Briar’s talent and potential recognised at inclusive Sydney law firm
Working for an inclusive employer has been life-changing for Briar Thompson.
The 36 year old who lives with Cerebral Palsy had been looking for an accommodating workplace for three years before MatchWorks connected her to PW Lawyers. Recognising Briar’s talents and abilities, co-owner Anthony Fillbrook created a two day a week policy writing job where her skills and qualifications could be applied.
“I was apprehensive because I had been to so many interviews where they can’t provide flexibility,” Briar said.
“I was amazed when Anthony said it was no problem to attend medical appointments so my health doesn’t decline. …The fact that I had health conditions, physically and mentally seemed not to phase him.
“They created a flexible job where I could use my qualifications – it was very exciting and has given me a sense of purpose.”
“It has given me opportunity, a sense of joy… I get to use my brain, I get to socialise, and I feel like I’m contributing…work really changes your outlook on life.”Briar Thompson
The Sydney-based law firm’s inclusive recruitment practices have been inspired by Anthony who grew up with learning difficulties and a speech impediment.
“As a child, I struggled to stick with things,” Anthony said.
“The school was trying to work out what to do with me and what I heard was ‘Anthony will always be behind the eight-ball, he will always struggle’. That expression stuck with me.”
The challenges continued for Anthony when he left school and started work in sales. Yet he was determined to change his future.
“After a year, I thought, ‘I don’t want to live this way. I’m going to learn to be a student of success, read whatever I have to read to get there.’”
Anthony persevered to build a successful IT business, then graduate with a law degree at age 42.
“I had to work very hard,” Anthony said. It was a proud moment when he won the Legal Profession Admission Board Prize for Practice and Procedure.
These experiences have shaped the culture built by Anthony and his partner, Andrew at PW Lawyers.
Inclusive recruitment and retention practices have been embedded with support from Parineeta Ubhiryane from MatchWorks, and around 40 per cent of the business support team are people who faced obstacles in life and employment.
“We believe people with barriers should be given an opportunity to use their skills and abilities to the greatest advantage,” Anthony said.
“All our employees are valued members of our team and our clients are our priority. We make no exceptions to our standards, and make sure our team can do the job without excuses.
“As an employer, you’ve got to be patient and meet people at their level…Expectations need to be realistic, and we need to work with their strengths and skills.”
Since starting with the Lindfield-based firm in April 2022, Briar has taken the lead to implement a Mental Health Program to support employees at the firm.
Her leadership skills have also been recognised, and with PW Lawyers support, Briar is being mentored by a Bendigo Bank leader to develop a new Community Assistance Program. This initiative is currently providing financial and social support to local organisations including Plant Rescue Ku-ring-gai, and homelessness support hub Dom’s Place.
“Briar is very capable and looks at challenges from a different perspective. I can see her on a board in five years,” Anthony said.
“If we all did a bit, the world would be a better place.”
Find out more about MatchWorks Disability Employment Services