A new job helps Amber turn her life around

'I wanted my kids to see me working. And I knew I needed and wanted to be more than just a mum,’ says Amber, explaining why she was so determined to get a job.

‘Working means I am not as stressed and frustrated. I have more energy and patience with my kids and it’s helped me enjoy my time with them more. They’re pretty pleased, too, about the fact that I work in an ice-cream factory!’

Seeing Amber now, joking about the unglamorous pink steel-capped boots that she must wear in her job as a packer, it is hard to imagine the challenges that she has overcome to get to this point.

She left school at 13, became a mother at only 16, and has dealt with addiction and an abusive relationship. It wasn’t long ago that Amber, now 24-years-old and a single mum of two children, was living a life that was, in her own words, ‘chaotic’.

A move from the country to Melbourne, a very supportive sister, and Amber’s own strength and resilience have seen her turn her life around. The satisfaction and financial benefits she gains from being part of the workforce are further steps in that transformation.

‘People like Amber inspire us to do what we do,’ says her McAuley Works employment case manager Lorraine Thomson. ‘Her attitude has been fantastic.’

A close collaboration between McAuley Works, and Bettina Twyman from the Yarraville Community Centre, were instrumental in overcoming the considerable barriers to employment that face young mums such as Amber.

Lorraine helped build Amber’s self belief and confidence, assisted her in preparing a resume and practising for job interviews, and supported her to meet and register with a labour hire company that now has an established relationship with McAuley Works.

Bettina, a coach at the Reconnect program, which supports young people into school or education, worked with Lorraine to identify training options. She could access funding for this as well as other ways to make the job transition a reality.

‘Both Lorraine and Bettina supported me 110 per cent,’ says Amber. ‘When I started the job, Reconnect was able to help me with travel costs, petrol – and those boots, which are a requirement for the role.’

Bettina explains that often there are upfront costs in getting equipped for a job. ‘Those costs can be really overwhelming to young people on a low income who haven’t yet started earning, and can actually prevent them from taking up roles.’

With her eight-year-old son attending a special needs school and her daughter still a toddler, Amber needed flexibility. Her new employer has been understanding in recognising she has limits to her availability, but has been so won over by her ‘can do’ attitude and work ethic that she is in high demand for shifts.

Meanwhile Amber, is not just earning income; she is making friends and having fun, sometimes leading her co-workers — decked in their orange and white fluoro protective gear — in the chicken dance as they pack.

Lorraine says: ‘A lot of things have come together at the right time but it couldn’t have happened without her commitment. Amber was ready, right now, to make the change in her life.’

Pictured: (L-R) Bettina Twyman, Reconnect coach; Lorraine Thomson (McAuley Works case manager); Amber; and Justine Connelly (McAuley Works Program Coordinator)

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