Elise Cottam has mixed feelings about her graduates: she is happy that they all have passports to new and rewarding lives, but she is always sad that they are leaving.

Fortunately, they are never far away. Everyone keeps in touch via a Facebook page, but owing to the COVID-19 restrictions, that is how Elise had to conduct this year's graduation ceremony.

Elise is one of IMPACT Community Services’ trainers for the CHC33015 Certificate III in Individual Support (Disability). She is very skilled at what she does.

“Usually we have a celebration ceremony, and invite local Members of Parliament, service providers who host Vocational Placements, and families and friends of the graduates,” Elise said.

“But this time I recorded a video, and shared it on the Facebook page. The collage of photos that I normally would share at Graduation also had to be done on Facebook.

“The graduates shared their feelings through the comments.”

In the latest class 24 enrolled, 20 have graduated and 13 already have work.

“Three have gone to Brisbane,” said Elise.


“This certificate gives them the opportunity to go anywhere and work in the disability sector.

“They're like my children, and they all keep in touch via a Facebook page. When one of them gets a permanent placement everyone's excited for them, like winning the lottery.”

In the past, many have dropped in after they've graduated and some even talk to the class. The current students can then ask someone who's already gone through the course and is working in the disability sector the questions that they maybe couldn't ask a trainer.

One graduate of the latest class is Andy, a former tradie, whose body wasn't handling the strain like it used to and he wanted to transition into a field where he could help people.

“He learned a truckload,” Elise said.

“He'd had some experience as a carer for his dad, but really wanted to work with ex-military people, those with injuries and disabilities and PTSD.”

Elise said this latest class exhibited great diversity. Diversity of age – from 16 to over 60, and a great diversity of culture, but all had great determination.

Not long after starting the class, three students ended up in hospital – one with cancer. They all came back and completed the course.

“One lady had six children under six and never missed a day,” said Elise. “That is dedication. She was an inspiration.”

But there is no rest for Elise as she is already preparing for the next batch of students. This class will have its own challenges thanks to social distancing restrictions.


“I can't wait for the next one,” she said. “Because of the COVID-19 restrictions the training will be delivered in a live online classroom environment. The challenge will be to make sure the new students are engaged and enthusiastic as the ones in the physical classroom have been.”

IMPACT is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO code 0115).

Photos of some students are still to be taken.