Zoe Sets Sail

That smile. It's the first thing you notice when you meet Zoe.

Yet for all its radiance and warmth, it also masks years of health struggles that have often made finding employment anything but plain sailing for the hugely likeable 20-year-old.
Thankfully, with the support of Omnia Inclusive – who was originally introduced to Zoe as part of a co-location program with Hunter New England Health – she’s been able to turn things around since ‘setting anchor’ at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club (NCYC) around 18 months ago.
"One of my favourite interviews ever!"
“I’d been working somewhere else, but I wasn’t very happy,” recalls Zoe, who lives with a hearing impairment as well as a serious anxiety condition. “I spoke with Cameron (Case Manager) and Anthony (Lower Hunter Area Manager) from Omnia Inclusive. They knew the yacht club was looking for someone, so they helped me get an interview. They also made sure I was ready for it with the right clothes, a way to get there and just feeling mentally prepared for the day. It went really well – it was probably one of my favourite interviews ever!”

Zoe got the job in mid-2020 and has been impressing everyone with her progress – including herself. “Back when I first started, I was just a ball of anxiety,” Zoe explains. “But the guys at Omnia Inclusive really supported me and encouraged me to keep looking after my mental health. My confidence has gone up so much. I’m not scared to get out of bed or talk to people anymore. I actually look forward to it.”

"My confidence has gone up so much"
“One of the things I love most are our regular customers,” says Zoe who, amongst other new skills, is now a trained barista. “I really enjoy making coffees because they’re always different. Cappuccino, extra hot, skim milk. It’s always fun and when I give the coffees to customers, they’re so happy – it makes my day!”
"It's like a big family"
“The team at the yacht club have been amazing too,” smiles Zoe. “Especially on the bar side. I feel very welcome and we’re always helping each other to get through the shifts smoothly. It’s like a big family.”
As Club Manager at NCYC, Matt Stamp, explains, Zoe is a much-loved member of that family. “When I first met Zoe, she was very quiet. But she’s really come out of her shell. She’s bubbly, she gets on well with the customers, she’s even teaching our newer staff members some of the procedures. She’s become one of the really strong members of our team.”
“Omnia Inclusive has been very supportive too,” Matt continues. “We’re in regular contact and they’re always willing to lend their support – not just for Zoe, but for us as well. It’s a great partnership.”
Matt explains it’s a partnership that also helps to send a strong and positive message to the wider Newcastle community.
“Community is such a big part of what the NCYC stands for,” says Matt. “It’s important to be inclusive and representative, and having fantastic team members like Zoe sets such a great example. It says we’re not just here to make money. We’re here to be supportive of everyone in our community and that really reflects in how our customers see us – as a safe, comfortable and inclusive environment.”
"Often it is more about reassurance"
Whilst he’s undeniably proud of Zoe’s fantastic progress, Omnia Inclusive Case Manager, Cameron Dawson, isn’t at all surprised. “Since day one we knew Zoe was super capable,” he explains. “My job is usually far more about providing reassurance and reminding her that she’s on the right path and encouraging her to stick with what she’s doing.”
In the early days, Cameron spent a lot of time ensuring her colleagues and managers at the yacht club understood the challenges she faced due to her hearing impairment and anxiety. “The Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club has been incredibly good in accommodating Zoe’s needs,” says Cameron. “For example, when things get really noisy at work, they know it can be quite overwhelming for Zoe. She also relies a lot on reading lips, so if people aren’t looking at her it can be hard for her to understand them. We really worked hard to make everyone aware of that, especially during Covid with people wearing masks.”
Liaising directly with Zoe’s managers has been another important way Omnia Inclusive has supported her. “I’ve always been a bit scared to speak about my needs,” says Zoe. “Cameron can come in and talk to my boss and supervisors if I need him to. He also makes sure I get days off when I’m feeling sick or just need a break.”
"Zoe knows she can pick up the phone, day or night"
“If there’s ever an issue at work, if she needs emotional support or maybe have her appointments rescheduled, Zoe knows she can always pick up the phone, day or night,” Cameron adds. “She’s just an incredible young person. Watching her journey at the yacht club has been really inspiring. We’re all so proud and we’ll continue to support Zoe into the future, whether that’s with study, employment or something else entirely. She has so much to offer – and so much to look forward to.”

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