Young musician finds his tune at a specialist school – Joel’s disability support story
On Joel's desk sits a handmade reminder of the impact he makes every day as a disability support worker.
Picking up the card, which is covered with stickers and stars, Joel carefully opens it to reveal a message: “Thank you for helping me Joe.”
“It’s very sweet,” he says, laughing. “Might have spelt my name wrong but she did the whole thing herself!”
This card marks a cherished memory for the musician-turned-disability support worker. Six months into his full-time role as a disability support worker at a specialist school, Joel recalls helping the card’s creator make the transition to a new class.
“This girl recently moved to our school, she was quite nervous and unsure of things,” Joel explains. “I supported her with meeting other kids and making sure she felt comfortable.”
He adds, “There’s a lot of really cute moments like that. It makes it all worth it.”
For the 25-year-old university and TAFE graduate, supporting kids with disability in the classroom wasn’t always the career path he had planned.
Before finding his place in care and support, Joel studied a bachelor’s degree in music. After graduating he took some time to figure out his next career move and tried his hand at being a line cook, where he prepared and plated food for a restaurant. It wasn’t until a conversation with his sister, who has cerebral palsy, that Joel realised he had the people skills and personality to excel in the care and support sector.
“She highlighted how I was patient, kind and enjoyed helping other people. They are all qualities that make a great support worker,” he explains.
Growing up, Joel had assisted with supporting his sister and taught her to ride a bike. She pointed out that he was great at reading people’s behaviour and body language, a skill that is often important when working with people with disability.
After this conversation, Joel decided to take the plunge and study a government-subsidised Certificate IV in Disability, where he found his calling providing care and support in a learning environment.
“Going into it, I didn’t think education could be part of care and support work,” Joel recalls. “But my placement put me in a school, and I really enjoyed it.”
Following his placement, Joel felt prepared to apply for full-time work at schools in his area. With a glowing reference from the principal he had during placement, Joel sent out his application and scored a job at another specialist school.
“The transition was seamless,” says Joel.
As Joel continues to make a positive impact on his students, he’s excited to explore where his career will take him next.
"I have a few ideas," he says. “With my background, I think music therapy for kids with disability could be something I'd enjoy.”
Fortunately, Joel points out, there are plenty of opportunities for progression in care and support work.
“If you don't like one particular thing you can try something else, there’s heaps of avenues for different careers in the sector,” he says.
For now, Joel is just happy he’s found a job that allows him to make a real difference in the lives of his students.