A puppy job Taylor-made

By Sarah Luke

Gippsland Times

Maffra resident and dog love Taylor O'Brien has been given her first paid employment at Banksia Park Puppies in Stradbroke.

Taylor has been visually impaired since being born 13 weeks premature, but said it didn't hold her back from her work with the puppies.

"I don't like being told I can't do thing," she said.

"Yes, I have low vision, but show me how to do something and I can do it."

Ms O'Brien's job primarily entails socialising and exercising the pups.

"Playing with the puppies is definitely my favourite part of the job," she said.

"Socialising them is important so they know how to behave with their new owners."

Banksia Park Puppies owner Matthew Hams said Ms O'Brien was an independent and dedicated worker.

"The biggest thing about all of the staff we have here is making sure they bring a good attitude; Taylor has that in spade," Ms Hams said.

One of five people with special needs on staff, Ms O'Brien is treated like any other employee, including her pay rates.

"Working with the public can be stressful, whereas working with animals is calming, and this is where we can see people with special needs thrive," Mr Hams said.

Banksia Park has been subject to a Vision Australia workplace assessment, in which environmental changes will be made to help Ms O'Brien navigate her surroundings.

"To help Taylor get around safely, we're doing a lot of painting and land-marking, as well as the installation of bollards, so she can get her bearings around the par," Mr Hams said.

An animal lover through and through, Ms O'Brien fits her new job in with volunteering at Maffra Veterinary Centre, a role she has undertaken for eight years.

She also volunteers at Maffra Library, where she helps with 'story time', and is currently in the process of writing an autobiography which outlines her medical history and how she has coped with vision impairment.

Advanced Personnel Management employment consultant Rylie Evers said by giving people with disabilities employment opportunity within the community, the economic and social costs of disability within the community could be contained.

"We want to show that people with multiple or severe disabilities can be just as productive in the workplace," he said.

"It's important for the community to see people like Taylor out there participating in the workforce and being just as capable."