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Emily Wailes can’t help but smile. The senior clinician and mother of two lives a rich, coastal life in Northern NSW, while immersing herself in speech pathology – a discipline she’s been passionately pursuing for twenty years. She has those classic traits shared by so many successful people in the disability space: a deep connection with the impact she has, a resilient approach to the challenges of her work, and a wonderfully warm, light-hearted sense of humour.
“I’m passionate about the work that I do but not to the point of taking myself too seriously. I care about using my skills to help our clients and their families. But it’s not always easy – you need to remember that it’s step by step… and you have to find space for laughter.”
Emily pursued speech pathology straight out of high school. She started out in special education services in New Zealand, before moving to Dublin, attracted by some postcards her brother sent showing “some cows and some nice Georgian doors”. She then moved to London and worked with people with intellectual disabilities. While overseas, Emily completed her Masters majoring in Disability. She met her Australian husband, and in 2010, they moved to New South Wales to start a family. She spent the next seven years with the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care, before the transfer of services to The Benevolent Society.
We ask her to share why she chooses to bring her extensive skills and experience to The Benevolent Society.
“Firstly, I love the scale of what we do and the variety of my role. Every client brings new experiences and challenges. Under the NDIS, we’re continually engaging with our clients and their supporters to shape their goals and determine together what can be achieved within the time we have. Then we set out to help the client progress towards those goals. It’s not always easy but I often find the most challenging clients to be the most fulfilling. I like to push myself and test my skills, to think outside the box.”
Another big motivator for Emily is the flexibility she can achieve with us. She has two young daughters – who are now five and three – and while her husband is a stay-at-home Dad, she values the balance she’s able to achieve in juggling work and home.
“I live in Northern NSW and while my work hub is in Coolangatta, I can often work from home. Some days I shift my hours so that I can do school drop off. I feel trusted here, to own what I do. We have clear guidance and process about managing open calendars so that we’re all connected to each other and to our managers. I actually find that really useful in helping me manage my time.”
We’re thrilled that Emily has recently been promoted to a ‘Practice Lead’ role, helping drive excellence across The Benevolent Society’s Disability services. It’s the perfect fit for someone of Emily’s experience and dedication to quality.
“My role is about making sure we’re focusing on, and celebrating, the progress and outcomes. There are two sides to people’s jobs here. There’s the performance side – the outputs – and there’s the quality side – the outcomes. My role sits mostly with the latter. I want people to be able to say, yes we delivered the hours and delivered the service but hey, look at the results for the client!”
Emily has two pieces of advice for people considering speech pathology in the disability space. The first is pretty simple:
“Do it! Absolutely! The variety of work and the need to continually flex in your approach mean you cover so many areas - speech, language, communication, dysphagia – literally everything you need. It sets you up for your career.”
The second piece of advice is equally powerful:
“If you’re going to do this well, you need to be able to listen to, and really hear, the client. It’s so important to engage with the person about what they want from their service, and help them shape their goals. You don’t want people to feel like they can’t manage without you; that’s not the point of being a clinician. You’re there to help your clients become empowered to not need you.
We’re actually making a difference in people’s lives. We’re helping people take control.”
It’s a wonderful, lasting reminder of Emily’s dedication to her vocation and our clients.
If you’d like to to join our team or learn more about our people, view our careers page here.