Swansea couple Jimmy and Sharnae Berresford are on a mission to educate people about autism, which will be celebrated this Friday on World Autism Awareness Day.
The pair, both autistic, work locally.
Jimmy began working with Ventia in November last year as a cleaner at Swansea High School.
He’s one of 85 people with a disability employed by the company on the NSW Whole of Government Facilities Management Services contract.
Jimmy said having a job gave him a purpose and a work ethic.
“The job is more than just cleaning the door handles; it’s working for a company putting their best foot forward in the community to have disability inclusion,” he explained.
“I like my job because I’m part of something that means something.”
Jimmy’s passion is playing pool, and he has competed in Las Vegas, coming fifth in his division, and he plays in tournaments around Sydney.
“I’m in a unique position where I am autistic and I understand other people’s autism and I can communicate that to people who might want to hear,” he said.
“I think my dream job would be to do that and get paid and have a pool table in my office and become world champion.”
Jimmy said for people who were autistic, everything was over-stimulated – noises were louder, noses were more sensitive and even emotions were heightened, which could be exhausting.
“Autism is not scary and it doesn’t need to be cured,” he stated.
“I think people with autism tend to have more detailed-orientated thinking, where most people tend to see the big picture.”
Jimmy and Sharnae believe one thing people can do to make those with autism feel more comfortable is “not talk down to us, we’re not stupid”.
“Treat them how you would treat everyone else, with respect,” Sharnae said.
“We’re humans with thoughts and feelings as well.”
Ventia disability and social inclusion manager Daniel Osgood said Jimmy had proven to be a diligent worker who took his job very seriously.
“Making sure everything is done properly and the correct way to keep everyone safe at the school is a really important attribute he brings to the school,” he added.
Statistics show about 17% of Australia’s population has a disability, which is about 4.4 million people, but only 53% participate in the workforce.
“At Ventia, we think it’s really important to reflect the community we serve by delivering a service that is inclusive for everyone,” Mr Osgood said.
“There’s a whole workforce out there with a disability waiting for their opportunity to showcase their skills and talents.
“Increasing your workplace diversity will bring unique skills, new ideas, new ways of thinking and a broader appeal for your business.”
Ventia is looking for cleaners to service school and TAFE facilities across the Newcastle, Central Coast, Upper Hunter and Western Sydney areas.
For further information and to apply, visit https://jobs.broadspectrum.com/go/Education-Jobs/8486800/