Monica Power: Support Worker and Undercover Superwoman at BSF Workshops
Today we’re shining a light on Monica Power.
She’s a dedicated support worker and undercover super woman, lending us a hand for a committed five years at our film studies workshops! These workshops are run through the Inclusive Communities Education Program (ICEP) at Sydney Community College (SCC) – and her support is invaluable to us – we wouldn’t run as smoothly without it! She is truly one of our unsung hero…that we really need to sing a song about!
In this post, we chat to Monica about what got her involved in supporting people with disabilities, her favourite memories with Bus Stop Films and why she’s passionate about what she does!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I left school at 16 and went to college where I studied health care. After college I found a placement with Lifeway’s Community Care. I worked in a supported living house with three wonderful adults with Autism. I think it was from there that I knew I wanted to work with people who have a disability. Working with the students I think it is key that I don’t think of them as having a disability or treat them that way. Just like anyone reading this, everyone may have problems or struggle to achieve their goals or something they desire. I see myself as the person who encourages you to achieve them or give you advice when you need it, or calm you down when you’re frustrated –
“Just like a friend would.”
I’ve been working at SCC for over five years now – just last year I got a promotion, and am now a Senior Support Office. My new role involves a range of organisation and planning tasks to assist the co-ordinator, Kristen Fitzpatrick, including helping to plan the programs each term, managing the Facebook page and other admin tasks. Drawing from my experience with working in the classrooms, I get an idea of what the students would like to learn each term and have used this knowledge to develope some new short courses to add to the ICEP program.. In the five years I have worked at SCC we have provided students with some great opportunities from tennis, drama, organic gardening to archery and lawn bowls plus visual arts.
What makes you passionate about your job?
Support work is a very rewarding job. I’m sure my fellow support workers would agree when I say, sometimes we don’t actually realise how much of a difference we make to another person’s life. In a sense, we are the “barrier-removers” – the assistance and support that helps open the path for our students to move on to mainstream courses.
It has always been in my nature to help people and that’s what makes my work feel like it’s so much more than ‘just a job’.
One of the main ingredients of Bus Stop workshops is theory study, what do you think the benefits of this are?
I have seen many benefits for the students involved in learning film theory, as they engage in the classroom, including watching them develop and build a wide range of skills that can be used outside of the classroom and have assisted students with gaining employment and furthering their interests.
I definitely see how the film studies workshop helps them:
- Build confidence in speaking in a group
- Work in a team during a classroom task
- Build communication and listening skills
- Develop interest around film
- Develop critical thinking skills as they’re able to express opinions
- Improve their punctuality
Helping people in the classroom must come with challenges, how do you over come them?
It’s important as a support worker to find a variety of strategies that assist the students to overcome the challenges that class poses for them. Creating a strong relationship with students, where Genevieve is the tutor and Sarah and I are the support staff in the classroom for the whole year, gives the students routine and helps build positive relationships. I think that’s why ICEP works so well, because we have had the same staff for many years. With routine and consistency, it allows me to better understand the students’ needs and strengths. So when a challenge arises I know how to deal with it with minimal fuss or disruption to the class.
What are some misconceptions people might have about people with disabilities, that you think Bus Stop Films helps to challenge?
“People with a disability making a film? I’ve never heard of that.”
“How do they make a film?”
These are the main questions I get asked from friends and people in the community.
People are in disbelief that a group of people with a disability can make a film. I explain the process and what happens in the classes – the dedication needed to commit forty Saturdays a year to make the film. And Bus Stop has done it, has made people talk and think that, “Yes, people with a disability can do anything. They just need little bit more help to achieve it.”
“The Bus Stop workshops have made people stop, talk and think it is proof that with support people with a disability can do anything.”
Why do you think inclusion is important?
Inclusion is important because no one needs to be labeled. Everyone has the right to be able to do whatever they want to do.
“People with a disability have the same rights to access and be included in society. It is a human right and the Bus Stop experience ensures that we are on the road to breaking down barriers and challenging discrimination.”
What qualities does a great support worker need?
Compassion – a Support Worker must show compassion. This trait goes a long way in helping to connect with students and to handle their various needs. Also being able to think quickly on your feet, so you can put in a new strategy and help a student overcome any obstacle in the classroom.. And lastly, you need to have fun in your job – and the students make me smile everyday.
What has been the most rewarding experience of your work in general, and with Bus Stop Films?
If it was not for Bus Stop films I would never of known what cinematographers do, never mind what a dolly is!!!
But if it was not for Bus Stop films I would never of had the chance to be part of two short films, or be a part of the film industry in any kind of way.
I can remember the students being outside the film location on George Street for the ‘The Interviewer’, the first short film we made back in 2012. Everyone was wearing black and the excitement amongst the students – you could feel it! That was a wonderful day and I will never forget it.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career in supporting people with disabilities?
– It’s a great job where every day is different. And every challenge is different. And you meet quality people along the way.
Also, if you can get a job at Sydney Community College, I have met the most amazing students who brighten up my day. Working with some fantastic colleagues who make this job so fun. We support one another and that makes the job so much easier.
A note from Bus Stop Films- If Monica’s story has inspired you and you would like to volunteer your time please click here.