Heidi La Paglia
I am Director of Policy and Programs at Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA). I am Autistic, and I live with a number of chronic health conditions and psychosocial disabilities.
I finished university in 2018 after completing 3 degrees at the University of Tasmania. During my time at University, I held a number of hospitality jobs as well as several (low) paid student representative roles. When applying for the hospitality jobs, I found the process very difficult as I really struggle with interviews. As an Autistic person, I often found that employers would judge me based on my difficulty in social interactions and not consider my skills. However, the student representative roles were all gained through election processes, which surprisingly were more empowering, as I had the support of people who had volunteered with me and supported me for my values and work ethic.
At the beginning of 2019 I was employed at WWDA through a standard application and interview process. As before, I found this extremely difficult; but felt very grateful that my employer was able to look past my social difficulties. Being employed in jobs which support me financially to work on policy issues and advocate for the rights of my community has been hugely empowering for me as a young woman with disability; and has given me a sense of self-fulfilment and purpose.