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Walking the walk; where there’s a will, there’s Wendy’s way

Wendy Clarke, Aged Care graduate
Think, if you will, of what a person should be. Wendy Clark is that. Read Wendy's inspiring story.

By Michael Short

 

Think, if you will, of what a person should be. Wendy Clark is that.

The kindness, decency, and respect she shows aged care residents in the places she now works tell part of her amazing story. It’s a tale of adversity and grit, of education and determination, of what can happen when barriers to opportunity are removed.

One of the biggest things I found is that you don’t know someone’s story until you give them the compassion and talk with family. We had one lady come in to do palliative care training, and she was talking away, and I was saying this woman is amazing, she’s got so much knowledge, and she was talking about her mum and what some of us didn’t realise was that her mum was one of our residents.
 
And half the people in the room just burst into tears and we learnt so much from her about who her mother really was that just have made the passion for doing what I’m doing so much more important.
 
Wendy’s story is peppered with difficulty. It is ultimately, though, inspiring.
 
Her first marriage, from which came three children, ended because of domestic violence. She re-married and had four more children.
 
I hated studying as I was growing up. My brother was the straight-A student, and when I started high school everyone expected me to be him and I couldn’t be him because I didn’t have the skills that he had. I repeated year 10 twice, and then I repeated year 11, and then I started having kids, and when I was pregnant with my daughter, only just gotten pregnant with my daughter, and I went back and did my VCE and I got through and I’ve always been, I guess, a little bit harsh on my kids telling them to get an education. Get a job, travel, and then settle down and have kids. Don’t do what I did. don’t have kids first and not have an education.
 
Wendy’s had a lot of experience looking after people. She is a valued, skilled carer professionally.
 
And personally. Two of her three children from her second marriage live with autism. Her second husband has debilitating diabetes type one, is a double amputee, and had a kidney transplant 10 years ago.
 
So, she really didn’t have much evident space to study and work. But she made some and after an early setback, kept pushing, graduated, and found the work she so desired.
 

I’m proud because I’ve actually got through and finished it and done it and passed and hopefully, I can inspire a few women and young girls and older women to go out and give it a shot. My kids are very, very proud and even my husband he can’t stop bragging, he is very over the moon for last six weeks. He’s had three cases of being admitted to hospital and I wasn’t able to get in there yesterday to go and check on him and my son was there and he recorded the conversation with the doctor and in the first five minutes, he (my husband) was just talking about it, and I’m like oh my god shut up and just get on with what you need to do. He’s very, very proud.

WomenCAN’s peer-support program The Placement Circle is central to Wendy’s success and that of the now several hundred women the organisation has helped gain training and employment. Its coordinator, Trish Bourke, knows Wendy well.
Tris Bourke, Peer Support

Here’s Trish:

Something I noticed about Wendy was that when things got tough (as they did, often) she would find a solution, and she would seek help with finding that solution. She effectively used the resources around her rather than burying her head in the sand and hoping the difficulty would disappear.

Wendy was also dogged in her determination to complete her training. She showed a tenacity with her theory work that was unwavering and again she used her resources effectively when it got too hard.

Wendy understands the Placement Circle ethos perfectly. She received the support she needed from WCA but she also built strong connections with and supported her fellow trainees.

CEO and Founder Mikaela Stafrace is also celebrating Wendy’s success.

“Wendy’s story epitomises the effect WomenCAN Australia can have on lives. She is encouraging others to do what she has done. She is leading by example, and she is determined to help others. She is inspiring,” says Mikaela.

And the last word, obviously, should go to Wendy.

I am so grateful for doing this program. I’ve absolutely loved it and I’ve loved the ladies I have worked with. I’ve loved having the opportunities that I’ve been given.

It’s just being able to share with residents and being able to get to know them and being able to make a difference. You can have someone who’s sitting there feeling really down and you sit down and go what’s going on, why are you like this today, and they just go and blurt it all out and then you sit there and you listen to them, you actually take the time to listen and understand who they are And then you make the residents feel better and it makes me feel good too.
 
Michael Short is a seasoned journalist, previously served as the communications manager for WomenCAN Australia.
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