Employment Support for People with Mental Health Conditions: Darwin Resident’s Story of Hope

Listen below as AimBig Employment General Manager Terry Wilson and client Anita speak with Conor Byrne on ABC Darwin Afternoons.


For the 1 in every 5 Australians that suffer from mental illness, it can be hard to complete everyday tasks and maintain activities that are part of daily living. On top of this, the stress of finding and maintaining employment can contribute to a negative state of mind and reduced confidence, leaving a large amount of our population unable to secure work. Mental health disabilities are often invisible and have traditionally been surrounded by stigma.

Darwin resident Anita understands this all too well. As a single mother raising two teenage boys, she was already facing significant challenges that contributed to her anxiety. When she lost her long-term employment due to the company downsizing, her anxiety got significantly worse.

“I had only ever worked for the same company, so being let go was very scary. I didn’t know if my skills were up to date and I was struggling to find another job. I was feeling helpless and unsure of what to do,” said Anita

Anita was unemployed for an extended period time until she was introduced to AimBig, a free local employment service in Darwin that specialises in helping people with disability, including mental health conditions, find employment. She was paired with Amber Pratten, a passionate and dedicated Job Coach, to discuss her hopes and dreams for the future.

“Talking to Amber helped me vocalise that my passion has always been in food. I had always wanted to be a pastry chef! I just had no idea how to move in that direction,” continued Anita. “However, Amber was great at encouraging me to set some short and long-term goals to help me move in the right direction.”

As a first step, Amber enrolled Anita into the Steps program, a government funded initiative that provides computer literacy and numeracy training, as well as relationship building and social skills. After Anita completed this six-month program, Amber referred her to the Karen Sheldon Group, a local catering company and registered training organisation that has a particular focus on Indigenous jobseekers and, more recently, people with disability.

“At Karen Sheldon, Anita is learning cooking and food preparation hygiene. Over the course of the next 6-12 months, she will work towards completing the relevant courses to enable her to become a pastry chef apprentice at the organisation. I’m so pleased for her, it is a fantastic opportunity to move towards her dreams!” said Amber.

Amber is there to help Anita through the process and provide additional support if needed. This might include helping with completing paperwork or finding a tutor.

Shir Kelly from the Karen Sheldon Group says it is great to get recruitment assistance from AimBig.

“We couldn’t be happier with the work Anita is doing. She’s really proactive and always gets the job done. It was great to work with AimBig Employment as they took me easily through the process. We’re glad to be able to offer an opportunity to someone who really needed it. We’re very proud of Anita and the progress she’s made,” says Shir.

Aron Brydon from Saltbush Social Enterprises, who worked alongside AimBig to place Anita in the role, says “Anita has smashed goals, grown in confidence and become a valued member of the Karen Sheldon Catering Team”.

AimBig Employment has over 20 years of experience in finding job seekers meaningful work and are motivated by clients such as Anita to provide outstanding services to people of all abilities.

“Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health conditions experienced by people in Australia, and tend to affect people during their prime working years[1],” says Terry Wilson, General Manager at AimBig Employment. “At AimBig, our participant’s mental health and wellbeing is a priority, whereby we not only find our participants work, but ensure they are prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically to take on new employment.”

“We also work with employers to ensure they are well supported, helping them you find the right staff, and provide education about how to get the best from hiring people with disability,” continues Terry. “We offer a cost-free recruitment service and are a trusted provider of the Governments Disability Employment Service program. It’s a win-win for all involved.”

Anita has now been placed by Karen Sheldon at Howards Springs, a quarantine facility 20km from Darwin, to cook and prepare food.

“I absolutely love getting experience in an area that I am truly passionate about. Everyone is so supportive and it is great to have a sense of purpose to get me out of bed every day. I love that everyone is so supportive of my mental health and wellbeing I am so grateful to have the help and support of AimBig and Karen Sheldon to move towards my dreams!” finished Anita.

AimBig Employment are also encouraging people interested in becoming a job coach to get in touch.

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