What’s all the Foss?

Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation staff have quickly embraced 21-year-old Caitlin Foss – who suffers from a chromosome translocation – as a part-time employee, with family support coordinator Cindy Schuuring and chief executive officer Di Baldock saying they now couldn’t imagine a workplace without her. Picture: Bodey Dittloff.

Employment. When Smithton’s Caitlin Foss first started work at Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation 18 months ago, it was under a temporary placement.

Now, the 21-year-old’s smiling face is likely one of the first you’ll see walking in the door to the organisation’s main building on a Monday or Tuesday morning.

Caitlin initially began completing small tasks such as keeping track of and cleaning company cars, but quickly showed a desire to learn more; an eagerness that was noticed by management.

“I couldn’t let her go,” CHAC chief executive officer Di Baldock said, making Caitlin a part-time employee. “I could see how much she was enjoying it and I could see how much she was growing.”

Caitlin lives with a chromosome translocation where chromosomes – thread-like structures containing most of a living organism’s DNA – exchange uneven material, with more of the ‘8’ chromosome and less of the ‘14’ resulting in delayed development.

But the abnormality doesn’t affect her enthusiasm in the workplace, employed eight hours a week and constantly developing administrative, communication and computer skills.

“I only have to tell her something once and she remembers,” family support coordinator Cindy Schuuring said.

“I could work with her all day, every day. If she’s got a problem, she’ll ring me – she tries to fit as much work into her day as possible.”

So strong is Caitlin’s willingness to work that she will try to turn up regardless of “if she is sick or not”, often reminded that she has a lunch break to take time out in the day.

She knows to answer internal calls if a name shows up on the phone as opposed to a number, and keeps a thorough eye on the comings and goings of vehicles in the car park.

Di believes Caitlin’s impact as one of CHAC’s 34 full or part-time employees has worked two-fold: giving Caitlin a sense of independence and income while reimbursing other staff’s support with her bubbly personality.

“I think it’s important people like Caitlin are recognised,” Di said. “We gave her the opportunity of employment and she has absorbed that.

“I think it’s a matter of giving that opportunity. Caitlin’s pretty special to us – she brightens up the place.”

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