Changing course and making a difference

The pandemic brought huge change for many, and it inspired Meg Madeley to revisit forgotten passions through the Free TAFE program.

Meg owned and ran a successful small retail business for over a decade. Early mornings at community markets selling pure vanilla products gave her the opportunity to meet others from all walks of life. Meg knew the business like the back of her hand, so it came as a surprise to many when she decided to start afresh and pursue another career path in 2020.

Going through a period of change, Meg felt the pull to revisit her passion for disability care. With lived experience in that area, and having previously worked in the field, Meg wanted to use her time to help others experiencing hardship. It was the support she received during her own mental health recovery that gave her the push to make her goal a reality.

Enrolling in a Certificate IV in Mental Health through Free TAFE at Melbourne Polytechnic, Meg was able to follow her dream.

‘I saw first-hand how important those support services such as regular peer group sessions were in my recovery.'

‘I was going through a difficult time in my life and I wanted to give back.’

‘It was the best decision I’ve ever made.’

Meg was initially nervous to go back to study in her 40s. Logging on and using a computer after so many years put a dent in her confidence along with realising that her class was a mixture of ages including those much younger than her.

‘Once I pushed through those nerves and fears of being judged, it opened up something greater and it was so worth it,’ Meg said.

Finding strength in giving back

Meg says that the course helped her get out of a really bad place. The textbook theory helped her understand what she was experiencing and gave her better insight into how to help others overcome their own challenges.

‘I learned valuable lessons from my teachers who have worked in the industry and developed strong friendships with my classmates.'

‘Having this incredible opportunity to study something I love in my 40s, I’m a big believer in giving back and proud to share my story to new students,’ she said.

After undertaking the 12-month course, Meg felt well-equipped and prepared to enter the workforce and now works for Animo NDIS where she enjoys creating rapport with each client. Something she also enjoyed while working in her retail business – helping people with their individual needs.

‘We specialise in mental health support, and I see 2 to 3 clients a day which can involve simply helping them get through their day.'

‘Some have such severe anxiety that just having someone encourage them out of their home to go and get groceries is all they need,’ Meg said.

Meg has made the effort to listen to her clients and truly understand them, which can involve knowing what they’re not saying at times.

‘Learning their triggers and behaviour patterns allows me to have a better relationship with my clients.'

‘I don’t take the trust from my clients lightly. It took a lot of time and patience to get them to a point where they feel completely comfortable around me,’ she said.

The streamlined nature of her course, together with the expertise of her teachers, taught her valuable lessons which have allowed her to transition smoothly into helping people with mental health related challenges. She’s proud of what she’s achieved and says TAFE was an invaluable source of education.

‘I love being able to make a difference and want to inspire others that even if you’re going through a challenging time, there is hope on the other side,’ Meg said.

Read more on the Free TAFE program.