Back to her roots – Helena’s story.
Port Adelaide job seeker Helena has overcome physical and mental challenges to reconnect with her passion, landing a job with Amazon Plant Growers.
Helena has always had a love for the natural environment. Growing up, she spent many hours gardening with her beloved father, who she credits for her green thumb and appreciation for plants.
A rocky road
After finishing high school, Helena gained a Secretarial Diploma and secured her first job in an Account’s office, as was expected of a female at that time. But within 12 months she became disillusioned. Helena found a job she enjoyed as a plant propagator with a plant nursery, but she had to leave after having her daughter and becoming a single parent. “It was a male-dominated industry with no flexibility around working hours for a single mother and was impossible to manage,” Helena said.
When her daughter commenced school, Helena enrolled in TAFE, juggling a part-time Diploma in Natural Resources for four years with her parental responsibilities. She found a job with ForestySA and enjoyed her contribution to the revegetation as well as weed control in protected patches of bushland within the Adelaide Hills. She also began a 20-year journey volunteering as a grower with Trees for Life, a non-profit organisation that protects and restores bushland, farms, and urban areas of South Australia. This all came to a halt when Helena injured her back.
After three years of attending physiotherapy and pain management services, she began a ten-year career in retail. “I didn’t enjoy it, and I was having to sell products that contained or were animal products which went against my ethics,” Helena said. “The culture was also extremely difficult, with 8-9 hours of standing which greatly exacerbated my back pain. I was a high-performer but I did not feel valued or supported at all.”
After leaving the retail industry, Helena met with the team at MatchWorks Port Adelaide. “As soon as I came to MatchWorks I could tell it was different,” Helena said.
MatchWorks Employment Consultant, Andre Denew, focused on identifying Helena’s passions. “It became clear that Helena’s heart was set on finding a role working with the environment,” Andre said.
“Andre was the one who really helped me,” Helena said. “I had no luck with previous job agencies; it was depressing and distressing when I couldn’t get a job that aligned with my life-long passion for plants, but Andre was a breath of fresh air with his positivity.”
Andre supported Helena to:
- Manage the anxiety she felt with potential roles.
- Build her self-esteem with MatchWorks’ Health and Wellbeing team.
- Bolster her confidence during her transition back to employment.
- Successfully connect with suitable employers.
“We narrowed down nurseries in the neighbourhood and our Business Development Consultant, Michael Dejanovic identified a potential employer through reverse marketing which led to an interview for Helena with Amazon Plant Growers,” Andre said.
“I was scared, and I thought why would they give me a job? I’d been out of the horticultural industry professionally for so long and I questioned whether I would be physically capable of performing the job. I also didn’t want to let the employer down,” Helena said. “I felt embarrassed to ask for help with these feelings, but I got support from MatchWorks to work through that. My fellow job seekers there were really encouraging too.”
Coming full circle
“When I arrived at the interview, I realised that this was the very same location I had worked on 27 years prior when it was a different nursery! We chatted and I had a tour of the nursery grounds – I thought it was so beautiful. When another employee left a week later, I was offered a job.”
“Helena is an inspiration,” Andre said. “She is softly-spoken but has a strong voice when it comes to the environment.”
“I’m so grateful for this job as I just love gardening and being outdoors. I split my workdays so I have downtime to recover physically, but it’s just such a passion for me that it almost overrides any pain,” Helena said.
“I’ve been fortunate that I have been able to continue my walking and swimming at the beach, and I’ve just started going to the gym after many years; I want to build up my strength so I can comfortably lift the heavy pots at work.
“Like my Dad says, ‘There’s always hope.’”