By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Being a musician, Berwick man Dave Stergo knows well the barriers to work.
“You can’t just do one thing as a musician,” he says.
He started his own music business, studied sound production and tapped into some new-found fame after appearing on talent show The X Factor.
He created a business in which he could earn a living from covers and tribute songs, but also explore original song-writing under the entity The Winter Angel.
“It’s still in the beginning and the music industry is a difficult one.
“But at least I can say I’m earning more than 80 per cent of musicians – even though that’s not much.”
As The Winter Angel, his mission is to sing “messages of hope”.
“It’s not over-the-top positive but exploring the real issues in life I’ve experienced through my family and people I know.”
But for all his initiative, he said he needed a bit of support. Apart from getting him his first paid gig, his employment agency WISE Employment gave him a mentor who helped him navigate the system.
“Sometimes it’s a matter of talking.”
From WISE’s example, Mr Stergo wants to help others through his own music production program. He particularly wants to empower people with a disability and elderly people.
He had originally been forced to give up full-time work to be a carer for his artist wife.
Little did he know he also had a mental health disorder, which has been worked through with WISE.
“I’ve had to change my relationship to myself, as far as how I could keep working and then get back into part-time work.”
The employment agency recently released a report that highlighted the work barriers facing people with a disability and mental health issues.
The report found 20 per cent of surveyed businesses still believed people with a disability were not as capable or too difficult to employ.
As a result, job seekers often tried to hide their disabilities and felt disadvantaged.
“We work closely with job seekers, as well as employers to help alleviate concerns and support the integration of people with a disability into the workforce,” says WISE Employment chief executive Matthew Lambelle.
“We want employers to know the positive impact it can have on a business.”
Mr Stergo wants to also correct these perceptions with his own enterprise.
“I feel very strongly about advocacy for people with a disability.
“Working with WISE, I’ve been able to understand my limitations and not bite off more than I can chew.”