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.”

Tailored support

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.”

Helena feels like she is home in her role at Amazon Plant Growers (with Andre Denew).

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.’”

Find out more about our employment services for job seekers and businesses, or call 1300 13 23 63 to chat to your local team.