Five minutes with Amanda Neirinckx, Manager, Department of Planning and Environment

Published 30 September 2022

Woman looking at camera smiling on orange background

Amanda Neirinckx is a manager in People and Culture at the Department of Planning and Environment. Amanda has an acquired brain and spinal injury from haemorrhagic dengue fever. She also lives with multiple sclerosis.

Amanda features in a newly launched video which is part of ADNSW’s Workplace Adjustments Series. In Episode 1: The importance of workplace adjustments, Amanda and other managers and staff from across the NSW public service, tell personal stories and highlight the importance of workplace adjustments.

We spoke with Amanda to learn more about her journey and the importance of workplace adjustments.

Can you tell us about yourself and your disability?

I studied economics at university (even though I really wanted to study fine arts) and after graduation I started working.

I didn't enjoy the field I was working in, so I volunteered with AusAID to work in an aid program in Cambodia. I loved it; it was amazing. I was able to use my high school agriculture, and it helped me to realise that I wanted to work in development programs. 

I was actually identified by the United Nations to work with them, but on my first weekend off in three months, I got bitten by a mosquito and ended up with haemorrhagic dengue fever, which is a fatal strain. I was airlifted from Cambodia to Bangkok, and then back to Sydney. 

I survived haemorrhagic dengue fever, but it had life-altering implications. The main one being I acquired a brain and spinal injury, so had to learn to walk and talk again. I also needed 12 lots of brain surgery. And just when I was beginning to do well, I started showing signs of multiple sclerosis.

Because of what has happened with my health, I’ve been very grateful to be a government employee. And although I didn’t get to work for the UN, I am pleased that I work in government and can make a difference that way.

My disability means I struggle being put on the spot and I often forget words. And MS makes mobility a challenge. Some days are better than others – but the fatigue from MS is something I have never experienced before. 

I’ve always worked in policy areas, using evidence to inform policy. I used to manage an economics team, but about 12 months ago I was offered an opportunity to work in the office of the Deputy Secretary of People, Performance and Culture. It’s a great role where I get to utilise my skills in research, numeracy and strategy.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I’ve discovered gardening! I never thought I'd be a gardener, but I really enjoy it.

Love is what my life centres around. I spend time with friends and family, and I have two Cocker Spaniels that keep me busy. 

I also plan to get back into photography.

What workplace adjustments do you need?

My main adjustment is working from home. My MS treatment supresses my immune system, which means I will catch anything and everything that's going around. In the world of COVID, that’s quite dangerous for me.

Because of my spinal injury, I need a sit-to-stand desk, and I also have a smaller keyboard and mouse. So pretty simple things.

I also work flexibly. I start work at 6.30am and finish around 3pm as I find I’m more productive in the mornings. 

Can you tell us about the Department of Planning and Environment’s Workplace Adjustment Passport?

The Workplace Adjustment Passport is fabulous. It is a living document which records your agreed workplace adjustments. I reviewed mine with the WHS team a few weeks ago and it was a really easy process.

It can be tiring having to retell your story and explain what you need and why. The passport means you don’t need to re-negotiate adjustments every time you change jobs or are assigned a new manager.

A number of government departments are introducing Workplace Adjustment Passports, but I would love to see the concept rolled out across the whole of government. It could help achieve some of the mobility objectives of the Government Sector Employment Act and it would really help to normalise and mainstream disability. 

One in five people live with disability and it’s only going to increase with our ageing population and the long-term implications of COVID.

How did you become involved in the Workplace Adjustments Series – and what was it like being filmed at SBS studios?

I became involved through the NSW Government’s DENconnect; a safe, open and accessible community that meets, shares stories and celebrates ability. I was speaking with two people who said, ‘We’ve just heard about this project; would you like to be a part of it?’.

I’m relatively new to DENconnect. I didn’t actually come out about my disability until my MS diagnosis. But it’s really nice having that community and picking people’s brains. Knowing you have allies really helps.

Being filmed at SBS was very chilled. I’m photophobic and have an extreme sensitivity to light, but the filming was done beautifully, and it was a really enjoyable experience. I loved how the film crew, ADNSW staff and even the interviewer were all in the dark!

What is your advice to people with disability who need workplace adjustments?

When you are ready, let your manager know what you need. Done well, workplace adjustment is a really simple process that often doesn’t require that much effort. 

Initially, I was quite scared to come out as disabled; I didn’t want it to impact my career. But it already was having an impact, and in some ways being open about my disability has been really helpful. People now know why I finish at 3pm; it’s not because I am slack!

If you are starting a new job and feel safe and comfortable ticking the box for workplace adjustments, then tick it! Let people know what you need right from the beginning. It will make life so much easier when you enter your new workplace.

What is your advice to employers and managers? 

My advice is to educate yourself. There is training available, so do it.

If someone in your team has been brave enough to disclose their disability, show them respect. Ask them what they need and support them on that journey. It’s often not as arduous, time consuming or expensive as you might think.

And don’t make assumptions. A long time ago I had a manager who spoke to me in a loud, slow voice. I would say ‘I’ve got a brain injury, but it’s not that type of brain injury’!  

Instead of making assumptions, use ATP – Ask the Person.

Watch Amanda in Episode 1: The importance of workplace adjustments

Last updated:

04 Oct 2022

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