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“Even if you think you are not qualified, you may surprise yourself!” – Jessica Bennett-Hullin on landing her role with Earbus Foundation of WA

People find amazing jobs on EthicalJobs.com.au every day. This is part of a series of articles that go behind the scenes to meet some of the people and organisations finding each other through EthicalJobs.com.au.

Today’s story is from Jessica Bennett-Hullin, who found her role as Program Manager, Goldfields Outreach for Earbus Foundation of WA on EthicalJobs.com.au.

 Earbus Foundation is a WA-based children’s charity that works to reduce the incidence of middle ear disease in Aboriginal and at-risk children in WA. The Foundation brings together experts from Education, Health, Culture and Communities.

Starting out with work

I started my work life working (under age) for my Auntie’s video store business. I really enjoyed getting out of the house and meeting people in my suburb, though I definitely could have done without running into the people I didn’t like! My actual first job was in a supermarket, where I stood at the checkout, used my height to stack shelves and cleaned the chicken cooker.

My first degree was a Bachelor of Humanities (Film and Theatre) from which I ‘worked’ for a few years as a costume and set designer. This definitely taught me how to be creative and improvise, work in teams and, most importantly, exposed me to diverse groups of people. I learnt to set my own schedule and be my own boss, which I rather enjoyed. I believe that a background in Humanities really gave me the confidence to challenge things and think critically of the world around me. This inevitably ignited my passion for social inequality and justice.

While I was working as a designer I sought out additional work to occupy my time [read: I had no money and wanted to leave retail]. A friend of mine worked for a not-for-profit that needed an administration assistant. I may have embellished my skills slightly by saying I was a skilled typist and had a keen attention to detail but I got the job and I worked my way up the ranks – I ended up coordinating the programs department. I considered re-training and luckily I had a truly wonderful manager who recommended I look into Public Health. I completed my Masters at the end of 2018 while working in another disability organisation.

Working at Earbus Foundation of WA

Earbus Foundation of WA (EFWA) is a WA-based children’s charity that works to reduce the incidence of middle ear disease in Aboriginal and at-risk children, their families and communities in regional and remote Western Australia. We empower Aboriginal children and young people to learn through listening. Aboriginal kids have the worst ear health in the world – on average they suffer from middle ear infections for 32 months of the first 5 years of life compared to 3 months for non-indigenous children.

Ear disease interferes with almost every aspect of early childhood development, and it stops Aboriginal children getting an education. Children who can’t hear, can’t learn. Earbus mobile ear health clinics offer a model of continuous care to Aboriginal and at-risk children in schools, daycares, kindergartens and playgroups. The Earbus model provides comprehensive ear screening, surveillance and treatment, with the Earbus employing screeners, GPs, Audiologists and ENTs (Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists) so referral is quick and treatment is seamless. Since commencing services in 2013 we have seen significant reductions in the severity and incidence of middle ear disease in the communities we serve. 

As a Program Manager I am responsible for the daily operation and logistics of our Community Outreach services for the Goldfields and South East regions of WA. I oversee a skilled team of health professionals – screeners, nurses, audiologists, nurse practitioners, GPs and administrators – while coordinating service delivery. I also strategically review regional data each month to ensure our services are supporting each of the communities we visit optimally while building relationships with our stakeholders – schools, local allied health bodies, funding partners and community representatives – and seeking and managing new opportunities for us to support kids and families in need of primary health care services.

In my role I get to join the teams I manage in the field. I find it very rewarding to work alongside staff from diverse career and cultural backgrounds who are all working incredibly hard towards the common goal. I get to meet with principals, teachers and of course students who live in regional and remote part of Australia and for a short while I get to be a part of their lives.

I still remember my first ever day on a Community Outreach trip where I was walking a very timid 5-year-old girl to the Earbus for her audiology appointment. She was so nervous she started crying and our team were so patient and engaging with her and she completed her assessment.  She grabbed my hand and wanted me to take her back to class. Because of the team’s approach to her they were able to diagnose her Otitis media and ensure she received appropriate treatment. To think she will no longer have the burden of middle ear disease makes me proud and humbled to be a part of this organisation.

Working for a better world

While I was deciding what to study I was unsure of how to start exploring Public Health opportunities. I searched ‘public health jobs’ on Google and EthicalJobs.com.au came up.  I used it to examine the jobs that existed in the field and I found all of the jobs listed to be aspirational and exciting.

When I initially saw this role advertised, I blew it off. The role sounded incredible but I did not think I was qualified or had enough experience for the position. A few weeks later a former employee of mine sent the link back through saying they thought I would be great at the job. It was the night before the closing date so I quickly whipped up the application and threw my hat in the ring. I had researched the organisation and really respected the work they were doing and their approach. Coming from the disability sector I saw first-hand the barriers children and families had with seeking and sustaining care pathways – and most importantly the difference between children who received early intervention and those who didn’t. I went in for an interview a week later and had the job by the weekend.

For me, money has never been a massive motivator in life. I originally chose a career in the arts after all! I find that I enjoy the culture that exists in community organisations. You are surrounded by like-minded and passionate people who are doing the work for the right reasons. And, above all else, you get to see the very real impact your job is having on the world around you.

My advice to other ethical jobseekers is apply for any job that interests you, even if you think you are not qualified. You may surprise yourself!


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