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20 years

Martin Wren - CEO Nova Employment
Martin Wren - CEO
Nova Employment
Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wednesday September 1st 2010 marks 20 years in my present job.

Twenty years now,
Where’d they go?
Twenty years now,
I don’t know,
I sit and I wonder sometimes,
Where they’ve gone
(Bob Seger)

Wow! – Bob was right - where did they go?

There have been so many changes and so much has been achieved it’s difficult to remember how things were in 1990.

Here’s a few:

No Disability Support Pension – the applicable payment back then was referred to as the “Invalid Pension”. Just to help you understand the stigma this cast on recipients try highlighting ‘invalid’ and check the synonyms: worthless, null or void.

The CES (Commonwealth Employment Service) staff was not allowed to assist Invalid Pension recipients to get a job.

The present supported wage system in place today has replaced the 1990’s ‘Slow Workers Permit’ – a system that provided a minimum (I think it was $40) payment to be made instead of the independently monitored and administered system in place today.

No guidebooks, no training, no place to turn accept other equally inexperienced albeit well meaning beginners. We all looked to the United States as the Mecca of supported employment and gobbled up whatever crumbs we could find.

These days Australian programs are as good as or better than those found anywhere in the world.

No internet – thank heavens, no blasted ‘Seek’!

No (or at least very few) mobile phones.

NOVA’s initial inventory:

1 x 3 legged stool
1 x K-Mart typists chair
2 x broken desks (no drawers)
1 x home phone
1 x 3 draw filing cabinet
1 x Yellow Pages

I drove a Toyota Hiace van that regularly suffered from its equivalent of panic attacks (side of the road, trembling).

For myself I had a burning desire to ‘make a difference’ although for the life of me I was uncertain how that might best be accomplished. I read everything I could gather from teachers, libraries and through the embryonic network of other service providers. I was significantly assisted by their generosity and the help of the late Pamela Dennis (METS) was particularly valued.

Our single office has grown to 26 and many thousands of young men and women have subsequently trusted their career goals to me and to my staff (now close to 200 people). Along the way we’ve stuck to the knitting and only get involved in programs and projects that are directly related to the employment of people with a disability.

This has been a great journey and every year has helped me learn and grow.

To the thousands of job seekers and workers that have joined us and to the hundreds of colleagues that have encouraged and inspired me, to those who have helped me stay on the right track and helped me see where I could improve and how NOVA could develop:
Thank you all so very, very much.


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