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How Wendy got her life back on track through the power of partnerships

4 minute read

Where do you go when everything seems to be going wrong? How do you bounce back after hitting rock bottom?

For Indigenous job seeker Wendy, these were the questions she faced way back in 2011.

After the loss of her sister, she suffered through further grief when her 24-year-old nephew whom she helped raise also died just five months later. The pile-on didn’t end; in 2013 she lost her mother to cancer.

Wendy suffered through her demons. Emotionally, she was drained. Financially, she was spent. Physically, she was hurting, and it was this pain that led her to substance abuse that landed her in police custody in 2015.

She found herself in familiar company. In Australia, Indigenous women make up 2% of the population, and 34% of the women who are in police custody. Not wanting to become another statistic, Wendy took a hard look at her life - she’d been unemployed for over two years, she had an addiction, and she had grief that she hadn’t properly dealt with.

It was this introspection that led her to complete the NSW Corrections’ IDAPT program to get her life back on track.

IDAPT - the Intensive Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program - helps participants gain an understanding of their substance abuse and provides skills, resources and support needed to return to their community. It also reduces the likelihood of re-offending.

But upon release from prison, Wendy faced a new challenge – she was homeless. Thanks to the skills and support provided through the IDAPT program, Wendy knew there was support out there, which led her to PeoplePlus.

With the help of our Maroubra team, Wendy was able to connect with local community organisations to arrange permanent housing.

She worked closely with Maroubra Branch Manager Malcolm Quigg (winner of the 2018 Innovation in Indigenous Employment Award at the National Employment Services Association Awards) who provided a connection at Babana Aboriginal Men’s Group – somewhere he thought Wendy might be interested in working.

Babana began more than a decade ago as a simple concept to build and empower local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men in the inner-city community of Redfern, NSW.

The group formed at a time when there was little in the way of local support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when it came to social, economic and employment issues.

Over the last 10 years, Babana has grown significantly from a simple concept to an expansion of support and referral services – it was with this in mind that Mal thought Wendy’s life experience would be the perfect fit for Babana.

With Mal’s support and encouragement, Wendy was put forward for a permanent-part time position working at Babana as a Mentor.

“When Wendy came to us, it was obvious she needed our support and encouragement,” Mal said.

“As part of the jobactive program to assist Wendy into employment, we were able to provide her with clothing, interview wear, and Opal card for public transport, and an RSA and RCG for employment purposes.

“Once Wendy made a commitment to her job, she had the discipline and hard work to get there,” Mal said.

When she officially commenced her new job at Babana, Wendy was further assisted with a mobile phone and a laptop.

Supported by Babana’s National Mentoring Manager, Wendy continues to thrive in her new role of assisting and empowering local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, providing guidance and advice to those who are facing hardship and trouble, much like she did.

“We are honoured to have Wendy on the team. We've watched her grow from day one when we were first introduced to her at PeoplePlus,” said Mark Spinks, founder of Babana.

And Wendy’s philosophy on life?

“Treat other people as you would like to be treated,” Wendy said.

She sure is taking her philosophy literally.

PeoplePlus would like to congratulate Wendy and wish her continued success in the future.

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