Having just come out of an abusive relationship and suffering from severe anxiety attacks, Virginia Willie found herself in a very low period of her life and didn’t believe anyone could help her to get out of it - until her first meeting with SSI's ParentsNext program.
Virginia Willie has been supported by ParentsNext to prepare for employment.
ParentsNext is an Australian government initiative delivered by SSI and Metro Assist to help parents prepare for employment by the time their youngest child reaches school age. Aware that many parents take time out of the paid workforce to raise their children, ParentsNext staff work with them to identify goals, develop skills and overcome any barriers, so that they can enter the workforce again or for the first time.
Ms Willie, a mother-of-two, said at first she did not fully understand why she was referred by Centrelink to SSI ParentsNext and neither did she have very high expectations of what she would get out of it.
"The day of my first appointment, my anxiety was so bad I couldn’t even take the lift to go up to the ParentsNext offices, so I had to walk up the emergency stairs with my daughter," Ms Willie said. "I actually had an attack during the meeting, as well, because I couldn’t stand to be out of home in unfamiliar environments."
Ms Willie remembers how friendly and welcoming the staff were and how they helped her calm down and go ahead with the meeting. They talked about Ms Willie’s past experience, her goals and dreams, and they set up a date for the second appointment.
"The first impression I had was good, but due to previous experiences with other job network service providers, I didn’t think there was going to be much follow-up after that," she said.
"Imagine my surprise when I attended the second meeting and they had a plan tailored and ready for me, which actually included the things I had mentioned in the first meeting I was interested in."
The feeling of being listened to and taken into account had an immediate effect on Ms Willie, who slowly started rebuilding her self-esteem and believing in herself again.
"Seeing that someone believed in me encouraged me to continue and keep attending the sessions and courses that ParentsNext suggested for me," Ms Willie said.
As part of her participation plan, Ms Willie completed a Certificate 4 in Community Services at TAFE that she hopes it will lead her to a job where she’ll be able to support women who have experienced domestic violence. This year, Ms Willie will continue to study a Diploma in Community Services also at TAFE.
"ParentsNext has had a great impact on my life, even my family and friends have noticed how much I’ve changed and they’ve even asked me how they can access the service," said Ms Willie.
"The program has helped me overcome my anxiety and now I can take the lift everywhere I go, and even eat in and enjoy public places, which was impossible before. I’m really happy and ready to take on many new challenges from now on."