It’s not about what you can’t do – it’s about what you can do

“Everyone can get out there and do something.” Scoota tells us why work is important to him and why he thinks everyone with intellectual disability should give it a go.

Scott Gerhardy – or Scoota as most people know him – works at the Riverina Co-op in Wagga Wagga, which provides supplies to farmers in the area. He has worked there for 19 years.

How did you get your job at Riverina Co-op?
When I left school I knew I wanted to get a job. Get up on my own two feet and do something. 

I went to a Disability Employment Service (DES) and they helped me with my resume. They got me work experience at the Co-op. I just did 2 hours once a week to start. But I loved it and I wanted to do more.

After a while they rang me up and said “we’ve got a job for you. Can you start next week?”

How does it feel to have a job?
When I first got the job it felt awesome. I remember it like yesterday. Just sensational. It was my Dad’s birthday the next day. I told Dad “I got you a birthday present but I can’t wrap it up.” 

He said “what is it son?”

I said “I got a job at the Co-op.” He was so happy for me. He said that was his best birthday present ever.

It felt real good to get my first pay check and get some money coming in. I know I had my pension, but it’s different getting money you’ve worked for. It’s awesome.

With my wages I’ve furnished my man cave, or the stadium as I call it. I paid for the floor, my recliners, the surround sound. Everything. It’s good to earn money and buy the things I want. 

It’s not all about the money though. It’s about being a part of something, getting out there and doing something. Getting involved.

I wouldn’t leave my job if someone gave me a million dollars. I just love it here.

What do you like about your job?
Everything! I love the people that I work with. It feels like a family. I always say to new staff “welcome to the family”, because that is what it’s like. Everyone gets on, we all look out for each other, we have a laugh and a joke.

I like doing the heavy lifting. It keeps me fit. I’m pretty strong and I’ve got some good muscles from lifting everything.

I like having a chat with the customers. Everyone’s really friendly and they all know me. I like helping them find what they need and put it in their cars for them.

I’m the second longest serving employee at the Co-op. My goal is to stay here for another 20 years and be the longest serving employee in Co-op history. I can’t imagine working anywhere else.

What do you find hard about your job?
When I first started they gave me jobs to do and I found it hard when my jobs ran out. What do I do next? I felt like I was asking a lot. But now I just look around and see what needs to be done. And get on with it. So I have learnt to use my initiative. 

I did full time for a while. But my body told me to back off, it’s too much. I do 3 days a week most of the time now. Sometimes I do an extra day here or there if we’re really busy. And that’s good, my body can manage this.

Why is work important to you?
Work gives me a reason to get up in the morning. It makes me feel good. You feel like you’re wanted, not left out in the cold. You belong. You’ve got all your friends there.

I’d be so bored if I didn’t have a job. I’d go mad if I was just at home all day.

What do your work colleagues like about you?
My smile, my personality. And I just get on and do things. I don’t complain. I’m cheerful every morning.

People say to me “you’re never grumpy.” And I say “what’s the point of being grumpy?”

I cheer other people up and put a bit of happiness in them. 

What do the customers like about you?
I give them service with a smile. All the customers know me. Some of them even ask for me to serve them. I’m friendly and I have a chat.

And I’m helpful. If I’m in the shop I take the customer to the product, I don’t just point out where it is. I never keep people waiting around, I help them straight away and leave whatever else I am doing.

What would you like to do in the future?
I’d like to get my driving licence. Have a crack. That’d make me even more independent. I’d still cycle to work sometimes, but it would be nice to have the choice.

Maybe even get my forklift licence for work. That would be awesome.

What advice would you give to people who think they can’t get a job?
I’d encourage anyone to have a go. Everyone has challenges in their life. But I say it’s not about what you can’t do, it’s about what you can do.

You don’t know what you can do until you give it a go. You might surprise yourself.

I’ve had challenges in my life. When I was a kid I had a problem with my heart. It was a 30 minute drive to the hospital and I nearly didn’t make it. But I tell people I’ve got a strong heart like Phar Lap!

The doctor told me I’d never walk again, that I’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. But I proved them wrong. Other people have said I can’t do things because of my health, or my disability. But I don’t believe in can’t.

My legs have given way on me a few times and it’s pretty scary. It’s like my brain won’t let my legs move. I can’t lift my foot up. But I have been to different hospitals and taken different medications and it has helped. I take medication every day now but I just get on with things.

I’ve never let my disability define who I am. I play sport, I cycle to work, I do a physical job. I’m out there and I’m doing. And that’s what I’d tell people. Everyone can get out there and do something.

What would you say to employers who aren’t sure about employing someone with a disability?
I’d say give it a go. I’ve got a disability but I’m a hard worker, I’m reliable and I give it 100 percent. I always show up. I’ve never pulled a sickie.

I’ve got a good memory and I know where everything is kept. I’ve got ideas to improve things too, like putting all the chemicals in alphabetical order in the warehouse to make everyone’s job easier.

Some people don’t stick around. I’ve seen lots of staff come and go, but I’m still here and I’m here for the long haul.

So give it a go. You could get someone as good as me!

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More Than Just a Job is funded through an NDIS Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) grant.

Published 24 May 2019


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