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Meet the Essential Skills Team

Leadership and Training Team

Our Highly skilled leadership team and trainers have all come from roles in the community sector where there roles are diverse and required a vast amount of skills and knowledge. We are proud to have a great team of passionate individuals who know exactly what it’s like to work in the sector and how to best deliver the training to ensure our students succeed in their chosen career.

Julie Fletcher – Director

I started Essential Skills Training & Recruitment in 2010 passionate about providing the best quality training that we could offer students and employers. Being a Registered Nurse with experience in both acute settings and residential care, mainly in education and management roles. I worked in group homes for clients with mental illness and went on to be the CEO of the Hunter Women’s Centre, where I learnt so much about the diverse community services sector. I know the importance of having staff with quality skills and experiences.

What inspires me is the knowledge that what we do supports people in multiple ways, we change lives for the better. An individual finding a career or a career pathway and helping employers to meet their needs is a major highlight of what we do, but most of all, I believe we affect thousands of people’s lives for the better, due to the services they receive from our prior students.

Leisa Harrison – Associate Director / CEO

I have been working in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) Industry for the past 10 years. My background is in Compliance and I have various management and Vocational Education and Training qualifications. I am a busy mum of 3 beautiful girls and I thoroughly enjoy my job and the team of wonderfully talented people I work with. I am inspired by the passionate and selfless people making a difference in the world today.

What inspires You? …..The most rewarding part of our business is assisting people to realise their potential and gain employment in the community services industry. I believe that if you do well by others and help them succeed in life positive things will be drawn to you naturally.

Dee Cooke – Associate Director / Strategic Partnerships Manager

Over the years I have had the fortunate ability to have a diverse career where I have been able to progress and advance in many roles starting in hospitality to managing a Hotel/Resort to a Regional liaison Manager for Employment Plus to being a manager for a large 142 Bed aged care facility to a Senior manager here at Essential Skills.

What inspires you? being someone that loves to learn working at Essential Skills Training and Recruitment gives me that opportunity not only to support individuals to reach their goals but also to be surrounded by passionate like minded people that also have the same goals and inspirations

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….. helping someone somewhere! In what capacity I’m not sure but I do know that I love seeing people succeed and reach their goals!

Kirsty Allan – Operations Manager

As a qualified Registered Nurse I  have worked in clinical positions, clinical education, Community care Coordinator, community dementia nurse & ACAT assessor as well as training for the past 10 years.

What inspires you? …..Enabling people to achieve something they thought they couldn’t do. It makes you feel great that you have made a difference in someone’s life. To see people grow  within themselves is pretty inspiring.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….. I would definitely be working in the community ensuring people’s needs were met and could stay at home as long as possible. Though… I do like the idea of being a flamenco dancer.

Alisha Vicary – Training Manager

I have been with ESTR for over 7 years, working in many different roles from Reception to Management. I am passionate about this organisation as I love seeing the difference we make by supporting people to achieve their goals.

What inspires me: People who work hard to overcome obstacles and succeed

If I wasn’t in this role I would be…..a Personal Trainer, I’m also passionate about health and fitness.

Sara Leslie – Resource Development Manager

Sara has worked as a trainer & Assessor for 9 years and was formerly the Director of Leading Support Solutions in Brisbane.

What inspires you….. Being able to make real changes in the care sector and being able help improve people’s choice through education.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….. writing a book.

Kate Palmer – Administration Manager

With a background in Finance and having many spent years in administrative roles, Kate is highly experienced, efficient and professional in all her dealings with staff and our external stakeholders.

What inspires you? My team inspires me. They are all very capable people, a pleasure to work with and go above and beyond each and every day to make sure things get done. They are the engine room!

If I wasn’t here I would be….. a pastry chef or wedding/events planner.

Sarah Matthews – Quality & Compliance Manager

I have been working in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector for the past 13 years in various administrative and compliance management roles.

What inspires you? Perseverance: Life is not easy. It knocks us down and drives us backwards. But when people decide that they won’t let that stop them, when they pick themselves back up and move forward towards their dreams and goals – that’s inspiring!

If I wasn’t here I would be…..I have an interest in art history, so I’d love to be working in an art gallery.

Kylie Ryan – Finance Operations Manager

I commenced my employment with ESTR in 2016 in an administration role. With their support, I have been able to follow my desired career path into accounting and payroll completing many qualifications to become their Financial Operations Manager. It is a wonderful opportunity and I am very grateful for their continued support. This is a job that I love and I work in a fantastic environment that makes coming into work every day rewarding.

What inspires you? Working hard to achieve a desired goal/outcome. I love watching all the pieces come together.

If I wasn’t here I would be…..the owner of a large bit of acreage in the country. I would set it up so I could offer agistment for horses.

Helen Barnett – (RN) Trainer and Assessor

As an experienced Registered Nurse and trainer and assessor I have worked in a number of areas throughout the community sector providing well being and support to those in need. I enjoy all aspects of my nursing and training career and love my daily interactions with both client and student.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….. doing my other love in life and that is nursing.

Karen Gwillam – (RN) Trainer and Assessor

I began working in this sector as an AIN in 1993. Several years later I became an EEN in 2007 then completed my Bachelor of Nursing in 2013. Throughout those years I worked predominantly in Aged Care and have a passion for Palliative Care, Dementia Care and Wound Management. What I enjoy most in that role is being able to support individuals wellbeing through using person-centered approach; the interactions with families and supporting them through end-of-life care with their loved ones.

What inspires me: Just being able to give back to community and help the next generation coming through.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….. Nursing.

Michelle Worth – Trainer and Assessor

My passion and chosen area of work is supporting people with disability and I have extensive experience in this field, working in large residential, community group homes, on a behaviour support team and various roles in management.

I am very grateful to work with the many talented people at Essential Skills and to continue to provide training that meets the needs of the modern workforce.

What inspires you? …..Supporting and empowering people to grow and achieve their goals.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….. a multi-millionaire and invest in houses  (do them up and sell them).

Tania Hardy – Trainer and Assessor

I’ve been working in the Aged Care sector now for 20 years. During that time I worked in Nursing homes, Community home care with a specific interest in Dementia, Palliative and Mental Health Nursing. I moved into teaching in 2019 where I am passionate in being to able to give back to community by helping shape the next generation of workers.

What inspires me:

I am inspired each and every day by the people I work with and our common goal to develop a stronger, better workforce of care workers in our industry.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….. 

Free as bird roaming the countryside.

Sonia Sims – Trainer and Assessor

I have worked in the aged care industry for approximately 10 years.

I had a terminally ill mother and wanted to be well prepared for when it was time to care for her so I went and studied Certificate III in Aged Care & Home and Community Care.

I have a vast amount of experience in residential facilities and home and community care working as a team leader & physio aide. I also have experience in kitchen, laundry and cleaning operations.

What inspires you? …..Helping and supporting people to achieve their goals.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….. Working in an aged care facility.

Monique Wadwell – Trainer and Assessor

I have worked in the disability sector for over 25 years, in a large residential facility, In the community and also training people with disabilities literacy and numeracy.

What inspires you?…..Every day I am able support the students that attend our courses, to  build on the life skills they have to open up opportunities and change their lives and the lives of the people they support, whether it be a career change or furthering their career in community services. Also learning from other trainers and the students we support.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be…..working somewhere in the disability sector supporting the education of people with disabilities.

Mark Addison – Trainer and Assessor

I have been working with people in the human service sector for 35 years incorporating youth, family, disability, mental health sectors as both direct service provider and a leader.

I’m passionate about enhancing the life’s journey of people I encounter in my life’s journey.

I do this by fueling curiosity, growing knowledge and then hopefully, a personal sense of hope and purpose within the people I teache.

What inspires you?… Seeing people grow, to become more than they were.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be… A space explorer who can act and play music

Paul Kelman – Trainer and Assessor

I have been a Team Leader in Disability for many years. In that role my duties included – providing residential support for individuals with disabilities; coordinate and organize clients daily activities including transport, medication and employment; responsible for administration duties including detailed daily reports; consult and liaise with clients’ families and carers; manage household budgets; manage rosters and staff coordination.

What inspires you?…. Helping students reach their full potential

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….. dividing my time between surfing and acting.

Rachelle Hodson – Trainer and Assessor

I have worked in the Aged Care Industry for the past 14 years as a Care Worker, Coordinator and Care Educator.

What inspires you?…..

Supporting students to enter the Aged care Industry and giving them real life examples that they can use in the workplace, helping them to enable independence to their clients. Everyday I learn something new from my students and it is the most rewarding experience I could ever ask for.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….

A taste tester for Cadbury or working in the Hospitality Industry as a Chef.

Joel Robinson – Trainer and Assessor

My training experience started in 2009 as an Ambulance Attendant and then a Clinical Instructor in the private Ambulance sector in Victoria. I also worked on the Racing Victoria medical team. I then transitioned into training First Aid and Child Care First Aid. During this time, I started Disability First Aid (Pty ltd). We researched and developed 10735NAT-Course in Disability First Aid which is now a nationally recognised course. Starting in 2021 I spent 14 months working for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance as a support worker. Then started work with Essential skills as a trainer/assessor.

What inspires you?…..

I am inspired by people who are passionate about what they do. I love training students who want to further their skills and knowledge. And especially students who are prepared to improve the areas of their sectors they believe need improving. The great part about my role is that I get to learn everyday from the experiences students share with me.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….

Bored 🙂

Tim Crawford – Trainer and Assessor (RN)

I have been an RN since 1995 and focused mainly on Acute Cardiology. Working with knowledgeable and enthusiastic mentors demonstrated the importance of sharing information for self and team growth. For the past few years, I have focused on medication administration education and the importance of client safety in public health and Aged Care.

What inspires you?….. Seeing the moment in a person’s eyes when they understand something they thought was beyond them, and feeling their confidence grow.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be…. Tinkering in my workshop.

Nicole Dawson – (RN) Resource Developer

An experienced Registered Nurse with almost 30 years in the industry. My career includes working in and managing aged care facilities, wound consultancy and emergency nursing. I have worked as part of the Aged Services Emergency Team in Maitland Hospital. Currently, I’m working as a clinical educator and trainer and assessor in the VET sector.

What inspires me: I am inspired by people who live their lives with purpose and without judgement of others.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….. a novelist!

Rachael Alderton-Smith – Trainer and Assessor

My career in Community services sector began in 2009 and the Disability sector in 2013, working with people living with complex health, psychosocial and social needs. Working within these sectors in a variety of roles has been awe inspiring, supporting people to reach their goals using person centred approach and working alongside the most compassionate, proactive people. I have learnt so much about life and the how much one person can make a difference to another to bring positive change however that looks like.

What inspires me: Being part of developing a knowledgeable , capable and person-centred workforce to work with and protect the most vulnerable in our community.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be…..I would still be striving for social justice within the Community and Disability sectors with the occasional day off to be a princess. 😊

Danielle Bellamy – Trainer and Assessor

I have lived and breathed Disabilities all my life, growing up with a father who had a disability, he was my inspiration to begin in the industry. I worked in many areas of the sector for over 17 years in a variety of roles from support worker to Managing a NDIS service, I have worked in high needs community work, behaviours, employment-based programs, day programs, Supported independent living, case management and service management. I also have a son with a disability so am navigating the NDIS world with him, I am very passionate about ensuring people with a disability receive the support they deserve.

What inspires me: When my students tell me they have applied their learning in their work.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be…..Working at David jones behind the perfume counter, I love perfume!

Kim Kay – Trainer and Assessor (RN)

I have many years’ experience working within the disability sector. Throughout my career, I have held roles including Trainer and Assessor, Learning and Development Officer and Learning and Development Manager. These experiences have fuelled my passion.

What inspires me: seeing others grow and achieve their goals.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be…..just travelling around.

Cathy Burgess – Trainer and Assessor

I have been an RN since 1987 for most of that time I worked at Stockton Centre (Large Residential for People with Intellectual Disabilities. In 2019 I started to work casually for Cerebral Palsy Alliance & continue in that role. I have worked as a Trainer since 2009 for different organisations. I enjoy meeting new students & watching them develop new skills.

What inspires me: Seeing students gain confidence & reach the goals that they want to achieve.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be…..retired & travelling.

Monique Van Dam – Trainer and Assessor (RN)

I am an experienced RN with approximately 30 years experience. For 15 years, I worked in Emergency where my passion for education commenced. To follow this path, I became a qualified Trainer and Assessor and completed my Graduate Certificate in Clinical Nursing and Teaching. The last 12 years I have been a Nurse Educator in a variety of settings including the hospital sector, VET and the Aged Care sector.

What inspires me: empowering people to achieve their goals through education.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….. I would be a Nurse consultant in the Aged Care sector.

Tahlea Hayward – Trainer and Assessor

In 2004 I completed my Diploma in Community Services (Welfare) since completing this I have been working in the community services industry for the past 15+ years. I have worked in children, youth, disabilities, community and more recently the aged care industry. This prompted me to complete my Certificate III and Certificate IV in Ageing. No matter what role I have held from direct support to service coordination I have found my passion in supporting individuals to achieve their goals and work towards new interests and watch them achieve.

What inspires me: Watching and empowering individuals to reach their goals and create new ones

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be…..An aged care worker (still am)

Helen Gayner – Trainer and Assessor (RN)

My nursing journey began in the late 70’s as a care staff member at a Newcastle Nursing Home, with no training required back then! This sparked my interest in caring for others. In 1980, with a baby and 2 little boys, I decided to enrol to do a nursing degree in Disabilities. I worked at the centre for 16 years becoming a CNS in behaviour management, before switching to the aged care sector in 1996. I took up casual positions in 3 different nursing homes, one of them being St Joseph’s. I soon felt a connection with St Josephs and it became my passion. For 6 years, I worked as an RN there and as the Infection Control Coordinator. Later, I became the third in charge as the home was too big for one deputy DON.

I then moved on to manage a hostel for 3 years, followed by 3 years as the operations manager overseeing 9 aged care sites for CatholicCare. In 2008, I came back to St Josephs as a temporary Facility Manager after the previous manager resigned. But St Joseph’s pulled at my heart strings, and I stayed for over 14 years as the manager. For many years, during my time at St Joseph’s, part of my role was to train staff in many areas, this I enjoyed immensely.  In 2022 I decided that it was time to resign from the management role. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made but also the best one for me.

What inspires me: Hopefully instilling my passion for “caring for those in need” onto others I support and train.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be…..Probably retired, doing genealogy encompassing DNA research.

Tess Ryan – Trainer and Assessor

I commenced working in the disability sector in 2005 after completing a Bachelor of Social Work at Newcastle University. I have experience as a support worker, case manager, team leader and support coordinator. In 2021 I became a qualified Mental Health First Aid trainer, and have also worked as a foster care trainer and assessor.

I am passionate about diversity, inclusion and prioritising the voices of the people we support. Everyone has the right to be heard, to take up space in communities and to be celebrated for their uniqueness.

What inspires me: Being alongside people as they work towards and achieve their goals – especially when they (or others) may have had doubts about whether they would get there! This is my main motivator for what I do.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be…..A non-fiction writer or a counsellor.

Peta-Maree Kearns – Trainer and Assessor

I began my Career in Disability as Support worker 14yrs ago completing my Traineeship as an AIN. Throughout the years I have learnt that I love being able to support people with a disability to live as independently in their own home, achieving their goals. I have also gained a passion helping people learn how to become great support workers and to be able to support people with Disabilities to continue to live independently in their own homes as well as accessing the community.

What inspires me: Being able to give back to the community by helping people who want to help others.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be…..Team leader and Support worker.

Scott Bozza – Trainer and Assessor (EEN)

I started my career as an AIN in 2006 whilst working in an aged care facility. I than continued and completed my diploma of nursing and graduated in 2010. From 2010 I commenced working in the private and public hospital sectors across all areas. I have a passion for education and decided to complete my training and assessment certificate in 2010 followed by my Bachelor of Health, Ageing and Community services. Over these years of nursing and training I get great enjoy in helping people achieve their set goals and aspirations.

What inspires me: Helping people grasp their strengths and succeed in their goals.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be…..A phd graduate in mental health recovery using a complementary therapy approach.

Courtney Lamb – Trainer and Assessor (RN)

I began working in the aged care sector as a trainee in 2007 and completed my Bachelor of Nursing in 2013. As an Registered Nurse I have worked predominantly in cardio-thoracic care, Aged care and Occupation Health. What I enjoy most about my role, is being an advocate for individuals in the health care system and educating individuals on how to ensure they are living their best lives.

What inspires me: Knowing I have provided the next generation of care providers the information they need to provide safe and effective care to all members of society.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….. Occupational Health Nurse/ Nurse with the Royal Flying Doctors.

Sharon Mestern – Trainer and Assessor (RN)

I have always been passionate about health and particularly complex health such as dual diagnosis. I have worked in disability and mental health, drug and alcohol and mental health. I am passionate about trauma informed care and spent many years studying sociological and psychological interventions. I worked for many years with adults who had complex trauma histories. I worked as Chief Clinical Officer for Odyssey House Sydney where I led teams that built programs and systems for adults and their children. I have really enjoyed working with the families and seeing them achieve remarkable outcomes.

What inspires me: people enjoying learning and achieving their goals.

If I wasn’t a trainer I would be….. I would continue nursing or volunteer.

Administration & Sales Team

We couldn’t do without our wonderful administrative and sales team. Our staff all have a great passion for providing quality customer service. They are always welcoming to anyone who walks through the door or calls the office, and will go above and beyond to help our students and employers. Our roles are varied, and include providing information on courses, assisting students to find the right qualification and enrol, supporting them throughout their training and ensuring they are issued with their certificate quickly after completion. We also provide support to employers by providing them with regular updates on their staff members’ progress throughout training. We pride ourselves on our product knowledge, knowing that we can give people all the information they need to make decisions about their career paths.

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