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Q&A with Sima Gharibi, ARPA VIC Finalist

People Stories 30 Jul 2021

A car accident as a teenager was the catalyst that set Sima Gharibi on the path to becoming a Rehabilitation Counsellor. Now a finalist in this year’s ARPA Victoria’s Excellence in Workplace Rehabilitation Awards, she talks to us about how it’s all coming together. 

How did it feel to be nominated in the ARPA Awards?  

So so exciting! It’s all firsts for me! The first year I’ve been nominated and my first as a finalist. I couldn’t be happier really.

Photo of Sima Gharibi

Sima Gharibi is a finalist in the Outstanding Consultant – New Employer Services Award.

Tell us what sparked your career in Occ Rehab? 

I had a serious car accident as a 16-year-old. I ended up with a serious medical condition and had to have several operations to my lower back, left wrist, and arm. I spent 6 months in a wheelchair. It sounds terrible but I’m actually truly grateful for the experience as it led me to where I am today helping people at KINNECT. 

When I finished school, I originally wanted to become a Physiotherapist and enrolled in a Diploma of Health Science. Then, the following year, they launched a new major specialisation for Rehabilitation Counselling which really piqued my interest. Instead of pursuing the physiotherapy path, I followed up my diploma with a Bachelor of Health Science, specialising in Rehabilitation Counselling. 

Having had an accident, my workers really relate to me. Like them, I know what it feels like to go through a serious injury. The loss of independence is very hard. You feel alone and you feel like it’s going to be forever. The support network you have including family, friends (or lack of them) makes a huge difference – well it certainly did for me.  When you are ill, or injured, it’s easy to lose belief in yourself. You need someone to believe in you. I am that person for my workers. 

Tell us about your role as Rehabilitation Counsellor? 

At KINNECT, I work mostly on ‘new employer services’ where the worker cannot go back to their original job. We start by sitting down with the worker and discussing their likes, interests, and transferable skills, look at their educational, employment background, their support network and their lifestyle, and basically come up with ideas of what they can potentially do.   

It’s scary or exciting, depending on your outlook but I’m always trying to be positive in helping my workers imagine a new future. Starting a new job in a new environment is not easy, especially when you are injured. You must be strong and positive and stay motivated which can be difficult if you’re not feeling so great or if there is a setback in your recovery. This is where building rapport and trust is so vital as I’ll be the one saying “I know you can do this. I believe in you.” 

Recently, I helped a man who’d been driving trucks for 25 years start a new career. He’s only driven trucks and didn’t really have other skills but of course he had a lot of knowledge about driving, about roads and about traffic. So, we started exploring opportunities for him to retrain as a traffic controller. As a truck driver, he didn’t have any computer skills whatsoever, but he was incredibly motivated. He did five courses to help him upskill and eventually got that new job as a traffic controller. He’s over the moon about his new job and the flexibility it has given him. 

Tell us about working in the Melbourne team?

Getting into Occ Rehab was a great decision, but the other great decision was moving to KINNECT from another provider. I’m so happy and proud to be a KINNECTer. 

Here, the people and our management team are so supportive. They believe in me so I do my best and show them what I can do.  Now I have an Award nomination for something I love doing. It’s amazing.  

My colleagues are like a family and when you work with family, you work with all of your heart. The workload is high as it is in many other jobs, but that’s okay. I’ve got a full package of support here so I’m more than happy about it.  


Find out more about our Victorian ARPA Awards Finalists and read more about the ARPA Vic Awards for Excellence on the ARPA Website.   


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