Working with special needs children can be challenging for some, but for CDC Gladstone employees Lisa Mould and Severina Leggio, it’s the most rewarding career they could have chosen.
Lisa is a carer, who rides along on the buses with the driver and children and Severina works as a driver.
The two proud Indigenous women, who shared their career journeys with us as we mark NAIDOC Week, might be from totally different backgrounds but their aspirations are the same – they want to help children who don’t have the same opportunities as others, to flourish, grow and learn.
The Gladstone depot, which belongs to ComfortDelGro Corporation Australia (CDC), a nation-wide company that provides essential services for millions of passengers, began offering services to families with children with special needs in 2016 when it purchased the contracts from local operator Bus About Charters and Tours.
Two minibuses are currently operational, servicing both Gladstone to Calliope and Gladstone to Tannum Sands, dropping off and picking children up from Rosella Park School.
Carers, who accompany drivers to support students, greet them at their doors and help them get on the bus, take care of them on their journey before they arrive at school.
Lisa is a special needs carer, which means she travels on the bus alongside the driver and ensures the children’s safety.
It was her eldest daughter Gaby, who suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, that inspired her to join the industry, as she had to be able to support her.
“Gaby has a lot of support from NDIS but there are times she needs me and I need to be there. She’s 25 and capable of doing things herself – this year she’s working towards her hospitality certificate and hopefully will have a paid job in the next couple of weeks,” she said.
“She’s a great joy in my life and that’s why I went into the industry. I didn’t think I could do it but it’s very rewarding.
“We try to have a good laugh and a chat. Some children are non-verbal and you’ve got to learn to understand and help them too, as well as children who have hearing problems and that takes time to understand.”
“I find it a great joy; it has its challenges, but in overcoming those it becomes joy.”
Severina was already working for Bus About Charters and Tours, so she joined the team at CDC Gladstone. But before she was a bus driver, she worked as a teacher aide to special needs students in Adelaide and Toowoomba.
“I just loved doing that work, it’s so rewarding and they’re amazing children. I worked with a teacher who did intensive interactions with them, and he taught me so much. I just love being with them.”
Severina works as a bus driver, picking up shifts throughout the company working on urban and school runs as well as runs for special needs children.
She said she loved the flexibility of her position as it allowed her time to spend with her two young grandchildren, aged five and 10, as well as working for herself as a carer providing support and respite for children.
CDC Gladstone depot manager Jacqui Hart said she was proud of the team, who had developed strong relationships with the children, who ranged in ages from seven to 16.
“There’s a lot more to it than just driving the children to school, it’s a lot more challenging,” she said.