CONTENT WARNING: This story discusses sensitive topics that some viewers may find distressing. If this story raises any issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. 

Seeking a placement as part of Certificate IV in Youth Work studies with RMIT amid lockdowns in Melbourne was challenging, and Youth Projects was one of the few organisations still open, so Sharni reached out. Although we weren’t taking on any new student placements at the time, Sharni took a brave side-step of self-referring to seek support with a few other things going on in her life at the time.  

And that’s where Sharni’s journey with Youth Projects began... 

In 2021, Sharni received support through our Disability Employment Services (DES) program, where she was also connected with our Youth outreach services (YHOP and YNOT) for a complete, wrap-around support. She received help and support with living independently for the first time, substance use, building independence, navigating her desired career path, and finding suitable employment that embraced her disability as a super-power.  

With the support of these programs, Sharni began her journey towards building her skills, knowledge, and independence. She expressed her aspirations to work in Youth Work, and immediately our Youth Coaches saw Sharni’s potential. 

When Youth Projects announced our expansion into the Western suburbs, we started advertising for Customer Service Officers (CSOs) to be the beating-heart of our new Youth Hubs. Sharni's coaches recognised this as an excellent entry-level role for her and thought she would make a fantastic candidate – she had the skills and demonstrated the passions we were looking for. 

“Our CSO role is a great entry-level role for a young person who has a passion for youth work or community service work to gain sustainable employment in a frontline role, with limited experience. As part of our focus on employing people with lived experience, helping young people see how their lived experience and transferable skills can be utilised to take the first step in their career journey.” - Angela Gaylard, People & Culture Manager at Youth Projects. 

Sharni's presence has brought a refreshing energy to our Sunshine Youth Hub, and more recently she has joined the team at our Glenroy Youth Hub.  

She radiates positivity, loves a game of table tennis, makes an amazing coffee, and always has snacks on hand. Outside of work, Sharni finds joy in simple pleasures including watching movies, spending quality time with friends, and transforming her new house into a home. 

“Sharni has been able to run our Glenroy Youth Hub like it is her own, demonstrating pride in keeping the place organised, showing innovation in the design of new projects, and most importantly, creating a safe and comfortable space for young people to access. Across all aspects of her recent annual performance appraisal, Sharni rated above average, with their manager noting that her performance consistently exceeds the position requirements and specifically commented on how impressed they have been with her resilience, flexibility, and drive to develop.” - Angela Gaylard, People & Culture Manager at Youth Projects. 

Sharni acknowledges that Youth Projects has played a crucial role in her journey, offering ongoing support and balancing the roles of an employee and a client, even assisting her in the transition to her own apartment and provided personal leave when needed.  

Looking into the future, Sharni's dream is to open her own alternative school, where she hopes to serve as the principal - a school specifically designed to cater to disadvantaged young people, including those with learning differences or those who may have disengaged from traditional educational settings. 

Her passion for this stems from her own experience in attending an alternative school, where she completed her Year 12 education and credits this experience with "changing [my] life and making education actually fun." 

In the future, Sharni intends to expand her career into teaching, especially with the recent announcement of free teaching degrees at Melbourne universities. 

Sharni's journey has inspired many and demonstrates how the power of self-determination, combined with tailored support, ensures young people are able to realise their full potential when given the opportunity.  

And her journey does not end there... 

We have an exciting update to announce... Sharni has moved into her next chapter at Youth Projects, working as a Youth Coach, at our Werribee Hub. And as you can guess she is already killing it! We could not be prouder and happier for her, and we know she will continue to shine and make such an impact with everyone she works with. Having been through the program herself, we could not think of a better coach. She is a beacon of hope, inspiration and brings first-hand experience into everything she does! Keep an eye out for her at Werribee and book in fast because she is in high demand! 

If you want to find out more about Disability Employment Services, please send us a message here or please give us a call at (03) 9304 9100.