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November 14, 2014

Transition to action

Moving from study to work is difficult for everyone, but it can prove especially hard for people with a disability who often face discrimination and extra challenges in the workplace. Aspiring writer Gemma Brown takes us through the testing but exciting reality of life after school.

  • Words: Gemma Brown

My name is Gemma Brown. I am eighteen years old and have Asperger’s Syndrome. I am part of the Disability Unit at Wirreanda High and graduating this year; but having a disability doesn’t necessarily mean I can’t be well educated.


Gemma would like to thank all the people from Wirreanda High and Barkuma for the opportunities they have given her to develop her skills.

I love writing and I particularly enjoy writing stories where I can be creative and build a fictional world by using just words and imagination. In Primary School I won the year 6 and 7 literature awards.

I was fortunate to be offered a place in this year’s State Transition Program.  Semester 1 was held at Noarlunga TAFE. I liked being on an actual TAFE campus and enjoyed meeting new people. It made me feel like an adult and job-ready. They were very interesting and wacky individuals that ensured that my classes at TAFE were never boring. The skills I learned at TAFE helped make me feel more secure about my future. Like someone once said, “knowledge is power”. The type of power that knowledge gives me make me feel more in control of the situation.

For my second semester Vocational Education Training component, I elected to study ‘Creative Industries’ at Adelaide College of the Arts in Light Square.  I have learned how writing a script was different from writing a book and the many layers involved to make it work. It gave me the skills to develop characters and build a story, and to spot and correct inconsistencies in a film scene through making and presenting a short film.

The Barkuma Transition Program helped me prepare for new environments by keeping timetables, learning to work with others, and in dealing with my nerves and anxiety by being prepared and organised.  I really feel I have achieved an important step in life and thank the support provided by Lindsey Tucker from Barkuma at both my TAFE courses by helping me around and reviewing my draft work. My teachers Ms Marie Ellul, from my career course, and Mr. David Channing at my Creative Industries course clearly explained any details or concepts that I had difficulty understanding. I feel the experience has given me a lot of options and makes me feel like I’m making big steps into my adult life.

Last week, I attended the Transition Program graduation ceremony at the Adelaide Convention Centre. We even had a special guest. It was MC Suffa (Matt Lambert) from the successful Australian hip-hop band The Hilltop Hoods. Matt gave us a speech on working hard and being committed to reach our life goals and joined us after for a group photograph.

Just recently I have been selected to take part in a year-long mentorship program run by The SA Writers Centre for People with a Disability, and hope to become a working author someday.

Whatever comes in the future, I’m going to continue writing.



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