The mentee becomes the mentor: George finds his dream job supporting Indigenous job seekers

Friday, 1 July 2022

Proud Aboriginal man, George Blair, has three very important rules he lives his life by.

“I have always been taught to stand up for what I believe in, confront racism towards Aboriginal peoples head on, and break down the barriers through re-education.”

George belongs to the Wakka Wakka, Koreng Goreng, Iman, and Gungerri peoples of Central and Western Queensland.

“I descend from a large group of family clans which is made up of strong male and female leaders,” said George.

“Our traditional medicines have been used for thousands of years and through many generations. I want to eventually develop a meaningful and successful treatment, healing, and recovery program with a strong focus on the Aboriginal ways of healing.”

As a qualified primary health care practitioner, George’s career has spanned across mental health, drugs, alcohol, homelessness, and chronic disease. But two years ago, his life took an unexpected turn when he was diagnosed with early-stage emphysema.

After many years of helping others, George went searching for help for himself.

It took a couple of false starts, but George eventually knocked on the door of his local EPIC Assist (EPIC) in Maryborough – a not-for-profit Disability Employment Services (DES) provider that supports people with disability to prepare for, find, and keep a job they love.

“The instant I walked through the door and met with the staff I felt so much more comfortable and supported,” said George.

“Staff at EPIC Assist were welcoming and treated me with so much respect. I shared stories of my Aboriginal connections and country, my work history, and my own capacity to research and find employment.

“I enjoyed the ongoing engagements and the flexibility EPIC Assist provided. They engaged with me by getting up from their desks and approaching me in person, always with a smile.”

George stands in the EPIC office
George Blair at the EPIC Assist office in Maryborough

George worked with EPIC to get work ready. When a job advertisement popped up for Indigenous Workstars in Rockhampton, George knew immediately this was the one for him.

“I could see myself doing this job because it aligned with my passion of advancing Aboriginal peoples and improving their capacities,” said George.

“I thought to myself and agreed that I could really make a difference in the Aboriginal community of Woorabinda by assisting job seekers to find genuine sustainable employment or develop their own local businesses.”

George applied for the position and just two days later he received a phone call inviting him to an online video interview.

“I wasn’t expecting it so soon. I was very excited. But I had no funds to update my internet connection and my phone was not functioning well.

“It appeared that invisible barriers were trying to disrupt me. I knew this was a spiritual journey as I had been sent on a journey before, where I ended up working with vulnerable homeless people in Brisbane.”

To get George up and running for his job interview, the EPIC Assist team sprang into action and quickly organised access for George to a computer with a camera, microphone, and internet connection.

“They gave me the privacy I needed to talk about my personal and work traits and the ability to sell my skills, work history, and knowledge.

“I was grateful after the interview because it seemed as though the staff at EPIC Assist had helped alleviate this dark cloud that had previously overcome me.”

Now, George is preparing to move to Rockhampton to start work as a Customer Engagement Lead, mentoring Indigenous job seekers on their journey to find and sustain employment.

“I will be responsible for supporting customers to identify their skills and talents, provide skills capacity training to build individuals skills, and provide employment pathways.

“I will also be responsible for encouraging, networking, and selling customers skills and qualifications to potential employers.”

Even though George’s new job is over 380 kilometres away from his support team at EPIC, it’s only a matter of seconds by phone.

Rebecca Linwood, EPIC Assist’s Aboriginal Liaison Officer, says EPIC will continue to be there for as long as George needs.

“EPIC will continue to provide post-placement and ongoing support for George once he is relocated to Rockhampton,” said Rebecca.

“We also have developed a plan with George to provide moral and community support to assist with his transition and maintaining the employment.”

With a major relocation and exciting new chapter on the horizon, George is ready to help and encourage other Aboriginal job seekers with disability to follow in his footsteps.

“Being employed affords me the stability and opportunity to provide not only to my own lifestyle and living needs, but for my family members who continue to struggle to survive and are not as educated and knowledgeable as I am,” said George.

“It also provides me the opportunity to enjoy my cultural and social connections and ongoing networking. I am grateful for my life and what I have in my life.

“I now strongly believe that all Aboriginal job seekers in Maryborough should be encouraged to go to or be referred to EPIC Assist, simply because of their excellent customer service and client relationship building.

“My experience with EPIC Assist has left a great impression on me. EPIC Assist provide exceptional service delivery and achieve better outcomes for Aboriginal peoples.”

If you have a disability, injury, mental health condition, or health condition and are looking for help finding work, get in touch with EPIC Assist today.

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