When 18-year-old Paul* reflects on life a year ago, he says while it was okay, he was keen to have more independence and a home of his own.
"I was making bad choices in my life and getting frustrated and angry at everyone around me that was trying to help me," he says. Life changed for the better however, when 360 Southwest came into Paul's life. He participated in support shifts for the Warrnambool support service, before staying for respite and then moving into 360 Southwest's house designated for young men of a similar age.
Fast forward to winter 2021 and Paul's life has improved dramatically thanks to the guidance provided by 360 Southwest. "The staff support me and care about me and I feel like I have an extra family," he says.
360 Southwest is a registered NDIS provider supporting those with NDIS funding throughout South West Victoria. They provide short and long term respite services to youth and adults, and specialise in assisting clients with complex mental health requirements. Services include social and community participation, assistance with daily living, and maintenance in homes and yards.
This story is from the Health & Services Guide 2021. Click here to read the entire magazine online.
For Paul, help specifically focused on preparing for work and learning how to budget his money. 360 Southwest staff also taught him how to cook and take care of his house, together with non-tangible life skills. "They support me when I am feeling anxious or worried about things and teach me how to make good choices in my life so that I will have a good future," says Paul. "We go and do fun activities - we recently went to Melbourne for the weekend for an AFL match and some shopping."
One of the biggest milestones Paul achieved in the past nine months was graduating from Year 12. "It was a big deal," he says. "A lot of the time I didn't like school and didn't think I would finish Year 12, but I'm so glad I did. Now I think back to it, school was actually pretty good."
Reflective of their unwavering support, staff from 360 Southwest even attended Paul's graduation ceremony. "It was amazing," Paul says. "I knew they were proud of me and I was proud to have the staff at my graduation. My Nan was there as well and it was the best day."
For many young people, securing paid work is a mark of success after graduating, and Paul ticked that box after participating in the SLES (School Leavers Employment Support) program, which facilitates employment for people with a disability.
Paul now works in the e-waste section at The Big R's Shed in Warrnambool. "I take TVs and computers apart and help with picking up things in the truck, and some days we go to Portland to collect things to bring back," Paul explains. "It has made my life so much better. I have made new friends there and I feel like I'm doing something good to help."
Paul hopes to one day secure an apprenticeship as a car mechanic, but for now is content with how life is panning out. "I now have a home of my own to live in and I have a job," he says. "I visit with my family and have a good relationship with them, and feel much happier that I'm working and learning new things. I know I have people I can depend on if I need help or support."
*Paul's surname has been omitted to protect his privacy.