Steve Whitby

A beaming smile and a sparkle in his eyes is the first thing you notice when Steve Whitby talks about his work with people with a disability.

Steve is the Team Leader for the Mercy Connect, Vickers 2 house.

It’s a role which rewards his passion for working in the disability sector.

“I just love and care for people,’’ Mr Whitby said.

“It’s important to treat people with a disability the way they want to be treated; deep down they want to be treated like normal people.

“I think at Mercy Connect we are able to give people a better quality of life than they have had before.

“Going that extra mile to help people feel at home is really important.”

He speaks from experience; his father was disabled, losing a leg in a motor vehicle accident.

And from the age of 21 Steve has been disabled himself.

Sport was driving force as a young man; however any prospect of following his dreams was taken away during a brutal attack at a football match.

“Sport was my first love and I have to admit that I was pretty good,’’ he said.

“I was playing in the Thirds for North Melbourne and Carlton and I played cricket and basketball.

“But that all went overnight when I was king hit.”

An unprovoked punch to his head knocked him unconscious.

Then striking his head on the ground when he fell compounded his injuries and robbed him of his balance, smell, taste and hearing.

But while it may have knocked him off his feet it didn’t destroy his spirit.

His hearing was restored with a cochlear implant in 1999.

And he has had a successful career in payroll management and human resources in the healthcare sector.

A role in the payroll department at Kalianna Community Services in Albury led to becoming the manager for the organisations laundry and workshop.

He also worked in the payroll department of the Wangaratta Hospital.

A position he resigned from to become his ailing father’s full-time carer.

In 2001, after his father passed away, he applied to an advertisement in the local newspaper for an organisation hoping to employ home carer’s.

“From that time life started again,’’ Mr Whitby said.

“I started working as a casual and then went to about 80 hours a fortnight, mainly caring for aged people in their homes but also in community education.

“I have a pretty good idea of the frustrations and anger that people with a disability can feel.

“Other people often don’t understand what they are going through.

“But I think my own experience with disability gives me a little more understanding.

“When people tell me their stories about how they feel I can give them some advice.’’

Mr Whitby has been working with Mercy Connect for the past two years, beginning in the finance department.

But it is working with people with a disability that makes his heart sing and that’s where he has returned.

He is excited about the new role as team leader and is ready to take on the challenges it will bring.

“Working with people with a disability can be so rewarding,’’ he said.

“Even helping out in a small way might be a huge thing for people.

“The greatest reward is to see a smile on people’s faces.

“You get that countless times a day working in disabilities.’’