From client to support worker – Oriel’s lived experience benefits all

“I’ve been here for 21 years!” says Oriel, a big smile on her face.

The 36-year-old Centacare support worker is excited to be telling her story and enlists the help of her manager at HAND Social and Life Skills Hub to look up the records and find her start date.

Indeed Oriel started at HAND in 2000 – but not as a support worker. She started as a client.

HAND, located at Wilston in Brisbane’s inner north, offers people with disability opportunities to pursue their passions and develop their skills and capabilities.

Oriel had a tough time at high school as a result of her intellectual disability. She graduated Year 12 at Mt Maria College but wasn’t sure where to go from there.

“Someone I knew encouraged me to join a social group at HAND,” said Oriel.

“Straight away I felt like this was a place I belonged. I started volunteering, lending a hand with other groups on their social outings.

“Then in 2007, I really stepped up to the plate. I enrolled in the Diploma of Community Services at TAFE and completed my placement here at HAND.

“When I graduated I was offered a paid role and I’ve been here ever since, working across the drama and cooking programs. I love what I do”.

Oriel’s story is a great one to tell this Disability Action Week (5-11 December). The theme is ‘Workforce diversity – open up to opportunity’ with a focus on employment opportunities for people with disability and the benefits of an inclusive workforce.

One look at Oriel with her clients, who she supports every Tuesday and Wednesday, and the benefits of her experience are obvious. She is patient, purposeful and allows the client to take the lead as they search online for recipes that appeal to their interests and match their ability.

With Oriel’s support, clients create shopping lists and source their ingredients. Rachel, who has a particular interest in all things Chinese, will cook dumplings, fried rice and, as her skills increase – prawn omelette and carrot and zucchini fritters.

“Oriel’s lived experience plays an important part in how she sees and performs her role at HAND,” said her colleague Courtney.

“Her understanding allows her to think outside the box and respond to clients in a way that is respectful of their individual experience. She demonstrates this for all of us and the clients feel incredibly connected to her. We are all very fortunate to have her”.

Find out more about our social and life skills hubs.