When Rebecca was diagnosed with autism and ADHD back in grade 10, she didn’t ever picture herself landing a full-time job at a fancy resort on a tropical island. But after two years of climbing the ranks at Kingfisher Bay Resort and well on her way to becoming a team leader, it’s clear that’s exactly what she’s done.
“The person I was two years ago, I probably wouldn’t even recognise who I am now,” said the local Hervey Bay resident, Rebecca.
“I remember watching my mum try and fight for me to get all the supports I needed. I didn’t get that until grade 10.”
Rebecca spent a while jumping between jobs, struggling to find an employer that understood her and her disability. She needed someone who would take the time to really listen to her and what she was facing.
In grade 10, to help her transition from school to employment, Rebecca connected with EPIC Assist (EPIC), a local disability employment service.
EPIC Assist is a not-for-profit that specialises in helping people with a disability, injury, mental health condition, or health condition prepare for, find, and keep a job they love.
“I had a couple of troubles getting some jobs and eventually I was just over finding jobs,” said Rebecca.
“I said to EPIC is there anything I can do to get away from it at the moment? And they said, ‘Well, you could do a Cert III in Hospitality.’
At the time, Kingfisher Bay Resort was recruiting for a trainee program. Rebecca’s studies made her an ideal candidate for the role, and EPIC connected with the Kingfisher Bay team to land her a job on K’gari (Fraser Island) as a Hospitality Assistant.
Kingfisher Bay Resort rings true to its island’s namesake, K’gari, which is the Indigenous word for paradise. As one of the biggest and first real ecotourism builds in the country, the resort employs over 350 people across its four businesses and takes its role as an equal opportunity employer seriously.
Considering their commitment to diversity and inclusion, Kingfisher Bay Group Training and Development Manager, Renea Burchell, says connecting with EPIC Assist to give Rebecca this opportunity was a no-brainer.
“It’s very much in our ethos, in our culture to have an all-inclusive employment base. So, it makes sense to have EPIC as part of our employment structure,” said Renea.
“Everyone should be treated equally and given opportunities. And if they’ve got the skillset and the right attitude—I always say 97% attitude, 3% skills—we can teach you the rest.”
Although it has at times been a slow journey through the learning curve, Rebecca has progressed over the last two years to become an integral and strongly valued part of the wedding and events and food and beverage teams.
She spends her days serving up coffees and cocktails behind one of Kingfisher’s five restaurants and three bars and assisting with the 120 weddings and events the island hosts.
“When I actually first started, I knew nothing. I knew nothing about working in a resort, nothing about being a bartender, being a barista, nothing about waitressing.
“But they trust me with a lot of stuff now. I’ve memorised the whole cocktail list, I can do any of the cocktails on there, I can do any of the coffees.
“It’s good that they’ve been able to put that trust in me and put that hard work onto me. They can leave me alone and they know I can do my job.”
Rebecca has her sight set on the future, and she is excited to discover where Kingfisher can take her. She is currently working towards becoming a team leader and growing her responsibilities in the events and weddings space.
“I did about two shifts of as acting team leader where the supervisor let me take control of the day,” said Rebecca.
“To me, it was awesome. They trusted me to work with the team, be the leader, guide them, tell them to do this, this, and that.
“It all went so smoothly. I couldn’t ask for a better day for me to take control of the shift.
“But also with my events, I’d like to also pursue that a bit more and do a course in events management.
“I want to show Kingfisher that I can set up events, get everything ready for weddings, and let them know they can put their whole trust in me.”
Meaningful employment changes lives
Since taking the plunge and joining the daily ferry across from Hervey Bay to K’gari, Rebecca’s life has completely changed.
“Employment changed her life and I think it just changes who people are,” said Renea.
“We’ve seen her going from very shy to someone who is quite outgoing and doesn’t have a problem jumping in and working with our guests and team members.
“Everyone deserves a chance, and it does change people’s lives.”
Looking back over Rebecca’s journey from where she started to where she is now, it’s the opportunities that her job at Kingfisher Bay has opened up that really stands out.
“Working at Kingfisher has helped me to get places I never thought I would be able to go. People say once you’ve worked here, you can go anywhere you want,” said Rebecca.
“I’ve been able to move out of home, get a car, pay my bills, and go on trips.
“Before I got this job, I was never able to do any of that. But now, I can pretty much do anything that I can put my mind to.”
Learning to live and work with her disability has been challenging. One of the biggest lessons Rebecca has learnt since connecting with EPIC and Kingfisher is that her disability doesn’t have to stand in the way of her dream.
“It’s been a little bit hard trying to cope and accept my disability, but I probably wouldn’t have been able to do that without the people I have around me.
“My family, EPIC, and everyone at Kingfisher, they’ve helped me realise that I can be myself at work. I can be that person who has a disability and wants to be treated like anyone else.”
Having EPIC’s ongoing support throughout this whole journey has been invaluable for Rebecca not only professionally, but personally too.
“EPIC helped me with a lot of stuff. They’re a great place for helping with disabilities get where they want to get in life. They understand you and your disability, and they take you step-by-step on your way to getting to a job or a course you want to do,” said Rebecca.
If you are looking for help finding and keeping a job you love, get in touch with EPIC Assist today.