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Support helps Stephen realise lifelong dream

Tue 28, Apr 2015

After completing year 12 at Malanda State High School, Stephen Proudfoot’s dream was the same as any other young person’s – to find a job.  To the casual observer, this dream may have seemed unachievable.

“I was born with damage to my nervous system and this affected my feet and my mobility,” he shared.  “I can’t walk very quickly and I also have some intellectual disability.”

However, Stephen is a very determined person.

Now, at nearly 40 years of age, Stephen is celebrating a major milestone - twelve months of employment with Woolworths, Innisfail.

“I now feel that, in spite of my disability, I am able to do things that other people do,” he said, justifiably proudly.

Getting left behind is something that Stephen has lived with throughout his life. Whether it was playing sport at school, keeping up with school work, or getting out and about with friends, Stephen struggled.

Likewise, when it came to finding a job he also faced many challenges. The turning point was joining Ostara Australia and gaining access to the individual support he needed to help him realise his dream.

“When I started at Ostara Australia, my Employment Consultant helped me get a job at the Woolworths Supermarket,” he explained.  “She first organised my work experience placement and then kept in contact with the Manager.”

Following an operation on his left foot in 2013, which enabled him to walk without calipers, he commenced paid employment at the supermarket.

“The critical link enabling Stephen to work is having a support worker alongside him throughout his shift,” said Rosali Alvero, Team Leader from Ostara Australia’s Innisfail office. “Initially, Stephen’s Employment Consultant from Ostara Australia worked alongside him until we were able to employ an ongoing support worker for him.”

Stephen now works in the Woolworths vegetable and produce department from 8am until 12 midday two days each week, with his support worker, Tim, by his side.

“Tim’s role is to work alongside Stephen to help keep him on track, push trolleys for him when needed and ensure he adheres to safety procedures,” explained Rosali.

Manager of Woolworths Innisfail, Damian Wirth said, “Employing Stephen has been fantastic for all of our team and the local community. We get a lot of positive feedback from our customers about how great it is that we are giving someone with a disability a go”.

“Working with Ostara Australia has also been really positive. They have organised everything relating to Stephen’s training, his support worker and funding. We haven’t had to do much at all. It is terrific that they have been able to provide the ongoing support that Stephen needs.”

Stephen couldn’t be happier with his job. “I enjoy working with people. I find it rewarding to display good quality fruits and vegetables for shoppers to view and buy and I take pride in what I do.  I find Woolworths a respectable and harmonious work environment to work in,“ he said.

“It has given me back my confidence, again. I have made new friends at work and I am happier.”

Damian strongly encourages other employers to consider employing a person who faces additional challenges due to disability. “It doesn’t hurt to give a person with a disability a go. You can be the one responsible for giving someone the opportunity to get a job and experience a ‘normal life’.”

For more information about Ostara Australia’s services, call 1300 JOB SEEK (1300 562 7335) or visit


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