Sharni’s journey took her from navigating lockdowns to loving her new job

17 October 2023

Sharni’s journey took her from navigating lockdowns to loving her new job

This story discusses sensitive topics that some viewers may find distressing. If this story raises any issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Sharni was seeking a placement as part of Certificate IV in Youth Work studies with RMIT when lockdowns hit Melbourne, which made for a challenging job search experience. Youth Projects was one of the few organisations still open, so Sharni reached out. Although they weren’t taking on any new student placements at the time, Sharni bravely self-referred to seek support with a few other things going on in her life at the time.

In 2021, Sharni received support through Youth Project’s Disability Employment Services (DES) program, where she was also connected with the organisation’s youth outreach services (YHOP and YNOT) for complete, wrap-around support with living independently for the first time, substance use, building independence, starting out on a chosen career path, and finding suitable employment that embraced her disability as a superpower.

With the support of these programs, Sharni began to build on skills, knowledge, and independence. She expressed aspirations to participate in youth work, and immediately Youth Projects’ Youth Coaches quickly saw her potential.

When Youth Projects announced their expansion into Melbourne’s western suburbs, they began recruiting for Customer Service Officers (CSOs) to be the ‘beating heart’ of those new Youth Hubs. Sharni’s coaches recognised that this could be an excellent entry-level role for her, predicting that she would make a fantastic candidate as she had demonstrated the skills and the passion they were looking for.

Youth Projects People & Culture Manager Angela Gaylard said,

Our CSO role is a great entry-level role for a young person who has a passion for youth work or community service work to gain sustainable employment in a frontline role, with limited experience.

As part of our focus on employing people with lived experience, this helps young people see how their lived experience and transferable skills can be utilised to take the first step in their career journey.

Sharni’s presence has brought a refreshing energy to the Sunshine Youth Hub, and more recently she has joined the team at our Glenroy Youth Hub.

Her team says she radiates positivity, loves a game of table tennis, makes an amazing coffee, and always has snacks on hand. Outside of work, Sharni finds joy in simple pleasures such as watching movies, spending quality time with friends, and transforming her new house into a home.

Ms Gaylard shares that, “Sharni has been able to run the Glenroy Youth Hub like it is her own, demonstrating pride in keeping the place organised, showing innovation in the design of new projects, and most importantly, creating a safe and comfortable space for young people to access.

Across all aspects of her recent annual performance appraisal, Sharni rated above average, with the manager noting that her performance consistently exceeds the position requirements and specifically commenting on how impressed they have been with her resilience, flexibility, and drive to develop.

Sharni acknowledges that Youth Projects has played a crucial role in her journey by offering ongoing support and balancing the roles of an employee and a client, even assisting her with the transition to her own apartment and providing personal leave when needed.

Looking into the future, Sharni’s dream is to serve as the principal at an alternative school school specifically designed to cater to disadvantaged young people, including those with learning differences or those who may have disengaged from traditional educational settings.

Her passion for this stems from her own experience in attending an alternative school, where she completed her Year 12 education and credits this experience with “changing my life and making education actually fun.”

In the future, Sharni intends to expand her career into teaching, especially with the recent announcement of free teaching degrees at Melbourne universities.

Sharni’s journey has inspired many and continues to demonstrates how the power of self-determination, combined with tailored support, ensures young people are able to realise their full potential when given the opportunity.
This story was originally published at

Sharni received support from Youth Projects, a CoAct service partner and youth-specialist DES (Disability Employment Services) provider.


Register now to find out more about how we can provide dedicated job search support and jobseeker programs to help you reach your employment goals.

Illustration of staff member sitting at her work desk

Subscribe to the my JobCoach newsletter:

We can help you navigate the world of work with the latest job search tips, news and updates direct to your inbox each month.

Acknowledgement of First Nations Peoples

CoAct acknowledges the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay our respects to the peoples, the Cultures and the Elders past, present and emerging.

Diversity and inclusion

CoAct is committed to embracing diversity and inclusion by providing an inclusive service and work environment. We welcome everyone, irrespective of age, sex, gender, sexuality, culture, religion, size and ability.


We are committed to ensuring accessibility for people with disability. This includes digitally, in the workplace, and on the path to work. Online we continue to improve the user experience for every visitor by applying and upholding accessibility standards.
© 2024 CoAct