Hope on horizon for despairing support workers


AMANDA CARR can handle the bad behaviour, violence and hygiene issues that come with being a disability support worker. The hardest part is being underpaid and feeling undervalued, she said.
”It’s the accumulating feeling of hopelessness that comes from not getting enough financial reward for what you do,” she said. As a carer and supervisor of five staff, Mrs Carr’s full-time wage is just $37,700 a year. To support her family and help pay the mortgage, she took on a second job.
The federal government’s announcement of a $2 billion contribution towards greater pay equality for community service workers, who are predominantly women, will be a huge boost for the industry, which struggles to retain skilled workers.
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For carers like Mrs Carr, the pay rise will take the pressure off the family budget and allow her to stay doing the job she loves.
”About a month ago, when the conciliation was dragging out and I was starting to feel really desperate, I gave myself 12 months. If nothing happened, I was out,” said Mrs Carr, who works in Katoomba for the Nepean Area Disabilities Organisation, which offers post-school care and education for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.
”I could go and pack shelves at ALDI and earn more money. But I feel it would be a really sad day if it got to that point.”
If Fair Work Australia agrees to increase rates of pay for the sector, and the NSW government agrees to pay their share of the contribution, Ms Carr’s wage would increase to $45,000 a year.
When Nadia Saleh emigrated from Lebanon 22 years ago, she could not speak English and had no family or support. Today her work as family support service manager in Riverwood ensures other families have a difference experience to hers.
”My job is to support vulnerable families in our community who require assistance, practical support, court support, advocacy and home visits,” she said.
The toughest part of her work is a lack of resources to retain qualified staff.
”Our skilled workers are sometimes forced to leave because we do not have the ability to pay them equally as government workers,” she said.

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About Darin Sullivan (1974 Articles)
Former President of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union (2009-2018) and a professional firefighter with more than 30 years experience. I live and work on the NSW South Coast, Australia. I am a strong advocate for firefighters and emergency service workers with an interest in mental health issues and caring for those around me. I am a former Director on the NSW Fire Brigades Death and Disability Super Fund and work with charities including ‘The Movember Foundation’. As a leader and activist I have long been active in the campaign for action on climate change. I am a Station Commander in the fire and rescue service in NSW and have 30 years experience fighting fires, both rural and urban. I am passionate about highlighting the impact climate change is having on fire preparedness and fire behaviour in Australia, and the risks associated with inaction on climate change. I am also a spokesperson for the Australian Climate Media Centre.
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