My name is Louise Bugeja. I have had a lifetime passion of advocating for equitable quality of life for people with disabilities, and my volunteer and work history reflects my dedication to achieve this.
I was born in Melbourne in 1974. I am the youngest of four children and was the only child gifted with disabilities. Yes, I say gifted as it has provided me with a different view and experience of life. I was born with multiple disabilities including multiple skeletal abnormalities (physical disabilities), a cognitive heart condition and a severe vision impairment (I now have about 5% of vision in my left eye only).
Schooling was a very challenging experience for me. I was one of the first kids integrated in mainstream education and children just didn’t understand other kids with a disability. My schooling was a very lonely experience because of this. Even when I got to university I then had issues with my teachers believing in me and my abilities. They focussed on the disability. I had to decide what my future career goal would be because university was not for me. I gave up on dealing with a prestige university in Melbourne and decided to go into TAFE. Again my teachers were a bit reserved but kept their opinions to themselves until they saw I was more than capable of achieving my desired results. One of the teachers who doubted me ended up nominating me for Student of the Year. Unfortunately I didn’t win but it was nice to be nominated. I completed my advanced certificate (showing my age) in Business administration. I found the course super easy and thrived in this environment, and have completed other qualifications since then.
When I finished I had engaged in a support service to help me find work. I still laugh to this day. My employment consultant at the time told his boss ‘I don’t know what she can do but I am sure she can answer a phone’. By the end of my casual work I was doing work for the CEO of the organisation. This was my entry into the community services sector. I have worked in many various roles in my work history which I am proud of.
I have worked in the sector for over 25 years. In late 2018 I signed up as a casual teacher with RMIT to deliver Certificate IV in Disability Studies on a casual basis. I loved teaching. It was something I felt that I was able to add value to the lives of my students and their understanding for working with people with disabilities. In late 2019 I realised this work was not stable and I could lose it at any time so I did need to consider my future and work stability. I had put my name down on an employment register for a role with the National Disability Insurance agency (NDIA). In November I received a text message offering me an interview for a Planner position. I thought I had nothing to lose so why not go for it. I did and I got the job. I began working in January 2020. It is an overwhelming job to learn and has forever changing processes but I am up for the challenge. When I began working in the Geelong office someone told me my photo was on the wall. I was like, how? In 2012 I think I did an ad campaign for the to be introduced ‘DisabilityCare’ which later changed its name and here I am staring at a very large photo of me hanging in the office where I work now.
I am also a member of my local Rotary Club (Hoppers Crossing) which I am very proud to be a part of. I had to again prove myself to some of the members who questioned quietly what I could contribute to the group. They soon learned there was more to supporting a group than just physical work. I am now a very valued member eight years later and have been awarded Rotarian of the Year in 2018/2019 and received the Royce Abbey Award for 2019/202 being the very first Rotarian to be awarded this in my club, for the commitment and dedication I portray to live the ideals of Rotary. It was a true honour to be recognised for my passion and dedication to giving back to the community.
My passions in life are my two darling four legged kids, Bubble and Squeak (two grey and white cats who are sisters that I adopted at the beginning of 2020). They keep me on my toes, entertained and loved. I also love to read and spend time with friends and family.
I wanted to join Speakers Bank to share my life experiences and professional experiences to help the community better understand disability and to also support people with disability to know they are not alone in what they go through in life. There are other people out there who go through similar experiences and empathise with the different ways of life they need to live to have a enriched and fulfilling life.
For more information about Louise contact Speakers Bank’s Project Officer on 03 9314 0988 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch Louise’s video: