Determination, skill, and personal experience – a force for good

Jacqui Francis, Senior Customs Officer in Christchurch, discusses how her own experience with disability has empowered her to advocate for others and break down barriers.

Jacqui Francis is a familiar face at Customs in Christchurch, having spent seven years as a Senior Advisor, Customer Experience for Business, Improvement and Innovation (BI&I). During this time, Jacqui was also an integral part of SGWN’s development. Life threw her a curveball however, when she experienced a brain aneurysm in March 2018 as she was boarding a flight from Queenstown to Christchurch.

Since the injury, Jacqui has worked hard with rehabilitation – a collaborative process involving medical professionals, colleagues, and friends and family. Flexible hours and open communication combined with determination have resulted in Jacqui returning to work this year and representing Customs at Government Disability Network meetings. This newly established group is currently defining its terms of reference and is discussing awareness, acknowledgement, and accessibility for government employees living with disability.

  • Nearly one in four New Zealanders identify as having a disability
  • There are different kinds of disability including physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental health related
  • A disability may be visible or hidden, permanent or temporary and could have a minor or major impact on a person’s life.
  • A disability may affect mobility, ability to learn, ability to see or ability to communicate easily
  • Disabled people are throughout our community: men, women, and children; employers and employees; students and teachers; people of all ethnicities and religions; customers and citizens.

“I can breakdown myths that surround disabled people, and educate and utilise the untapped resources and skills disabled people have to offer”

Disability advocacy is something that Jacqui is passionate about. With her real life experience and supportive and caring nature, she contributes unique qualities to her workplace, the Government Disability Network, and SGWN. “I can breakdown myths that surround disabled people, and educate and utilise the untapped resources and skills disabled people have to offer” says Jacqui.

 

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Maintaining mental health is particularly important to Jacqui. “I try to take a day at a time – this helps me to see the small progresses, appreciate what others having to offer and tell them. I view change as a challenge and an opportunity.” Communication about the disability also makes a significant difference to her mental health. She makes sure that her employer and colleagues are educated about her capabilities and has people she can go to for support. Other techniques Jacqui uses are:

  • Spending quality time with my family and friends
  • Making time for hobbies and new activities – pilates, tennis, crafts, walking, cycling, music, dinner parties
  • Limiting tasks that have deadlines
  • Using lists, diaries, sleep sounds app, and a 'stop, breathe and think' app
  • Eating healthy and exercising regularly
  • Meeting new people and travelling or having outings
  • Working in a job that she enjoys
  • Networking and mentoring others – SGWN, CGLG, AOG Disability

The people, the culture and values, and feeling part of the ‘family’ is what led Jacqui to work with Customs. She has recently changed her direction and is now a Senior Customs Officer at Service Delivery in the Customshouse, Christchurch. This enables her to progress her rehabilitation in the workplace. “I’m enjoying utilising familiar skills and knowledge, learning new skills and opportunities, and meeting and reacquainting with staff members and customers.”

Jacqui’s advocacy, supportive nature and commitment to shared goals will ensure that the sense of ‘family’ will follow her whatever she undertakes.