Stories of Inspiration
Who is Rowan?
Rowan is a 29 year old man with an outgoing personality. Rowan’s mother Jenny says he has a ‘happy knack for bringing out the best in people.’ Rowan is very memorable, and, while this might have something to do with his very tall stature, it is also because of his incredible ability to make friends and develop relationships. Rowan has a wonderful sense of humour and is very considerate of other people’s feelings. He is well-mannered and is committed to helping people; he has been involved in fundraising for the Leukaemia Foundation. Rowan grew up in a small town in Central Queensland.
Rowan and his close supporters began thinking about his work prospects while he was in the late stages of high school. They thought about what Rowan could do and what he would like to do when school ended. Living in a small and close knit community provided both challenges and opportunities for Rowan and his supporters. They thought about Rowan’s gifts and abilities and how they might be turned into an employment opportunity for him.
Rowan’s light bulb moment
A family friend and small business owner made a comment to Jenny about it taking the receptionist an hour to walk to the post office and collect the mail. This sparked an idea in Jenny’s head: Rowan could do that for them. Rowan and his supporters approached a worker at the local supported employment agency who helped Rowan to create a list of local businesses that could be interested in the service and then to draft a letter explaining the service he was offering. It was then up to Rowan, with the support of his mother Jenny, to follow the letter up with each business.
Developing the business
Rowan spent some time securing contracts with local businesses and working out logistical issues. One of the businesses that Rowan approached informed him that they couldn’t employ him but they’d like to make a donation. This was respectfully declined by Rowan and Jenny who explained that this was not a charity situation but that Rowan was seeking meaningful employment. They then offered Rowan a role. Another business who signed a contract with Rowan saw this as a commitment to the community. This business came to play a very significant role in Rowan’s life. Staff from the business had morning tea with Rowan one day a week, and they had a shirt made for Rowan with his name embroidered on it. On their frequent overseas trips, they would send Rowan postcards. This business changed owners many times while Rowan worked for them, and, each time, he made strong relationships with the owners. Eventually the business relocated and so Rowan was no longer able to work with them; however, they remained in frequent contact. While they have had a huge impact on Rowan’s life, he too has impacted them. After they relocated, they identified a person in the new community with a disability and offered her a role with the business.
Rowan had a high level of independence in his role; however, he was supported by his mother Jenny who did the invoices for him. She would also drive Rowan on rainy days or if he was unwell. When exploring the structure of the small business, Jenny discovered that, because Rowan was earning such a small amount, he did not need to have an ABN. He was also earning below the threshold that would affect his pension payment, so this simplified the process for Rowan and his supporters. While out and about, Rowan would run other errands, such as getting milk and bread for his family. He came up with many ideas to expand the role and, as a result, became very involved in the community.
The time came for the family to move from their small town to a larger regional centre. Jenny found that many of the people in the town were very emotional about Rowan leaving because they had such a strong bond with him. However, the family saw the relocation as an opportunity for Rowan, as well as his parents, to gain more independence. In their new home, Rowan is busy making relationships and creating a new life. He still calls people from home and they continue to impact each other. He is developing links in the community and people know him well. He is also seeking employment through a supported employment agency. Jenny is proud that Rowan does much of this on his own; she says that she ‘cramps his style’ and is hopeful that she can now step back and see Rowan’s new friendships provide more support and independence for both of them.
The ‘typical’ experience
Rowan had a typical experience in his post high school years; he found a job and took on responsibilities just like the people his age who don’t have a disability. He and his family always expected that he would move on from school to a job and further education. He has completed TAFE courses and had a meaningful role in the community where he is a contributing member of society. Jenny says, ‘we live by a certain set of rules; why should people with a disability have a different set?’