Ni-Vanuatu mother, advocate and athlete Elie Enock wants to show the world that having a disability is not an obstacle to success.
For the last 5 years Elie has done this through her sporting career, representing Vanuatu in shot put in the 2022 Commonwealth Games and in javelin at the 2019 Pacific Games and World Para Athletics Championships.
Now, she has joined the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme and is using the opportunity to promote the rights of people with a disability in the workplace.
“As a person with a disability, I want to experience different things in my life. So I have to look at my ability, not my disability,” Elie said.
“I am so happy that my new employer has inclusion in the workplace and in the future I want all companies to have this inclusivity for people with disabilities.”
Elie is working at FrewFoods, a large abattoir in Stawell, Victoria, where she runs a machine developed on site to produce samples used in medical research and universities.
This is not an easy role, Operations Manager Shane Wittmann explains, but one that Elie is very good at.
“It’s an important job, what she’s learning to do, and it’s a big part of our business. It's a special and unique product that is sent around the world. It’s gotten really good in Elie’s area and she’s doing a really good job.
“We've obviously set a chair up and she can sit down in her station, and we’ll give her more jobs over time.
“The team is happy too. Elie has had such an impact on some of the people who work here. Her bright personality has motivated others in the workplace,” he said.
Getting to the 2024 Paralympics
The benefits flow both ways and the management at FrewFoods is keen to see her thrive in her sports career. In fact, Shane and the team are helping Elie to get to the Paralympics in France in 2024.
“Elie told me that she represented Vanuatu in shot put for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, so a few of us here decided that we wanted to help her get to the France Paralympics,” Shane said.
“Luckily the local community including the mayor and others have banded together and with some help from some surgeons in Ballarat they are supplying her with a prosthetic leg. It’s money that we don’t have to try and raise.
“We’ve organised her a gym membership and obviously she needs to learn to walk with the prosthetics, so we'll have to give her some time off for that. Then we’ll help her get into training and get her to France somehow,” he said.
Elie says that the opportunity is a dream come true.
“When they approached me to tell me that they wanted to help me with the artificial leg and help me with my sports career I just couldn't believe it. It's like a dream come true and I'm so grateful to have a lovely and supportive community,” she said.
Elie says her family back home, and especially her son, are proud of her achievements in Australia.
“My son says he is proud of me and I’m just happy he understands. I am so lucky to have him in my life because he really motivates me,” she said.
Elie’s advice to other people with a disability is to look for the positives.
“Just look at your ability and what you can do.
“I know especially us, as people with disabilities we have plenty of challenges in life to be honest. But do not be limited by your challenges… challenge your limits,” she said.