Ausnew Home Care | Disability no barrier as Queensland's 'Miss Elissa' notches up 20 years at Buddina State School

Disability no barrier as Queensland's 'Miss Elissa' notches up 20 years at Buddina State School

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Elissa Flannery has been one of Buddina State Primary School's most loved staff members of staff, but now she is one of its longest serving members, having reached a big milestone of 20 years. 

"[It] is a big achievement for me," she said.

"And all the kids around me appreciate what I do here at the school."

A woman hugging students in a playground.
Elissa Flannery is a much-loved member of staff at Buddina State School.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Amy Sheehan)

Ms Flannery's mother, Dee Flannery, had originally worried her daughter's down syndrome would be a barrier to employment.

That was until she bumped into her daughter's old Buddina Primary School teacher in 2003.

"She happened to ask how Liss was going and I said, 'Well, she's fallen into a hole having finished Year 12 and I don't know what the next step is'," Mrs Flannery said.

"A couple of days later, we got a call and Liss came up and she's been here ever since.

"So it was just amazing how it all fell into place."

A smiling woman in a blue shirt stands in front of a school mural, short dark blonde bob.
Ms Flannery is a paid teacher's aide for preparatory students.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Amy Sheehan)

At 40 years old, "Miss Elissa", as she is affectionately known, is now a paid teacher's aide for the school's preparatory cohort of about 100 students.

"I love working here because I like working with the kids and I like helping them out and doing significant activities with them," she said.

"Watching the preps being little is really so cute and they've grown up so much.

"It's nice to be part of the school and the community here.

"The ladies at the office celebrated a special thing for me the other day and they're so happy and so proud of me."

Confidence in employment 

Ms Flannery said the employment had given her daughter a sense of purpose.

"She had a reason to get up and have a shower and get organised and get out the door," she said.

"It also gave her a lot of confidence.

"We walk through the shopping centre now and kids yell out, 'Hi Liss'."

Two women hugging and smiling for the camera, one wears a blue school tee and the other a white blouse.
Dee Flannery said the school helped give her daughter a sense of purpose.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Amy Sheehan)

School principal Russell Thompson said it wanted to mark Ms Flannery's 20 years of service.

"We had a special morning tea for Elissa and celebrated her achievements over those 20 years," he said.

"She's an Energizer Bunny. She's very bubbly.

"She's like the prep's big sister and is such a really positive role model."

Man in green shirt smiling for the camera, dark blond hair, black couch, chair, banner reading together and notices on the wall.
School principal Russell Thompson says Ms Flannery is a very "bubbly" staff member.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Amy Sheehan)

Ms Flannery enjoys a variety of tasks at the school, including reading groups, class activities and coordinating the Caring Cards, a special rewards system for positive behaviour.

Prep student Hayden Sullivan said the teacher aide was very generous.

"When I play out in the playground and I be good she gives me lots of Caring Cards," he said.

Origin star's sister kicking goals

Ms Flannery is the younger sister of former Buddine student and Queensland State of Origin star Chris Flannery.

But she has been kicking her own goals, including moving out of home for the first time.

Three men and a two women.  smiling at the camera, Men wear shirts, women evening dresses. One woman holds trophy.
Elissa Flannery [front] with brothers Chris and Clayton, and parents Dee and Peter.(Supplied: Elissa Flannery)

"I'm doing independent living and I'm in a share house with two lovely housemates," Ms Flannery said.

"It's nice to have my own freedom there. I like having my own space.

"My Mum and my Dad and my two brothers, they are very proud of me and also my sister-in-law as well."

Dee Flannery said it had been a big adjustment in not having her daughter at home.

"We had her for 40 years and then all of a sudden it's just Pete and I, empty nesters," she said.

"It's just perfect. It's all we ever wanted, with great carers, they're amazing."

Ms Flannery believes her daughter's achievements will serve as inspiration to other families of children with disabilities.

"Having Liss in the office where parents come in, if they've got a child with a disability, they can see what they can achieve, which we think's pretty special," she said.

"I think she brings a lot of joy to the school. The kids are amazing with her."


Source: ABC

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