“I came to Fitted for Work about three years ago as a young single mum who had recently been experiencing homelessness. I was looking to return to the workforce when my daughter started school. I was feeling apprehensive about this because I didn’t have appropriate clothing for the corporate work that I was planning to look for. Being on a single parent pension, I really didn’t have the finances to go out and purchase new things.
In late 2016 an outfitting appointment was made for me to attend the Dressing Room at the Melbourne Fitted for Work office. Before attending the service, I was very nervous, not knowing what to expect. I was insecure about how my body had changed after having my daughter, and my self-esteem was very low. I had spent the last four years looking after my daughter, and my own grooming had definitely not been a priority.
I was looked after and dressed by a lovely volunteer Marilyn. My experience was nothing short of wonderful. From the minute I arrived, I felt supported, welcomed, and valued. The volunteer listened carefully to the kind of things I needed and asked about my personal clothing tastes and styles. The volunteers are obviously well chosen and trained because I was so carefully and empathetically taken through this process.
After my time at Fitted for Work, honestly, I felt incredible. It was such an enormous boost for me, not just because the financial pressure had been slightly lifted, but because I felt like I COULD do it.
The time flew by so quickly, and it was so nice to feel pampered. I think I benefited the most from the boost to my self-esteem. Not just in a physical sense, the chatty and friendly interaction I had with Marilyn and the advice she gave me really put me in a great headspace.
I felt motivated and empowered and I actually landed a job in corporate reception about two weeks after that appointment!
I stayed in that role for around 10 months, unfortunately, I had to leave due to health issues. Once I was healthy enough to start working again, my experience with Fitted for Work came back into my mind and I realised I would really love to work with people who were going through tough times, specifically women. I felt like my lived experience was a definite asset, and I recalled part of the conversation I’d had with Marilyn almost a year prior. She had suggested that TAFE study might be something I could look into, as it is less of a time commitment so I could work around school pick up times. I jumped online and after a quick google search, began the process to apply for a place in a Diploma of Community Services.
I started volunteering at Fitted for Work in March 2018, when I came on board to do a 200-hour placement as a part of my Diploma. My role as a volunteer was really varied. I helped with sorting donations, took client appointments in the Dressing Room, and worked as a host. I also filled in for the Melbourne Operations Coordinator while she was on holiday, so oversaw the client services operations as well as looking after both volunteers and clients.
Ryn (Fitted for Work Corporate Services Manager) called me during the school holidays in early July, to tell me that there were a few SheWorks positions that had come up, and she wanted to know whether I might be interested in a paid position. I was totally floored in all honesty, I had not expected this at all! Ryn and I had a few conversations around my availability around both study and my daughter’s school pick up, and I was offered a position through SheWorks shortly afterward.
Throughout the recruitment process, I was so amazed and thankful at how willing SheWorks was to be flexible with me regarding my outside responsibilities both as a single mum and as a student.
There are so many rewarding aspects to my time with Fitted for Work. The rapport between the volunteer staff downstairs is amazing, and I’ve had so many of the ladies come to congratulate me on my new role. It really does feel like a big family that I’ve been welcomed into! On a more personal note, my self-confidence has been strengthened more than I can really express. Knowing that the work I did on my placement was appreciated and that someone thought that I had useful skills, felt good.
Since returning to study/ work, I have a renewed sense of purpose in life. It’s been great rediscovering my identity outside of ‘Mum’. I feel strong, confident, and capable.”
At Fitted for Work, our mission is to help women experiencing disadvantage get work, keep work and navigate their world of work. We simply couldn’t do what we do without you. With no recurrent government funding, Fitted for Work relies on donations to keep our doors open and our services free for women who need it most.
The holidays are an expensive time of year for families and single-parent families feel the financial burden the most.
Single mothers face multiple barriers to achieving financial security, including unaffordable housing, the rising cost of childcare, negotiating flexible work hours and financial abuse like unpaid child support. According to government figures, there is currently $1.59 billion worth of overdue child support payments in Australia and this figure still doesn’t include privately-arranged debt agreements.
At Fitted for Work, we know the best way to achieve financial security is through work. This holiday season, whatever your celebrations may be, we ask you to please consider including a gift to Fitted for Work. Donate before January 31st, and you will enable women, like Jackie, to achieve economic independence and create better lives for themselves and their children.