Volunteering – a pathway to finding the career for you

 Volunteering – a pathway to finding the career for you
Posted on Tue 19 May 2020

by Jodie Collins


Growing up watching her OT mum support clients at CPA’s Prairiewood site was all the inspiration needed for former CPA volunteer Joanna to set her sights firmly on pursuing a career in Allied Health.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll find that not only has Joanna graduated as a speech pathologist, she’s now employed in her ‘dream job’ with CPA’s Penshurst team supporting children and adults with communication difficulties.

Joanna believes her success in landing her first job so quickly after graduating was in large part due to the extensive sector experience she gained during her time as a volunteer and placement at CPA.

“My volunteering experiences helped me to apply for and receive the Henry J Cowan Memorial Scholarship from the University of Sydney which enabled me to do a placement at CPA. I found that with each volunteer role, I learned more about how to work with clients of different age groups and abilities.

I believe the combination of my volunteering and university placement experiences, especially my time at CPA, gave me the confidence to apply and ultimately secure my job as a speech pathologist at CPA.”


For Joanna, volunteering was a great way to fine-tune the interpersonal skills required to support a client with a disability that are often best learned through real-life experiences rather than in a lecture hall.


“I started volunteering with CPA early in my university degree because I wanted to gain some experience interacting with people with disabilities so I could be respectful and appropriate in my university placements.

I learned so much about engaging with people with disabilities, and found the work incredibly fulfilling. I knew from early on that I would love to work at CPA in the future.”


Like many volunteers who support CPA, Joanna has been involved in a range of programs.

CPA’s Volunteer and Corporate Engagement Manager, Diana Piper says flexibility is the key to finding and then keeping excellent volunteers like Joanna supporting the organisation.


 “Life changes are inevitable. If a volunteer is no longer available to support their program, we are more than happy to work around their schedule to find them a new role because we know the value a great volunteer can bring to our programs and clients.”


As a university student, Joanna’s timetable would often impact her capacity to continue volunteering with a program. With many of CPA’s programs now available term by term or during the holidays, the Volunteers team were able to find Joanna shorter term roles (rather than those requiring a long term commitment) to suit her current availability.


 “My first role was with CPA’s Leisure Links program; a social skills and leisure program for teenagers and young adults with disabilities where I stayed for nearly a year until my study commitments prevented me from attending each week.

The volunteers’ team then suggested a role with their Kindy Kick Start program which fitted in with my uni timetable.  I then found out about their holiday program called Habit-IILE where I met so many great kids, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. I loved it so much, I ended up volunteering with two programs.”


Starting your first job can be a steep learning curve at the best of times, let alone during a challenging time like COVID-19. But with her natural enthusiasm, skills and on-going interest in learning, we have a pretty good feeling that Joanna is more than up to the task.

Welcome aboard Joanna – it’s great to welcome you to the CPA family.


Register your interest in volunteering at CPA by visiting our website. Our team will be in touch with you once our programs resume post COVID-19.

Or contact our Volunteers team at volunteer@cerebralpalsy.org.au

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