Kerry Webb of Access Advisors | My Wellington to Tauranga Story
In 2018, Kerry Webb and her partner Duncan quit their jobs, packed up their Wellington flat, and went traveling. After making memories in Europe, Central America, and Mexico, there was one thing they knew for sure: they wanted a beach lifestyle when they moved home.
Kerry had grown up in Tauranga, and Mount Maunganui proved too alluring to resist when they returned to New Zealand. In April this year, Kerry began working alongside disability support services as an Inclusive Employment Advisor for Access Advisors. She is passionate about leading the new Accessibility Tick Programme in the Bay of Plenty and has a vision for our local community to lead the way as the most accessible and inclusive region of New Zealand.
This is her story.
Kerry, can tell us your career story?
I grew up in Matua and attended Otumoetai College, heading to Wellington when it was time to study. I completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Psychology and Criminology and then followed this up with a Masters in Social Work. While I didn’t have a specific career in mind, my qualifications did lead nicely to my first job as a Probation Officer in Wellington. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of the role and the variety I experienced every day.
After three years, I moved into advisory roles at the National Office with the Department of Corrections. Seeking further professional development and wanting to return to a client-focused role, I took up a case manager role with ACC. I then had the opportunity to move into the Injury Prevention team with a focus on preventing child injuries at a national level.
What happened next?
My partner Duncan and I were lucky enough to be in a position to travel, and we decided to have a good crack at it. We both resigned from our jobs in Wellington, gave up our flat and embarked on a one-way ticket to Europe. We left in June 2018 and spent five months traveling around Europe and the following three months in Central America, mainly in Guatemala and Mexico. We had an incredible trip.
Travel reinforced our love for the New Zealand way of life. While we had incredible experiences traveling, we did appreciate how lucky we are in New Zealand and looked forward to coming home to friends and family. We arrived back in New Zealand on the 1st of February, 2019, and moved to Tauranga at the start of March.
Why did you choose to move to Tauranga when you came home?
I love Wellington and we would both have happily moved back there, but we were drawn to Tauranga for the lifestyle and the idea of potentially starting to ‘settle’ somewhere. Having both grown up near the beach we were hard-pressed to go past the allure of Mt Maunganui. Duncan grew up in Gisborne and a lot of his family live there, so it’s also nice to be closer to them. My parents still live in Tauranga and my sister and her family are in Hamilton, so it means we get to see them all a lot more too.
What led you towards working in the social sector?
Having the opportunity to support people and communities that may be disadvantaged by society really interests and drives me. While these roles are challenging they bring great rewards. When I saw the role of Inclusive Employment Advisor with Access Advisors advertised, I was immediately drawn to it. I welcomed the opportunity to play a part in improving the circumstances of people who may at times be disadvantaged or marginalized by society.
What was it like looking for work in Tauranga?
It’s pretty daunting looking for work in an area where you have limited connections, however, I was excited about the opportunity to try something new. I was surprised at the number of opportunities there were in this field. While I didn’t particularly enjoy the process of looking for work, I consider myself very fortunate to have secured a job I really enjoy. It also gave me insight into the challenge of being unemployed and looking for work. It’s pretty tough when you are knocked back from a role you are really interested in and have to start the whole process over again. Luckily, this was reasonably short-lived for Duncan and me. We both managed to find jobs within a couple of months of being back in the country.
What do Access Advisors do?
Access Advisors is a pan-disability social enterprise helping organizations along their accessibility journey. We partner with other organizations within the disability sector to cover the full spectrum of disability access needs for both staff and customers in the workplace. Our aim is to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities and ultimately bridge the disability employment gap.
A key initiative we have developed is the Accessibility Tick Programme. This is a membership programme designed to support New Zealand organizations to create systemic change and become more accessible and inclusive of people with access needs in the workplace.
What does your role as Inclusive Employment Advisor involve?
Building awareness of the Accessibility Tick Programme in the Bay of Plenty. This involves reaching out to organizations to let them know about the programme and how we can support their organization to become more accessible and inclusive.
One in four New Zealanders identifies as having a disability, however, just over 20% of people who identify as having a disability are employed, compared with around 70% of those who don’t identify as having a disability.
We are working to build greater awareness on accessibility and inclusion, bust myths, and break down barriers that may have prevented organizations from employing people with disabilities.
I work alongside a number of great organizations in the disability sector that have partnered with the Accessibility Tick Programme and are supporting people with disabilities into employment or provide educational services about disability. Our goal is to bridge the disability employment gap in the Bay of Plenty and for the Bay of Plenty to stand out as the most accessible and inclusive region of New Zealand!
How has it been settling back into Tauranga?
We’ve adjusted to life in Tauranga really well and we’re really enjoying it here. Having regularly returned to Tauranga for holidays while living in Wellington, there haven’t been too many surprises now that I am back living here. Although the rapid growth of the city is pretty crazy.
We both have some friends from school that has also moved (or returned) to Tauranga over the last few years. It’s been great to be able to reconnect with them and also meet others through them. I’m planning to get back into some social sport over the summer and hoping to meet new people through this too.
What do you love about living in Tauranga?
The climate and having lots of outdoor activities in the area, not to mention the beach! We have spent time exploring nearby areas like Rotorua, Ohope, and Waihi Beach, which has been great for weekend or day escapes less than an hour away. Also, the number of new cafes/eateries and shops that are popping up is great and it doesn’t look like it is slowing down anytime soon! We are very lucky to be able to stay with my family while trying to buy our own house. We are living in Pyes Pa at the moment, but hoping to buy a house at the Mount.
What do you do to have fun/relax here?
Get outside! We typically spend our weekends around the Mount area, catching up with friends at the local cafes and eateries. Duncan is a keen surfer so any opportunity he gets he’s in the water. I love a walk up the Mount and along the beach, and in the warmer months, I’m in the water too. I have a long list of walks in the area that I’m hoping to clock by the end of the year.
Have you had any connection with Priority One, the economic development agency for the region?
Priority One was one of the first organizations I had contact with within the Bay of Plenty and they are a supporter of the Accessibility Tick Programme. I reached out to Priority One not long after I started my job. They were really supportive and helped connect me to some local business contacts. I think they add a lot of value to the development of Tauranga, particularly at a time of rapid growth. Everyone I speak with within the business environment asks if I have had contact with Priority One, which again reinforces the reputation, they have.
What has moving to Tauranga meant:
For your career? An opportunity to dive into a relatively unfamiliar area to me and meet heaps of people in a variety of roles.
For your wellbeing? Great work-life balance, the ability to get outside and regularly explore a different part of Tauranga or the Bay.
For your relationships? It has been great to reconnect with old friends and be closer to family.
Gets You Thinking Doesn’t It?
No one can tell you when you’re ready for a change of lifestyle…but when you are, we’d love to have you in Tauranga! Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaurangaWelcomesYou