Wendy Birdjan is a passionate advocate for recognising and celebrating ability, not disability.

Wendy with a framed photograph of her son Stefan.

Wendy with a framed photograph of her son Stefan.

“We need society to recognise we are all equal, and people with a disability deserve equal opportunities,” she says.

Wendy is using her lived experience and passion to forge a new career as a disability support worker.

Her new role at Possability is one of 600 jobs created by Jobs Victoria in the disability sector.

The initiative supports people to earn and learn on the job while completing a nationally accredited Certificate III or Certificate IV traineeship. They’ll also have access to mentoring for a year.

Possability, a not-for-profit disability service, is the first employer to sign up.

“It’s been really good that the program encourages mature-aged workers like myself, as well as women and young people to apply. It’s also been great to do a traineeship that can help me progress my career.”

Wendy encourages people looking for work to apply, regardless of their experience or background.

Focusing on ability, not disability

Wendy's late son Stefan had high-functioning Asperger's syndrome, so she knows the challenges people with a disability face.

Stefan encouraged his mum to keep advocating for people with disabilities before he passed away at 19 from leukemia.

Her achievements were recognised in 2013 when Wendy won the Hobson’s Bay Council Inspirational Woman’s Award for her advocacy.

“I want to be a voice for people with a disability,” Wendy says, “I know how difficult it can be and how important it is to break through barriers.”

“Things have improved in the last 15 years, but I remember it was challenging for Stefan. It ended up affecting his education, and in year 10 he ended up dropping out of school because they couldn’t accommodate him. Instead, he was home-schooled so he could finish year 12.”

Wendy at work at Possability.

Wendy at work at Possability.

Finding meaningful and rewarding work

Wendy previously worked in security at Crown Casino but lost her job of 24 years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. She took on a six-month role she found through the Jobs Victoria online hub with the City of Geelong as a welfare contact officer before applying for the job at Possability.

“In this job, you’re giving back to the community and helping people,” Wendy says. “I really believe that the more you give, the more you get back.”

In her new role, Wendy supports people to live the life they choose. The work depends on a client’s needs but can include doing daily tasks together such as cooking and attending appointments.

600 new jobs in disability support

Jobs Victoria is investing $4.99 million to recruit 600 people to disability sector roles in partnership with RMIT’s Workforce Innovation and Development Institute, the disability sector, and relevant unions. The Department of Education and Training supports the program.

The initiative aims to support people most impacted by the pandemic, particularly women over 45, young people under 25, people with disabilities, and people who are or are at risk of becoming long-term unemployed.

For more information, visit Jobs Victoria Fund