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Deborah keeps the music alive with career twist

Music is proven to boost your mood and it’s especially important for older people to engage and connect, however many aged care facilities lost their entertainers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But one Gold Coast singer has been able to keep the music alive and get the residents toe tapping by up-skilling at TAFE Queensland with a Certificate IV in Leisure and Health (CHC43415).

Professional cabaret performer, Deborah Cox spent many years singing her way across Europe and Australia and then into 96 aged care facilities on the Gold Coast every month before COVID-19 put an end to that.

“I was devastated when I couldn't bring a smile to the residents' faces anymore due to COVID-19 and for the first time in my life I was out of work and relying on government payments just to live,” said Deborah.

The 59-year-old’s presence was so deeply missed that she was asked to join the lifestyle team at one of her regular aged care facilities that meant she was responsible for creating a timetable of entertainment activities for the residents.

“This opportunity ignited my second calling in life and as much as my entertainment past came in very handy, I wanted to know more, have the skills to do better and the confidence to know that what I was doing was the very best for the facility’s residents,” she said.

Deborah researched many leisure and health courses and said TAFE Queensland’s program at the Southport campus stood out due to the in-classroom learning and industry experienced educators.

“I wanted a course with face-to-face learning with teachers who were experienced in the field, and not just an online course,” said Deborah.

“I could not have picked a better place to study than at TAFE Queensland, my tutor David Mas has incredible passion and I learnt so much from him. I loved the assurance and knowledge I received throughout the course.”

As part of the curriculum, TAFE Queensland’s leisure and health students must complete work-based learning that saw Deborah secure paid employment as the head lifestyle coordinator for Tricare in Mount Gravatt where she completed three weeks of industry placement.

“Thanks to TAFE Queensland my career was able to advance really quickly and with the knowledge and skills I acquired I am able to ensure our residents can lead their best lives and feel empowered to make choices and set their goals,” explained Deborah.

Now just nine months into her new role, Deborah has already made a huge impact on the aged care facility and gained approval to expand the team which allowed her come full circle and offer work experience and employment opportunities to other TAFE Queensland students.

“I have employed four TAFE students so far and will take on as many as I can for work experience, as they are extremly knowledgeable and well prepared for the industry,” she said.

“As a team we share the same fundamental qualities and passion and have been achieving our goals for the residents’ wellbeing which shows every day through their contentment and happiness - we are all like a family.”

To anyone thinking about studying health and leisure, Deborah says to look no further than TAFE Queensland.

“If anyone has a passion for the industry, my advice is to study at TAFE Queensland’s Southport campus as not only will you have the best teacher in David, but what I learned medically was incredible, especially on the mental health and dementia topics. You need the best training to be the best for your clients.”

Deborah hopes to one day become a lifestyle area manager for Tricare so that more of their facilities around the region can embrace her program.

Following national trends, the number of senior residents on the Gold Coast is expected to increase to 20.7% of the city's population by 2041 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), making Deborah the kind of worker who will be in demand by employers right now and into the future.

Leisure and health roles are becoming highly sought-after in the healthcare, community and tourism and recreation services sectors, as employers have started to realise the benefits of a more person-centred approach to care.

TAFE Queensland’s Certificate IV in Leisure and Health (CHC43415) course prepares students for a career in planning and implementing health and lifestyle programs that will meet the needs of employers and their clients.