In 2007 Kathy, her husband Fred and their young daughter Jade (12) migrated to Australia from New Zealand. The years prior to this had been particularly rough on Kathy with both parents passing away. Moving to Australia, and the many emotional and physical changes associated with adjusting to life in a new country, significantly impacted Kathy’s mental health. In 2012, Kathy was referred to Flourish Australia where her support worker asked her if she’d like to join the Pre-Employ program. After completing the course, Kathy was placed in a reception position where she started to mentor others in the computer skills she’d learnt. Growing in confidence and ability, Kathy successfully applied for and secured a full time role, her first since her mental health issues had emerged.
Today, Kathy is a peer worker at Flourish Australia in Surry Hills and Harris Park. As a peer worker Kathy is an integral part of our team encouraging people who access our services to think about their recovery journey and where they want to head. Using her own lived experience purposefully Kathy provides important support and inspiration to people. This includes using one of our vital behaviours, recovery conversations, to help people think about their hopes and dreams, and how Flourish Australia can support them along the way. Given Flourish Australia’s focus on physical health, Kathy also facilitates a popular cooking class for healthy living and healthy eating. “I’m so grateful that I can pass on what I’ve learned,” says Kathy. “I love every day that I go to work. It’s really hard to explain but seeing people’s confidence and self esteem grow makes me so happy, and they know I’ll always be there to support them. When we have a new intake of employees at Harris Park, I’ll always tell them I have a lived experience,” says Kathy. “I’ll say ‘don’t be frightened, you’re not the only one’.”
Kathy’s empathy and understanding is evident in every interaction she has at Flourish Australia. “I’m very, very proud of myself that I’ve come this far,” says Kathy. “I’m still eager to learn more so I can support people with mental health issue - I’ve been there, I know what it feels like and now I want to support others as much as I can".