Daniel, Forensic Residential Support Worker

"I like to make people laugh, because most of their life has been miserable."

Dan McCoy was born in the vibrant town of Mildura in a loving family, his mother working as a primary school teacher and his father as an automotive mechanic. Dan’s childhood was coloured by his adventurous spirit, as his family moved to various places including Nauru.

After completing school Dan joined the Navy, but he soon realised his passion was located elsewhere. Dan moved to Geelong and commenced working with adolescents in a specialised education program. Through his work with adolescents, Dan made a connection with an ACSO employee and Dan made the move to ACSO in 2007.

Dan’s role with ACSO is working with residents who have had significant contact with the justice system and live with a cognitive disability. This complex mix means residents in Dan’s care can require 24/7 support and supervision. Dan works caringly to break down their hardened personas by creating a safe and empowering environment for them to live in. Dan engages with residents in day-to-day activities such as playing pool, or table tennis, fostering a sense of camaraderie and normalcy in their lives. Dan works to build independent living skills like helping residents to prepare a meal and maintain a healthy routine, with the end goal of successfully reintegrating into the community. Dan cherishes the moments when he can bring laughter into the lives of people who have experienced significant trauma and hardship.

Then, in 2022, Dan faced a personal hurdle that tested his resilience like never before. One morning, he woke up unable to lift his body off the mattress. Dan was unable to talk or seek help and was stuck in that position for two days. Fortunately, Dan was saved by a welfare check and ambulance ride to the hospital where it was discovered that Dan had suffered a stroke.

For the next six weeks, Dan underwent significant therapy to rebuild his motor and communication skills within the confine of his hospital room. The journey was challenging, as Dan had to relearn all basic skills and regain his strength. The road to recovery seemed arduous, but Dan’s determination remained unshaken as well as his willingness to regain his independence and joy in life. After leaving the hospital, and on the road to recovery, Dan set his sights on having the ability to fulfil his hobbies that brought him joy, like playing golf and darts. These hobbies became not just a source of entertainment but also a form of self-care and fulfilment.

Six months after the incident, Dan let ACSO know he was ready to return to work. Whilst a detailed plan was created, the transition was not without its difficulties. A lot had changed. New faces, new procedures, and a greater reliance on computers demanded that he adapt and relearn. However, his desire to contribute and the support of his colleagues kept him motivated. Dan understood the importance of routine in his recovery, making sure to prioritise his health while also embracing the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of others once again.

Today, as Dan continues his work at ACSO, he reflects on his journey of resilience. The experience of overcoming a stroke has only strengthened his resolve to help those who need it most. He draws strength from the unpredictable nature of his job, knowing that he can walk into any situation and make a difference. The traits he possesses—humour, calmness, charm, and a deep understanding of people’s difficult situations—serve as powerful tools in his mission to create safer communities.