some escaped and other survivors took years to barter, negotiate their way out, or abscond. Acts of ethnic cleansing, violence, abuse, torture, destruction, and theft ensued – tantamount to terrorism and crimes of war. Many individuals and families remain in Iraqi camps or are otherwise displaced-unable to return to their homes.
This is just one example of the tragic stories that are told by Australia’s refugee population. For survivors of war, crimes and brutal occupying regimes, the ongoing distress and sorrow will have life-long implications. Nexus Human Services work with many refugees, immigrants, and emerging communities.
For Hussein, aged 33, who bravely and honestly recounts his story of survival, his experiences (many of which are too graphic and horrifying to share in this document) have resulted in ongoing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, manifesting in flashbacks, nightmares, depression and anxious thoughts. Hussein lost many family members (including his parents and siblings), and he and other family experienced significant violence and other trauma. In 2017, Hussein and his wife and children were relocated to Australia under a Special Humanitarian Visa. He now lives in Coffs Harbour, NSW with his wife, three young children, and two nieces. While the family work to build their new life in Australia, they have liaised with Nexus Human Services alongside other specialised supports.
Creating opportunities and pathways
“I thought back home my life was zero chance, and I wanted sometimes to give up, but I could not. I had to make hard decisions. Everything I do is for my family, so they can be safe and have a life….I love Australia and the people who welcome us. But I was upset that I had no English, and no way to work,” says Hussein.
Hussein’s early challenges were to overcome his language barrier and to take the steps necessary to gain work in Australia. He needed a job that would utilise the skills he had obtained as a Barber, and to have flexible work hours so that he could help care for his young family. With determination and hard work, Hussein studied English at the local TAFE and went on to pursue his career as a Barber.
Hussein was initially referred to Nexus Human Services when he needed assistance to obtain local qualifications and fair employment conditions. His conversational English is now quite strong, and he holds a part-time job, giving his family greater security. He enjoys his work and says it gives him a sense of purpose. He credits his changed education and work situation for greatly improving his prospects and positively changing the direction of his family’s life in Australia.
“When I first met my EC she did massive work to help. To be honest, what they did for me, it’s more help than I could expect from any organisation. When I struggle with things, they help out with anything I need. I am very comfortable talking to my EC . She has been very good.”
Nexus provides ongoing support to Hussein through weekly contact, including phone and face-to face-meetings, and assistance when an intermediary is required to talk to his employer or other agencies. This has included liaison with Centrelink and DES, and in making progress with employment and financial security matters such as: obtaining his Australian Standard Barber qualifications; setting up superannuation; lodging tax returns; and explaining how his pay slips, leave and other entitlements work.
Providing trauma-informed support
The approach to assisting refugees must always be trauma-informed and client-centred. It must consider not only the mental health challenges still being faced, but also cultural and linguistic diversity. Nexus Human Services have experienced staff and sound practices for supporting these clients to achieve their personal and professional goals.
In talking with Hussein is it clear that trauma and sorrow are never far from his mind. His attention drifts to family members left behind – including young nephews. He says that he is experiencing ongoing distress and mental illness, and that he receives treatment, including from support workers and prescription medications.
“I am just one story, there are thousands more like this. Many people can still not talk about it. So we try our best to move on.” He highlights that his is just one of many stories of tragedy, sadness and loss, and that each experience for a refugee is uniquely personal. Hussein hopes that in sharing his experience, he will empower others to find the support they need.
Moving from strength to strength
When asked about hopes for the future, Hussein says he can’t think that far ahead. He and his family must take their recovery and living day-by-day for now. He mentions lightly that he thought he might like to try scuba diving, but now he thinks perhaps not, due to the sharks. Instead he again starts to express his gratitude for his new life. “They said I was coming to Coffs Harbour and I didn’t really know where in Australia it was or care, but when I got here I was very happy with the place. It is beautiful. I think we got very lucky.”
Hussein and his family enjoy the lifestyle, the beach and the local community, and his children love it here. Like many families they are presently juggling the needs of remote learning during the time of COVID-19, with work and other family commitments. With everything they have been through, they are pragmatic and take it in their stride.
In conveying this story, Hussein’s words are always humble and polite, and with optimism for the future. He acknowledges that while the past has seen a lot of darkness, there is so much more living to be done. Nexus Human Service are honoured to continue to support Hussein and other refugees like him, with the next stage of this living.
At seventeen, AJ is weeks away from finishing his secondary school education and he expresses both excitement and trepidation about the ‘big changes’ that we can all relate to. Overall, he is upbeat, and despite tackling the challenges of a learning disability and anxiety, he speaks with a level of maturity, consideration and calm that belies his years.
AJ has been a Nexus client for around two years, and he was enthusiastic about sharing his journey, in the hopes that it will encourage other young people to get the support they need.
“My Coach from Nexus and he’s a really nice guy. He always checks up on me, and I just like him,” says AJ.
Connecting young people with Australian School-based Apprenticeships
Nexus have assisted AJ to combine education, skill development and employment, as part of an Australian School-based Apprenticeship (ASbA). Students engaged in secondary education are provided access to age-appropriate working opportunities through Registered Training Organisation (RTO) courses that may pique their interest. This enables them to develop hands-on experience, while continuing their studies alongside peers. For young people with disabilities, this model often creates pathways that may otherwise not be clear. It can also improve the likelihood of educational attendance and attainment.
In AJ’s case, it has solidified his goals for the future – to further his studies in Horticulture and become a Landscaper. As an Apprentice Grounds Keeper with Australian Training Company, he has been able to gain real-world landscaping and garden maintenance skills on school grounds, which he undertakes as one shift per week.
“I do everything from cutting down trees, to mowing grass, and looking after gardens. I like doing work like this and I love just being outdoors.”
Improving educational participation and attainment
It is estimated that approximately 10% of Australian school students aged 5–18 years have a diagnosed disability (Include Ability, 2021), and around 21% of people with disability leave school before the age of 16 (AIHW, 2022) – reducing their chance of further education and creating further barriers to employment and economic participation. Programs such as ASbA complemented by dedicated providers such as Nexus, maximise the options for young people with disabilities – improving immediate educational outcomes and long-term life trajectory.
Nexus staff have worked with AJ, his family, his employer Mark, and his school – as a collaborative network of supporters – to help him reach his goals. Some of the assistance provided has included: attainment of a Certificate II in Vocabulary and Numeracy; assistance with resume writing and job applications; help with understanding his curriculum requirements and assessments; coaching on interviewing techniques and communications; and development of job-readiness skills. AJ is thriving and has already secured a job interview with a landscaping company, as his possible next step beyond graduation. Whether or not this round sees him land the role, the foundations are strong to keep him on track.
Setting up strong foundations for young people with disability
Nexus Human Services are highly skilled at supporting individuals, at all stages of life and with diverse disabilities, in their pursuit of gainful employment. This increasingly involves work with Australia’s young people – as an early intervention to unemployment and financial barriers. Around 120 of young people aged 16 to 25 are supported by Nexus each year.
“By building knowledge, skills and confidence in a time of peak cognitive, physical, social and emotional growth, we are setting these young people up for brighter futures, where disability does not need to be a limiting factor in their success and happiness,” explains Lisa McPherson, CEO of Nexus Human Services.
“We see the potential in every person, and our human-centric, case-managed approach enables us to play to the strengths and challenges of each person, no matter their age, disability, or life circumstances. For young people, it’s particularly important to orient this around achievable goals both for the present day and the future, and to explore areas of interest to them.”
When AJ talks about his goals and what a ‘happy life’ looks like to him in the long-term, he keeps it simple. He talks about family always being his number one priority and support, and his hopes that one day he will be working in a permanent role as a Landscape Gardener. He hopes he will have a ‘nice house’ (‘doesn’t have to be too big’ he adds) and ‘a life free from troubles would be awesome’.
Aspirations for the future – embracing what matters.
In the present, AJ expresses that he thoroughly enjoys work that provides the opportunity of being in nature. His apprenticeship work has helped him to combine that passion with practical learning. When asked what he likes most about the work, he offers this pearl of wisdom:
“The best part is when it’s done… no, not when you get to go home [he laughs], … I mean that you get to look back on what you have worked hard on with your project, and you get that sense of achievement.”
“Another thing I am proud of, is how much I’ve learned about the environment. How to approach each job… the tools, and the best way to get it done. I’ve gotten better at assessing the environment around me and knowing what it needs to help it.”
While AJ explains that he has often struggled in the classroom when assessments are explained in terms he doesn’t understand, or when the input from teachers, other students and chromebooks can become overwhelming, he has benefited from having the staff at Nexus – just a call or meeting away – to ease his concerns and ‘connect the dots’ with him. He leaves us with this advice for other young people who are accessing support through Nexus Human Services:
“Take them at their word. Because at the beginning I wasn’t too into it really, and I wouldn’t ask for help. But looking back they have always known what they are doing. Just roll with it, it really will help you with your goals.”
Thank you to AJ for sharing his story so openly to help others. The staff of Nexus Human Services would like to pass on their congratulations on his graduation, and offer best wishes for the next exciting steps and a future of possibilities.