A YOUNG Bendigo resident has received an accolade for his dedicated work as an occupational therapist.
Harley Hayes was recognised with a Rising Star Award in the 2020 Victorian Rural Health Awards.
Mr Hayes has worked as an occupational therapist in Bendigo for the three years since he qualified.
He said it was a conscious decision to remain in the city, as he was passionate about supporting people in rural and regional areas.
The rising star award recognises a junior health professional who has shown a passion for rural health, and plans to dedicate their career to serving rural communities.
The award was peer nominated.
Mr Hayes said after a big year, he was first surprised to be nominated, then even more surprised to win.
He went into occupational therapy because of a lifelong interest in the health field, after he discovered he really enjoyed the variety of work.
What Mr Hayes does ranges from mental health support to aged care.
As well as occupational therapy, he works as a behaviour support practitioner.
Mr Hayes said he really liked that occupational therapy helps support people to live their best life and achieve good outcomes.
He said he tried to bring compassion and caring to his work.
During this period people with a disability are potentially more vulnerable than other members of the community, so it's been critical that we could continue to provide services.Harley Hayes
"You have to be passionate about the disability sector and making a difference," Mr Hayes said.
"I try to bring an attitude that we're not here for ourselves, but we're here for other people.
"I try and bring a level of resilience. Especially during COVID, it's really challenged what we do and made us pivot."
Since studying at La Trobe Mr Hayes has worked at National Disability Insurance Scheme provider Everyday Independence.
He's found pandemic year has presented particular challenge to practicing occupational therapy.
"During this period people with a disability are potentially more vulnerable than other members of the community, so it's been critical that we could continue to provide services," Mr Hayes said.
"It's definitely been different in how we provide services, but it's been essential to people with a disability."
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