With a love of sport and music, 30-year-old Anthony Pollaers Rowan is on the path to following his dream of becoming a sports or entertainment manager.
He is completing a Diploma of Entertainment Business Management in Sydney, and is considering following it up with a Bachelor of Entertainment (Business Management).
While he is excelling in his studies and loves his course and teachers, his experiences in the education system have not always been positive. Anthony was born with a rare genetic movement condition called myclonus destonia.
“Education has been a big part of my life,” Anthony said. “My mum sent me to mainstream public schools because she knew I was smart. I don’t like to think of myself as different because of my disability – it’s good to prove people wrong and to achieve things no-one thought I could.”
Since leaving school, Anthony has been continuously in the vocational education and training system, apart from periods in hospital. His studies have spanned web design, IT, business and most recently, entertainment management.
“My experiences studying have been 90 per cent positive, but the 10 per cent that haven’t, have been very, very difficult,” Anthony said.
“The teachers I currently have are very good – they are very supportive and accepting of my disability. In fact, they say I should use my experiences to my advantage as I’ve experienced things other people haven’t. At my current RTO there is no funding for a scribe, but apart from that things are going well.
“I didn’t have a good experience when I was studying previously at TAFE. Except for one teacher and my scribe, I felt the staff were happy to see me leave without finishing my studies. They didn’t understand how difficult it was to return to study after I took a year off to have a hip replacement. There were things I couldn’t remember from before, which they expected me to know – they were not supportive or understanding.”
Anthony has a positive outlook on life and is fiercely independent. He does not readily reveal how debilitating the constant pain he experiences can be, and how it affects his sleep, sometimes making him tired and short-tempered.
Anthony strongly believes an increased awareness about inclusion of people with disability by teachers/trainers, employers and other students is needed.
“There needs to be a nation-wide course so everyone knows what it is like to have a disability,” he said. “I know students who have had a very protected life - they have no idea what it is like to be picked on, to be called a retard.”
Over the years, Anthony has developed a range of skills and knowledge which he is eager to put in practice in the workplace.
“When I finished school I studied computing because everyone around me said I should,” he said. “Because I rely on a computer to communicate, I soon got tired of being in front of a computer all day, every day. I really wanted to study something different.”
From there he took up music production, and then, inspired by his uncle John Pollaers, a business leader and Chair of the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, he began a Certificate II in business at TAFE.
“I have always loved sport. Even though I wasn’t able to play in the school rugby team matches I participated in training sessions, and scored 80 per cent in PE in my HSC.
‘When Ricky Stuart was the Sharks coach I used to travel to Cronulla to take part in the early morning training sessions. Ricky and I became friends.
“My dream is to work in the NRL, or to run my own record label. After so many years studying I’m impatient to begin working.”
“As a strong advocate of raising awareness about disability, I support any measures that help people with disability get into the workplace and have the same opportunities as others,” says Canberra Raiders Coach, Ricky Stuart.
The AISC’s inclusion of people with disability project
The AISC has commissioned PwC’s Skills for Australia to investigate how the vocational education and training (VET) sector and industry can address poorer employment outcomes for people with disability.
Students with disability make up only 4.3 per cent of all students undertaking VET, and only around half of working age Australians with disability are in the labour force, compared to 83 per cent of those without disability.
The project aims to help people with disability get the training outcomes they need to transition to employment. As part of the project, PwC’s Skills for Australia will look to develop core units of competency on disability related issues that can be used across a range of industries.
To find out more, visit skillsforaustralia.com/cross-sector-projects/inclusion-of-people-with-disability-in-vet/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC)
The AISC is an industry/government collaboration that advises Commonwealth and State and Territory Skills Ministers on the implementation of national vocational education and training (VET) policies, and approves nationally recognised training packages for implementation in the VET system.