Natalie Nobes, 52, has never let her deafness hold her back.
She has a thriving marriage and family life, she has been a dedicated, stay-at-home mother for over 20 years to her three children, breeding poodles on the side – and, she confesses, she’s kept “three gorgeous poodles” in the family as beloved pets.
But two years ago, she decided to embark on a new challenge, realising that her own experiences could be used “to help to support deaf participants in their individual lives”.
That’s what brought her to Macquarie Community College (MCC), with whom she undertook training for a Certificate III in Individual Support.
“I chose this to gain experience, knowledge and understanding of the industry and care sector and [it] put me in an excellent position to gain experience, knowledge and a greater understanding of the industry,” Nobes says.
Being deaf and undertaking study did come with its challenges, especially as Nobes completed the course under COVID pandemic conditions.
“It impacted me over Zoom meetings with classes,” Nobes recounts.
“I couldn’t catch up and I was lost due to so many people talking, and trying to lip-read is hard.”
In order to support Nobes’ unique needs, MCC trainer Bernadette provided extra support and Auslan interpreters, such as Jess (pictured above right with Natalie) were employed to help communicate to Nobes the content that she had missed.
“One of my proudest moments was finishing my studies as I didn’t think I could get through it without the support of interpreters, my family and the college that I studied in,” Nobes says.
And these challenges only furthered Nobes’ desire to empower those with hearing and communication impairments, with COVID safety protocols such as mask wearing emphasising the need to be aware of the specific needs of deaf persons.
“It is hard to make [deaf persons] more independent with lip reading because of masks and facial expressions,” Nobes says.
“[But] the wealth of knowledge that I gained helped me support my deaf clients the best way I could – and that they are entitled to.
“I have this goal of mine that I would like to see my deaf participants improve and make a real change to their lives.
Since completing her MCC course, Nobes has been working as a sole trader, taking on deaf clients in the Blacktown area, with contracts liased through the Jeder Institute.
Her role as a support worker includes a variety of activities with older clients, including:
- doctor’s appointments
- Zoom meetings with Auslan interpreters
- helping clients read emails
- cooking, gardening and other day-to-day tasks
- and providing emotional and social support
Her experience with deafness has not hindered her abilities as a support worker; in fact, she works with a level of empathy that makes her the ideal person for the job.
“Being deaf has lent itself to my role, as I go through the same access issues in my everyday life to my deaf participants,” she says.
“I have learnt to adapt to this, whereas they do not have the skills to do this yet. I am a partner in their journey.“
Nobes says she receives so much joy from “help[ing] deaf participants reach their goals”.
“My absolute favourite thing is to see deaf participants successfully complete a task by themselves and smile knowing that they now have the skills to complete it again.”
Already, Nobes’ career has had some inspiring highlights, as she has helped deaf clients through a variety of often mentally challenging hardships.
“I remember how I was helping one participant in her home as she was a hoarder, so I supported her through this time and then she had a breakthrough throwing things out.
“She then thanked me, looking so happy and relieved with the changes in her life.
“It is inspiring to see deaf participants can do it themselves as they have the ability to do like everyone else.”
Nobes says that anyone who is thinking of become an aged care or disability worker should not hold themselves back; what may seem like a disability may be a unique strength in a workforce that is underpinned by compassion and understanding of health challenges.
“My advice is to just go for it,” she says.
“Get some experience under your belt and join an industry that is always looking for more compassionate carers.”