25 September 2023

On Friday, 22 September, many of our colleagues gathered at Novotel Sydney Olympic Park to celebrate our people at the 2023 STAR Awards.  

Year after year, our STAR Awards recognise the work we do to fulfil our Mission to support people to achieve their goals and inclusion in the community. This was an exceptionally special night where our colleagues came together to recognise each other’s hard work. For an organisation like ours, it was wonderful for us all to come together and match faces to the names of hardworking and diligent people who make it all possible day-in and day-out. Services like ours especially deserve this special recognition.  

Our STAR awards not only had a wide range of awards up for grabs, but an even wider array of exceptional colleagues demonstrating our Mission, Vision, and Values who were each deserving of them. To say these awards were hotly contested would be an understatement. Our judging panels found it difficult to whittle down our finalists as so many are consistently engaging, knowledgeable, hardworking, dedicated, prompt, reliable, dependable… the list goes on.   

As highlighted by our MC and CEO Julia Squire, our Ability Options colleagues “work to the best of their abilities to help others, especially participants. Taking pride in their work, they go above and beyond to maintain the best quality of services, all while being a positive presence, inclusive, and welcoming to all walks of life.” 

The sound and feeling in the room on the night was electric. Everyone enjoyed themselves and didn’t hold back when celebrating. There was excitement and even tears, especially during some touching addresses to the audience during acceptance speeches. It was heartwarming to hear from our many winners who let us know not only what their awards meant to them, but what it means to work across many different services at Ability Options. 

We also heard from our Board Director Dr. Robert Lang and even from last year’s STAR Employee of the Year, Tracey Schofield. It was fantastic to hear Tracey’s story and to learn why she’s stayed by Ability Options side for more than 11 years now.  

“Our STAR Awards started as a way for us to celebrate the achievements of our colleagues across Ability Options, no matter where you work. This year, you have shown your appreciation for your colleagues once again!” said Chair, Dr. Robert Lang.  

2023 STAR Employee of the Year: Leacia

Ability Options Values Champion: Alana 

Alana has been an absolute standout of her team as she actively displays each of our values in her role and goes above and beyond for participants. She’s shown every day that she actively encourages the inclusion of everyone to engage with meaningful activities in the community, as well as being the longest standing support for some participants. She regularly advocates for participants and consistently provide great assistance to those she works with every day to get the best outcome and support for participants. This colleague is trustworthy, consistently does her job with integrity, and is regularly provided positive feedback.  

Stellar Safety Award: Rebecca 

Rebecca was nominated for her awareness of the importance of WHS matters for her and the teams she supports in her current role. Her team is regularly guided by her knowledge around WeConnect and updating risk profiles to ensure our first visits with participants are safe for both participants and staff. She teaches the team how to best utilise our internal systems to ensure any future coordinators supporting participants can find any risk alerts easily. She also has a great wealth of knowledge and is an integral part of the ongoing safety for our teams! 

Productivity and Efficiency Award: Caitlin 

Caitlin has been an incredible asset in terms of reducing delays for our coordination teams to be able to enter billable notes in a timely manner to ensure participants can remain well supported. She’s been able to significantly reduce administration tasks for coordinators by refining our service agreements to make them easier to complete with participants. She’s built an efficient team of staff who complete tasks in a timely manner. She further provides significant assistance to all regions to establish consistency across regions for all programs. 

Motivator, Mentor and Coach Award: Daniela 

Daniela has helped to successfully guide R&R Care into the Ability Options family. Her overall guidance throughout this journey has truly been second to none. This colleague has always been there whenever necessary. She’s always checking in on everyone when times are tough, and no matter how large her workload, she’ll always make time to chat and address any possible issues. She’s an incredibly inspirational mentor that we’re very lucky to be able to work with.  

Team Player Award: Lawrence 

Lawrence has been nominated for the ongoing positive atmosphere that he brings across multiple work sites he actively opts to work across. In catching up with more of the team, he provides any support required, even going out of his way to make sure their colleagues feel like they can reach out if necessary. He’s developed a great rapport among the team, and he always lifts their mood too. He regularly meets all KPI’s and does a great job day in day out for participants. 

Self-Starter Award: Casey 

Having joined her team last year, Casey brought with her a solid knowledge of services. She’s evolved throughout her time with us to be a standout member of her team in identifying and addressing patterns, trends, and risks before they occur. She provides ongoing support to external team members to ensure risks are addressed, attends endless meetings to coach and provide mentoring, and will not hesitate to seek support from peers to put mitigations in place to keep our participants safe and living a life free from harm. 

Problem Solver Award: Simone 

Simone has a vast knowledge of platforms and associated systems, and this is accompanied by a deep understanding of our organisation. No two queries that come into her inbox are the same. She thoroughly navigates through every possible cause of an issue and consistently finds the appropriate solution and as a result, her team is given the confidence they can handle anything thrown at them. Despite a very busy schedule, she’s always ready to lend a hand.  

Peer-to-Peer Support Award: Mish 

Mish has vital provided support to the Workforce Australia team to ensure that they meet their compliance requirements set by CoAct. She has made time to meet with Team Leaders on a regular basis to provide support and advice in the completion on monthly file reviews to ensure there’s a consistent approach across site. If she’s not aware of an answer to anything, she does the research and finds it right away! 

Standout Leader Award : Julie 

Julie has an employee-centred approach and always makes herself available for her teams. As well as taking on more responsibilities recently, she has a genuine interest in her team and will step in to address anything. If you have a question, she has a reliable answer and consistently promote suggestions from the team to management. Not only this but having this winner as a leader ensures you’ll always have someone in your corner.  

She’s reinvigorated the teams she readily supports, and this has shown in many performance improvements across the board. Responsible for one team, and further taking on another team, she made an immediate impact on the team which saw their performance improve by 24%. Then, stepping up to manage yet another team in May, she’s supported them to achieve strong placements. 

Extra Mile Award: Nikki 

Nikki is one of the most positive workers in her team who many say they’ve had the privilege of working with. This colleague goes above and beyond the stars for participants, she’ll make them laugh and smile, even when they’re having a down day. From singing, dancing, and playing the guitar, to creating new craft projects for them to all contribute to. She’s a ray of sunshine and is always making the lives of participants so much happier and more positive. Nikki takes great pride in her work and shows so much care, compassion, love, and friendship to everyone.  

Customer Service Expert: Sharon 

Sharon was nominated through feedback from one of our participant’s family members. This nomination highlighted her as a standout worker. This award winner ensures participants know what’s happening and encourages them to make decisions and to have choice and control in their lives. The level of support she provides for all participants is second-to-none. She’s here for all the right reasons! While she supports participants directly, she also supports an entire family! Sharon, you’re a true asset to the team! 

Excellence in Teamwork Award: MNC Therapy 

The Mid North Coast Therapy team supports ever-growing number of more than 140 participants, in the Coffs Harbour and Kempsey regions. The team consists of Occupational Therapists, Behaviour Support Practitioners, Occupational Therapy Assistants and Allied Health Assistants who all support each other to ensure participants receive the best, most current therapy support. The team’s focus is on providing a people-centred service to assist not only the participant, but their family and entire support network. The division has also established additional services, where participants come together to make social connections, friends, and experiences to further develop their therapeutic capacity and their partnership with Privada Farm has further allowed the team to incorporate practical therapeutic support with animals, this has been a huge accomplishment, and participants love it!  

Champion Employer Award: Aussie Gardening & Cleaning 

Working with Ability Options for more than five years now, Aussie Gardening & Cleaning has employed more than 80 people in this span of time. The organisation’s team leaders support our people and help them to build their confidence and to tackle harder roles and even explore their further/different employment opportunities. This is truly an inspirational organisation that both embodies exceptional leadership and takes care of both participants and staff.  

We’re thrilled to have had such amazing support in celebration of our colleagues in their achievements year after year. We’d like to thank our Gold Sponsor Speak Your Language, an Australian-owned and operated translation and interpretation company that offers services for over 150 languages and dialects supported by NAATI certified quality interpreters and translators.  

We’d also like to thank this year’s Silver Sponsors: Brennan, CoAct Connect, Interleasing, Maxxia and Orchard Talent Group and we’d like to thank our Bronze Sponsors – Canon, DPN Casa Capace, Graphic Print Consultancy, HESTA, and Woolworths. Thank you all for helping us to both celebrate and champion our passionate and dedicated individuals and teams.   

Our awards program wouldn’t be possible without the generous, ongoing engagement of donors and event sponsors alike, and we thank you for your crucial support. The recognition and endorsement of the event is beyond special for our people, who we know are more than deserving of appreciation. 

Read more about our sponsors here.

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