Jade works with NUAA as an Aboriginal Peer Worker.
I had been using for 16 years and was on the run when I had just had enough.
I gave myself up and the judge sent me to the MERIT Program for 12 weeks. About half way in, I thought “I am actually drug free! I can really do this!” — I realised I could use the things I was learning even after I left.
When I got out, I started to build a new life. I wanted to keep my mind and body busy. I was getting stronger day-by-day. I needed work and wanted a job I was passionate about.
I’ve always wanted to do something to help other Koori people, right back from when I was at school. I knew that with my drug-use experience, I could help people going through some of the same things I had.
I decided to go to TAFE and get the skills to be of service to my community. I did the Certificate 4 in Community Development and the Certificate 4 in Alcohol and Drugs and finally the Diploma in Alcohol and Drugs. At first, I was really nervous going to the classes. It was hard to come out of my shell and get to know the other students, but I got there. I got some tutoring to help me through the course, because my previous schooling ended at Year 10.
As the course went on, I realised how much I was enjoying learning new skills, meeting new people and bettering myself. I felt on top of the world.
I also learnt from text books and research what I had always felt to be true -– that community members know their communities best and have a huge opportunity to change things.
My personal path saw me get fitter –- I joined a Koori women’s footy team –- and I gave up smoking tobacco after being embarrassed by wheezing during training! Playing footy was more important to me than smoking, so I just got the courage to stop. My team played in the Koori Knock Out last year! We didn’t win, but we had a great time.
One of the best things to happen to me was getting the position of Aboriginal Peer Support Worker with NUAA, working out of a drug and alcohol service in Western Sydney. I had applied for a similar position earlier but didn’t get it. Luckily, that didn’t stop me trying. I was thrilled to get this job, it’s right up my alley.
Working with people who know me, with whom I share important things, is great. It’s amazing what can happen when someone can come into a service and relate to a worker, and the worker can relate to the service user. So much good can happen in that space.
I give out new equipment so people can inject more safely; give them info about avoiding, testing for and treating hep C; advise them about how the system works; share my experience and listen to them. They know they can trust me, which I will treat them with respect and treat their info with the privacy it deserves.
I believe everyone has skills. Some of us have the gift of the gab or the gift of the earn, but whatever it is, we all have something we can use to be of value to our community. Just the power of relating to each other and knowing we are part of a group that gets each other because we have “been there” can be enough.
I am so happy where I am in my life. It’s been a lot of work, but I’m living a life that I am passionate about, contributing something valuable, and connected with my family, my people and my community.