How COVID-19 help Brad find his passion

Brad Wainman is a Team Leader in Supported Independent Living (Accommodation) at St John of God Accord. He shares his story with us, explaining how he found his dream role and his way out of his isolating experience during COVID-19.

Brand, team leader, with clients outside Luna Park.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit I was living my best life. 

I was house sharing in Melbourne, and working for an established individual support provider in the Melbourne Central Business District with a steady pool of regular clients that I thoroughly enjoyed working with. Life was very good.

Then news starting coming through about a pandemic heading our way taking the world by storm and we were suddenly sprinting into unchartered territory. 

A new position with St John of God Accord

During Covid-19 I became unhappy in my existing role and started to explore other opportunities and with that I got an interview for a role as a Support Coordinator at St John of God Accord. 

Years back, when I was about 18, I worked at the community campus and decided to leave to go travelling and live abroad. 

I knew the organisation well, I strongly aligned with their Mission and Values and I felt very confident that the interview went well. I was subsequently offered the job and started two weeks later.

I was nervous, excited and ready for a new challenge with greater responsibility and the ability to help clients make the most of their NDIS Plan.

Working from home

The directive from the State Government at the time was that you must work from home. I had moved house in the interim, and was sharing with two others. 

The working from home vibe hit and the excitement of going for walks on my lunch break, making banana bread and doing yoga in the morning was alive and well. How optimistic we all were back then.

Armed with my new work laptop, work phone and a small desk in my damp, dark and mouldy share house, I was now fully immersed in working from home along with another housemate who had already set up shop in the bedroom across the hallway from mine. 

Then sadly my other housemate lost her job because of the pandemic. 

We shortly lost that optimism, the lockdowns were never ending and the house wasn’t big enough to cater for all three of us being at home all the time. 

I then moved to a one bedroom flat, adopted a ‘pandemic pet’ (my gorgeous cat Max) and knew for sure it would work this time. It did,  
I just needed my own space.

Well a few months passed of working from home and living alone. It was the winter of 2021 by then. The days were short, dark, cold and lonely. COVID-19 was here to stay. 

Some people thrived working from home. I didn’t, keeping in mind this was my first desk job. 

I had amazing support from my team leader Nicole and she tried her best to get me into the office when she could, but truthfully, I was struggling.

At this point I was going through a break up and life just felt a bit difficult. I felt so far removed from the people.
I supported and I had only met a few of my clients in person at this point. I felt some of my clients had underfunded plans, which made me feel defeated after I had poured hours and hours into report writing, meetings and planning.

Now, don’t think I completely hated my role; I learned inside and out, back to front how the NDIS operates, knowledge that has been invaluable in my role as accommodation team leader. 

It is a dynamic, ever-changing and demanding role. I think if the pandemic hadn’t hit and my personal life was more stable at the time I would have thrived.

A new beginning

I reached out for help, lockdowns were beginning to ease and I used my friends and family to find strength post break up. I was beginning to slowly feel in control of my life again, and felt the weight of 2020 and 2021 beginning to lift.

I’ve always wanted to work face to face and directly with clients, and I was honest with my team leader and told her that I wasn’t sure if the support coordinator role was suited to me anymore, she was supportive of how I felt and that I was thinking about venturing into accommodation. 

Then along came an opportunity for a team leader in accommodation in the northern suburbs of Melbourne.  

I want to reiterate how completely supported and validated I felt, not only from management but from my support coordinator colleagues as well. 

I applied for the position of team leader for our accommodation home. It seemed too good to be true; a leadership position a ten minute bike ride away, in a house with two residents and a great team of caregivers to oversee. How could I say no?

Let me tell you, I think this role was and is made for me. 

A dream role with St John of God Accord

I love that I can work directly with clients and also spend some time tapping away on my keyboard going over reports and monitoring progress. 

I love that no two days are ever the same. 

One day I might have a meeting with the Office of the Public Advocate, or attend a hearing, and then the next I’m getting ice-cream in Rye with the residents or spending a Sunday at the Collingwood farm. 

The role is so varied and it always feels like something new.

Varied work experiences

In the accommodation home I’m in, we place a big emphasis on community access. 

We are lucky for the time being that we only have two clients, so it’s easy to cater to everyone’s likes.

 One Saturday I said, “what do you guys want to do today?” “Boat,” Colin replied. 

A quick Google for boats in Melbourne and I find a passenger ferry that takes pedestrians over the Maribyrnong river. 

We packed a lunch, put on our walking shoes and off we drove for a little adventure. Tram trips into the city for art exhibitions, picnics in the botanical gardens, concerts at the state library, a beer at Melbourne Music Week, day trips down to the coast for a dip in the sea, a day at the peninsula hot springs?  Yes, Yes and YES!

What we truly love here is Fitzroy swimming pool. 

Supporting clients’ individual goals

One client has a personal goal to swim with the dolphins. 

So we are learning to swim, in the calm waters of the pool. 

One scorching hot summer’s afternoon, the air conditioner remote had gone missing, one resident had a hard day at TAFE that she took out on the other, who then happened to spill a whole bottle of undiluted red cordial all over the kitchen floor! We were all at our wits’ end. 

A quick mop up and I suggest, “pool?” They both quickly changed into their bathers and packed their bags. 

The utter relief on their faces (and mine) as we dipped into the cold water is indescribable. 

For a good hour they paddled up and back the slow lane of the pool, noodle under their chests, goggles on their heads. 

They are unstoppable. Once tuckered out from swimming, we jump into the spa and relax. 

Feeling at home

We have since established a veggie garden out the back, and after months and months of love and labour our hard work payed off. 

We were the proud owners of two giant zucchinis, the smallest carrot ever grown and a handful of tomatoes.  

If anyone reading this has a green thumb, please help?!

Here at our clients’ home, we provide personal care, assist with meals and clean the house.

I work by the ethos that I am a guest in our clients’ house and do as much as I can to make sure everyone feels safe, validated, and at home.

Being able to tell the story of my journey here at St John of God Accord, I feel very valued and supported, and in response I love coming to work. 

By far the best thing, though, is seeing the clients happy in their own home.