International Day of People with Disability,
December 3, 2021

Celebrating the life-changing achievements of  people living with disability

Job Centre Australia shares five extraordinary Australian stories

Today, Dec 3, is International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) – a day to celebrate the success of all people living with disability, and to recognise the life-changing achievements made each and every day.

With so many extraordinary stories worth celebrating, today, we’re highlighting just a few, including:

  • An exceptional young man named Shane who had very limited verbal communication, yet went on to gain skills to start his own successful business;
  • An inspiring candidate, Jeanpaul, who provides educational pathways for West African refugees and educates them to ensure they’re accessing critical healthcare services;
  • A young married couple, Jimmy and Sharnae, both on the autism spectrum, who have earned global television stardom and are excelling with their career and life goals;
  • Michael, a hard-working employee of a North Sydney high school who this month celebrates six years of making a significant difference to the school community, and;
  • A Gold Coast-based motorcycle handlebar manufacturer offering multiple employment opportunities to locals living with disability.

Through meaningful employment, people with disability have the opportunity to gain independence and vital skills – empowering them to achieve their personal goals and positively contribute to their workplaces and communities.

Job Centre Australia CEO, Deborrah Lambourne, says in 30 years Job Centre Australia has placed over 25,000 candidates into employment, and supported youth in developing skills for independent living – and she’s constantly amazed by their achievements.

“It’s just incredible seeing individuals with disability taking control of their situation, and, with support, going on to gain independence and achieve their personal goals,” says Deborrah. “We couldn’t be prouder of all of our candidates and participants who are breaking through their perceived barriers and making huge accomplishments every day. 

“International Day of People with Disability is so important because it highlights the true value people living with disability bring to their communities and workplaces and the ongoing achievements they make.  

“For us at Job Centre Australia, this is also an opportunity to celebrate the employers we work with who understand and see the value of employing people with a disability. Further, today we recognise our dedicated staff who change the lives of those living with disability every day, enabling opportunities so they can go on to achieve their aspirations. 

“These stories we are sharing are just a few of so many. Please join us in celebrating the leadership and participation of all people living with disability, who make their mark every day as we work towards a more inclusive, accessible and sustainable world.” 

Today, Job Centre Australia shares the stories of:

Shane “Shano” Lidell (Central Coast, NSW)

Shane “Shano” Lidell is a young man who has overcome incredible odds. Living with a brain injury and intellectual delay, Shano had very limited verbal communication when he first began his journey toward finding a meaningful career.

With the ongoing support of Job Centre Australia and his dad Colin, Shano built on his skills and ventured out of his comfort zone through various work placements in the automotive industry. While he loved the industry, he couldn’t find a role that was quite the right fit, so he took matters into his own hands and created the ultimate opportunity for himself.

Today, Shano is the proud owner and founder of Shano’s Mobile Carwash, a small business servicing the Central Coast NSW region – and business is booming! Here’s a fantastic adShano and his dad created to promote his business.

Jeanpaul Ntazika Kagigi (Newcastle, NSW)

Jeanpaul Ntazika Kagigi is making a significant impact on the lives of West African refugees in Australia. Job Centre Australia placed Jeanpaul in a Community Engagement Officer role with the Global Alliance for Peace (GAP), through which he supports West African youth by promoting and providing educational pathways, and educates them on immunisation and health strategies to ensure access to critical healthcare services.

Incredibly, Jeanpaul speaks five language dialects, and is now also learning English, while making great strides to expand the reach and impact of GAP. Jeanpaul lives with lower limb deficiencies, and is a dedicated single father of four, but that hasn’t stopped him literally changing the lives of hundreds of refugees each and every day.

Jimmy and Sharnae Berresford (Newcastle, NSW)

Jimmy and Sharnae Berresford shot to international fame in the ABC TV reality series, Love on the Spectrum, which followed the couple’s heart-warming engagement, through to their wedding. As Jimmy and Sharnae’s love story played out on global television, behind the scenes they were both working hard achieving their personal career goals with the support of Job Centre Australia.

Sharnae has been employed by Woolworths Swansea for almost one year in her “dream job.” In fact, Sharnae is so dedicated to her role, she was just awarded Woolworths’ National Checkout Operator of the Year. With over 180,000 Woolworths employees nation-wide, that’s no mean feat!

After working in meaningful employment for eight months, Jimmy has now gained the confidence and skills to commence university studies and venture into a new industry. He’s currently completing a bridging course while determining what he’s most passionate about, with plans to begin a full-time university course next year.

Michael Saunders (North Sydney, NSW)

Michael Saunders is proud to have been part of the Wenona School maintenance team for over six years – and rightly so! Living with an intellectual disability and mental health condition previously had a major impact on Michael’s confidence to find and maintain work, but with support from Job Centre Australia and the school, along with a positive attitude, willingness to learn new tasks, and desire to be part of a team – he’s thriving in his role.

Michael says having stable and long-term employment has vastly improved his mental health. Wenona School has also benefitted from diversity in the workplace – and importantly, been able to educate students and families that all people are valuable and able to find meaningful employment, regardless of barriers.

This month, Michael’s six-year milestone will be acknowledged, along with Wenona School for being an outstanding Inclusive Employer Partner, with an Appreciation Certificate from Job Centre Australia.

And the best part? Michael says he has no plans to leave his role anytime soon – In fact, it’s where he wants to work until retirement!

Burleigh Bars (Burleigh, Gold Coast, QLD)

Gold Coast-based motorcycle handlebar manufacturer, Burleigh Bars, has never seen disability as a barrier to employment; Rather, they’ve modified their workplace to suit the right candidate for the job, then reaped the benefits of having dedicated, passionate and hard-working staff within the business.

Three Job Centre Australia candidates have now secured long-term employment with Burleigh Bars, with modifications made to the factory layout and tools to ensure all staff are able to work safely and effectively.

Through building a diverse workforce, Burleigh Bars is making a massive positive impact on their employees’ confidence, mental health, and overall wellbeing, with all staff enthusiastic to be doing something they love and that they are empowered by. As one candidate, Andy, explains: “Work takes your mind away from your disability.”

The Burleigh Bars team includes:

  • Andy Hensel – an ex-champion Freestyle Motocross rider, who after sustaining paraplegia from a bike accident, continued with his passion for bikes – seizing the opportunity to work at Burleigh. While Andy recently left to further his education and focus on his not-for-profit charity, the experience of meaningful employment has given him the confidence, strength and encouragement to know he is capable amongst the workforce and ready to seek his next opportunities.
  • Tory Anton-Staggart – Tory, who lives with Intellectual Disability, took a leap of faith into a different industry with Burleigh, and has been doing a brilliant job in his role as a polisher for over one year.

Michael Barsby-Walls – Michael, who lives with Intellectual Disability and ADHD, initially secured a casual role in packaging and dispatch, but with his skills recognised, has since gained a full-time position in fabrication of the bars.