Well done Tamara!

Tamara Eldridge has been announced Victorian Trainee of the Year finalist

It’s an amazing achievement, being selected from tens of thousands of Victorian trainees. And her path to it hasn’t been easy.

‘I had to look after myself through my teenage years, so it was really hard staying in education, and I was looking after my little brother at the same time.’

Tamara was in and out of work, and she struggled with alcohol and other drug addiction.

As a teenager she got help from a youth worker.

‘She helped me out through everything – life experiences and life challenges. She’s the one who made me want to become a youth worker.’

After a difficult journey to recovery, Tamara decided she wanted to pursue a career in the community services sector, supporting other young people with addiction issues.

She became a participant in VCOSS’ Community Traineeship Pilot Program (CTPP), funded by Jobs Victoria.

The CTPP helps young people complete a Cert IV Community Service qualification, while also connecting them with a community service organisation where they do a paid traineeship. After 12 months they come out with both work experience and a nationally recognised qualification.

Tamara says of the program, ‘It was a life-changing opportunity for me. I was able to study and get paid at the same time, which is probably the most beneficial thing. It’s so hard especially when you have to be an adult so early.’

Trainees are supported throughout the program by a youth worker, and have other wraparound supports for issues that might range from mental illness to homelessness.

Tamara was employed as a trainee at TaskForce, a community organisation that, among other things, provides alcohol and other drug support.

When she started with the organisation she had little confidence, struggling even to answer the phone. But the support she received helped her get her bearings.

‘The youth worker, the teachers, everyone in the organisation wants you to thrive as a person. The support has been amazing.

‘Also having classmates around going through the same situation I was, I found that really beneficial because we were learning from each other and we were learning together.’

With this ongoing support Tamara was able to work through her anxieties, and within three months she was promoted to Peer Support worker in TaskForce’s Alcohol and Other Drugs Recovery Outpatient Program.

She says, ‘Because I have lived experience with alcohol and drugs, it makes the connection with the clients so much more valuable because they can relate to you on the same page.

‘We’ve had a few young people now who’ve come through and been successful. Some of them are a year clean from substance use.’

Tamara is a passionate advocate for young people and is proud to be a Trainee of the Year finalist.

Of working in the community service sector, she says, ‘I highly recommend it. It’s been amazing for personal growth as well as professional. It’s been a positive change for me.’

At first she didn’t feel comfortable nominating for Victorian Trainee of the Year.

‘But then I thought that because of my history and everything, I could be a positive role model to other people.’

A huge congratulation from everyone at TaskForce, VCOSS and RMIT to Tamara, who’s a role model and an inspiration.