Career

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Kerrie graduates

Finding the possibilities in different abilities


We all want our work to mean something and have an impact. A career in disability services means that you’re helping someone live their best life. For almost 30 years Kerrie Nothelfer has been doing just that.

When the time came to get a formal qualification she chose ACU’s Bachelor of Inclusive Education and Disability Studies to help futureproof her career caring for and supporting people who need it the most.

Holistic learning

Today’s understanding of disability acknowledges the rights of people with a disability to be full and participating members of society.

“I am a manager of a group home for five individuals. These individuals have moderate intellectual disabilities and challenging behaviours. I have a team of staff whom I manage each day,” Kerrie said.

“The environment can be extremely busy, and change can happen in an instant. Working and supporting individuals to have autonomy, inclusion, socially valued roles and normality are daily challenges. 

“I need to be observant at all times and know individuals holistically. Communication is a key point with team members and stakeholders, which can be a challenge in this changing National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) environment

“My degree has helped me become more analytical in my approach towards work situations. I am no longer static in my outlook and I try to learn as much as I can, in the changing industry."

Kerrie and Renae

Kerrie graduated with her daughter Renae.

“I advocate for inclusion and socially valued roles for the individuals I support each day. I am more confident as a manager and can make hard decisions when necessary for the best outcomes.

“I know I make a difference and have made many over the years. They may not be huge or well recognised at times, but I see smiles on five faces each day.”

Meaningful education

For Kerrie the most exciting part about university was being able to complete her studies with her daughter, Renae.

“I have been working in the disability industry for many years. My manager had completed the same degree and spoke to me about enrolling. As my daughter was looking for a new path, I encouraged her to work in the same industry,” said Kerrie.

“As the sector was about to go through a major change, further studies made sense. I enrolled and completed my degree with my daughter. Taking this journey together was a great achievement for us both.

“I enjoyed my time immensely at ACU.  I was accepted by everyone regardless of my age. I made many connections and friends. I bonded with my daughter making this achievement even more special.

“I learnt so much more than I thought I was capable of ever achieving.”

Kerrie and Renae laughing

Stand out moments

While Kerrie was busy combining full-time work and full-time study, she was committed to taking  time to appreciate the special moments along the way.

“That I was capable of sharing quality information and my opinion mattered during discussions. That I could achieve the grades I did, with hard work. That a teacher used some of my work as examples for others. I was proud when those things happened. 

“But by far the most satisfying was the day I graduated and walked up and collected my degree with my daughter while our family watched us both. I finally proved to myself I was capable of learning, as I struggled at school.”  

Find out more about inclusive education and disability studies at ACU.

Related stories

Impact brings you compelling stories, inspiring research, and big ideas from ACU. It's about the impact we’re having on our communities, and our Mission in action. It’s a practical resource for career, life and study.

At ACU it’s education, but not as you know it. We stand up for people in need, and causes that matter.

If you have a story idea or just want to say hello, do contact us.

Copyright@ Australian Catholic University 1998-2019 | ABN 15 050 192 660 CRICOS Reg: 00004G