A childhood love of helping people has seen Madeleine Duley blossom in her role as activities assistant for Oceania Healthcare’s Redwood rest home in Blenheim.
“I came in to work with my mum one day and because our diversional therapist was away sick, I helped out to organise some of the activities for our residents,” the 18-year-old says.
“It was a lot of fun and I realised I really enjoy making people laugh and seeing smiles on their faces,” she says.
Duley is studying the New Zealand Apprenticeship in Diversional Therapy. Her passion for working with older people grew stronger after volunteering regularly at Redwood and upon finishing school last year without any clear career pathway in mind, she decided to train as a diversional therapist.
“During my last year at school I was wondering what I wanted to do and what sort of career I wanted to pursue,” she says.
“I have really grown to love this job and working with older people, interacting with our residents and making them happy. I also love hearing all their stories and getting to know about what they did when they were younger. 
“Working with the elderly is a wonderful opportunity to hear stories you might never hear otherwise; it’s a part of living history.”
Duley is now on a mission to gain a nationally recognised qualification with the New Zealand Apprenticeship in Community Facilitation (Diversional Therapy). She’s also employed part-time as an activities assistant, where she and her teammate are responsible for planning events and activities for the rest home’s residents.
Duley says her age hasn’t been an issue and the residents appreciate new ideas for events and activities.
“I’ve introduced them all to moulding clay. It’s a fun activity for people of all ages as they can explore and experience a new sensation,” she says.
“It’s also great for some of our residents who love crafts and being creative, but don’t quite have the dexterity in their hands that they used to. So it’s really cool to see them all having a good time.”
While she doesn’t have songstress Adele blasting through the stereo just yet, she’s making plans to jazz up the resident’s playlists by adding ABBA to their popular Sit and Dance exercise class. “The residents enjoy it and appear more energised,” she says.
Duley says her apprenticeship journey wouldn’t have been possible without the backing of her employer Oceania Healthcare, plus the ITO Careerforce, and her mother, who is Redwood’s clinical manager.
“I have a lot of support behind me from my workplace, which is really great. I’ve also just finished my second module, which is about people, and I’ve learnt some new skills to take on in a workplace and how to deal with different situations,” she says.
“The apprenticeship is a great opportunity to reflect upon all that and learn new ways to deal with situations.”
She says more young people should consider a career pathway in health and wellbeing, particularly in the aged care sector, because “it’s so rewarding to see the residents smile and say hello to me when I come in, knowing that I’m making a difference and I’m an important part of their lives”.
Duley’s dream is to become a registered diversional therapist and work in New Zealand, then travel overseas to gain some international experience.
“There’s heaps of great career opportunities if you open your mind and follow your heart.”
Are you interested in a career as a diversional therapist? Check out our qualifications here:


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