What’s life all about? It’s pretty simple for most people: loving family and friends, keeping healthy, having an active social life, and a job.
However, for many people with disability, the last item on this list is surprisingly hard to get. Despite the fact that there are 4.2 million people in Australia who have disability, less than half of 19 to 55-year-olds with disability are employed.
Claire Mitchell is fighting to change those statistics. She’s an Office Administration Assistant at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital School in Brisbane, a job she loves.
Claire is also on the Down Syndrome Advisory Network (DSAN). The DSAN is a group of people with Down syndrome chosen to work together to provide direct advice to the Down Syndrome Australia Board.
For Claire, having a job and working every day is important for her self-worth.
“It’s very important for people with Down syndrome to have a job. Just like anyone else,” she says.
Before working at the hospital, Claire worked as an office assistant at an accountancy firm for six years, but lost that job when the company was sold.
After she lost her job at the accountancy firm, Claire struggled to find a new job, and statistics show that her experience isn’t unique. Only 53% of people of Australians with disability participate in work, compared to 83% of people without disability. For people with intellectual disabilities, like Claire, the figure is even lower, with only 39% employed.
Luckily, through some contacts and the support of her parents, Claire was able to find her current job at Lady Cilento, where she is very happy.
“I love my job. It’s very important to enjoy what you’re doing and love what you’re doing, so I feel very lucky,” Claire says.
“I love being part of a team; I also like to keep busy and to be helpful, as well as meeting new people and making new friends. I am proud to have my ‘job’, which I always try to do the best of my ability. My employers are very supportive and encouraging.”
Claire’s employer feels the same to have her on board, with Jane Bauckhaus, Deputy Principal at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital School, having only good things to say about her.
“Claire brings a different perspective to work. Her enthusiasm when she comes in each day is like no other. She has a personality and point of view that I know has been of great benefit to the other staff here,” Jane says.