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Sam helps shape the future of the disability sector

Hervey Bay teacher Sam Smith is committed to supporting a strong disability sector.

For Samantha Smith, a career supporting at-risk youth and people with disability is something that has always been of great importance to her. Inspired by the experience of a family member whose child was born with Rett Syndrome, a rare genetic neurological and developmental disorder, Sam is driven by the desire to see all people have the same opportunities to succeed.

“I love to see the underdog grow and develop. Everybody’s journey starts at the first step and sometimes young adults just need guidance, education, skills and an opportunity to help them gain employment,” Sam said.

Sam started her career in the vocational education and training (VET) sector in the Northern Territory in 1997, working locally and with the Tiwi Island peoples to teach life skills and business in order to create opportunities for local employment.

She then moved to Karratha, where she worked on commercial projects for industry and teamed up with the Ngarluma people to teach their Indigenous youth and connect them with employment opportunities. It was a role that ignited a strong sense of social justice in Sam, a passion she brought with her when she eventually moved back into the disability sector.

“Education and employment give people the opportunity to gain confidence. Our role is to find a way to share that education to suit the learner. It’s really about helping people strive to live their best lives and find opportunity,” she said.

Since then, Sam has dipped in and out of teaching, spending time across various areas within the disability sector to develop her own skills before returning to the VET sector to pass her experience on to the next generation of disability workers.

From teaching young adults with disabilities to help them gain employment opportunities, to working on a board to support the disability industry, and taking on the role of service area manager for a disability service agency — Sam has experience across the many varied facets of the disability sector and has seen first hand the transition for organisations into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Now, Sam is passing her compassion and experience on to others within the sector as a trainer for the Certificate IV in Disability (CHC43115) at TAFE Queensland’s Hervey Bay campus.

Over the last two-and-a-half years, Sam has delivered training across the state and in particular the Fraser Coast, to people looking to develop their skills within the disability sector, working primarily with people wanting to advance their careers to become support coordinators, supervisors and managers.

“If you’ve got patience and ethics around caring for people, there are lots of opportunities for you to develop and grow within the sector, and now’s the time,” she said.