In celebration of International Day of People with a Disability, we caught up with Catchment Scientist Tom Johnston to discuss his role with us and why it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate people who have a disability.
How did you come to work for Hunter Water and when?
After I completed my architecture degree at the University of Newcastle, I searched for jobs within that industry for a while without success. This led me to join several disability employment agencies who unfortunately didn’t have the contacts to find any opportunities either. This lasted for a period of 18 months until a family member who likes to read the local paper when they visit from Sydney, saw a small piece about Castle Personnel’s Inclusive 100 program, which is a program that targets and signs up businesses of varying sizes to commit to some form of disability work experience scheme.
Dissatisfied with the results I was getting at the agency I was with, I met with Castle in October 2019 and by December I had started a month-long work experience program. At the end of that, I was offered a job contract to continue on with Hunter Water and I am still enjoying my time here a year later.
What do you do here?
Since starting at Hunter Water in late 2019, I have been involved in a number of areas, working on a broad range of topics. During my work experience I worked on waste management. When I started my contract, I moved into the Environment and Sustainability team and whilst I was there I focused on heritage management.
Since October I have been working in the Catchment Operations team, where I am responsible for daily and weekly checklists to ensure that Hunter Water is compliant with our current water licences and monitoring our catchments and algae levels.
How do you find Hunter Water with regards to being inclusive of people with a disability?
I believe Hunter Water is very inclusive of people with a disability, but more importantly, the people that work for the organisation are as well. Before I started I was a little apprehensive, as anyone is on their first day, disability or not, but within my first few days and in the weeks ahead I realised that I never had anything to worry about.
Everyone that I have met in my time thus far has been warm, welcoming and supportive towards me, but also to the people that I have brought into the office. Most importantly, is the understanding that my needs may be different to others, whether that be the number of hours worked per day, to which days of the week are more suitable. This combined has enabled me to start my career.
Why is it important for organisations and people generally to acknowledge and celebrate International Day of People with a Disability?
I think the day is important because it raises awareness and understanding within the community towards people who have a disability. A lot of people may not have had a lot of exposure or interactions with people with a disability, so a day like this can highlight the meaningful contributions made and change some public perceptions around disabilities.
I believe it is important for organisations to acknowledge the importance of the day because they are the ones who have the power and influence to introduce and implement policies to help people with a disability to join the workforce, like Hunter Water with Castle’s Inclusive 100 initiative.
Diversity and Inlcusion
At Hunter Water we fundamentally believe in and commit to diversity and inclusion.