My autism was never frowned upon - it was, in fact, celebrated
During Autism Awareness Month, there’s no better time to reflect on the fact that ‘if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism’. That said, you’ve got to start somewhere, and this April we’re starting with Julian - Hireup’s government and public affairs officer.
Can you please tell us about yourself?
My name is Julian, I am 21 years old and live in Sydney. I was diagnosed with high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger's Syndrome) at a young age, and I spent most of my childhood and teenage life feeling different to those around me. While the kids my age were passionate about playing sports, I was more interested in public transport, specifically trains. I was incredibly fortunate to have a mum who’s a primary school teacher, so she could very quickly identify why I was behaving differently to some of the other children around me. I was also taught from a young age what being on the autism spectrum means and it was never something hidden from me or frowned upon. It was, in fact, celebrated!
Through learning about the autism spectrum and what this meant for me I developed a strong passion for advocating for change. In 2018, I developed a business plan for a school assignment which won state and national awards at the Commonwealth Bank 2018 “Plan your own enterprise competition.” In 2019 as I was finishing school, a family friend recommended I put my interest in public transport to good use, and assist her son with catching public transport. They convinced me to sign up to Hireup as a support worker, and I’ve connected with many clients. From there, I landed a role in the Hireup Support Office as a Team Builder, then I recently moved internally to the role of Corporate and Public Affairs Officer.
What have you learnt being a support worker?
Becoming a Hireup support worker has taught me that everyone is unique and different, and that there’s no such thing as normal! I love seeing clients I work with achieve one of their goals we’ve been working on. A couple of years ago a client of mine won an award for outstanding safety on public transport, which we’d worked on together. Support work has also taught me patience and to think outside the box when someone I am working with is taking time to achieve one of their goals. This is where my Aspergers is helpful - in certain contexts I’ll have an awareness and understanding that could be missed by a neurotypical person. I can empathise with people I’m supporting, when they encounter the same obstacles that I’ve experienced myself. I believe we need more people with disability doing support work to help and encourage future generations.
Why did you choose Hireup?
I chose Hireup because of the choice and control it offers its users. I was also moved hearing the story of Jordan and Laura O’Reilly, Hireup’s Co-CEOs and I immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of a business that is for-purpose and genuinely has the best interests of its users at heart. Hireup’s employment model meant I had all my payroll, taxation and superannuation covered and didn’t need copious hours of all of this paperwork but could instead spend that time doing more support work and helping more people in our community.
When the opportunity came to join the Hireup support office I immediately jumped at it and I moved into Team Builder to help provide the best matches for our community. I recently moved into Hireup’s Corporate Affairs team as a Corporate and Public Affairs Officer.
Can you tell us about the Hireup client services team?
Client Services are teams of dedicated people that assist Hireup’s community by providing help to those who need it. For example, helping clients find the right support workers, or managing the admin of someone’s account, and being one point of contact for our community. I was part of Team Builder, helping people to get set up on Hireup and get started on building their team of support workers.
What does Autism Awareness Month mean to you?
As a young man with Asperger's Syndrome, Autism Awareness Month means to me breaking down the stereotypes around autism and educating our neurotypical friends to be more aware and appreciative of what it’s like to live with autism. There are many people that live with autism that go on to have very successful and independent lives, and to reiterate one of my points earlier, there is no such thing as normal!
You can find out more about Hireup and their services by visiting their website.