Moving ahead at St Marys

Last year, the former Enterpraise workplaces at South Penrith and St Marys were merged on the St Marys site. Manager Jay Irsaj says that the merger has gone really smoothly. This year, there is a new contract with NSW Ambulance, as well as plans to conduct a Certificate III in Horticulture. Warren Heggarty went to talk to the crew at their early morning meeting before going out on the road.

Staff and Leadership team at St Marys.jpg

From left: Anthony Wearne, Jason Barter, Jeanette Rodriguez, Jay Irsaj, Dean Sheridan, Nathan Fryer

At 7:45, the employees gathered for a safety session before their final allocation to work crews for the day. Chris read through the rules concerning the safe handling of hazardous chemicals, emphasising the need for ventilation when working with them. Jay says these safety sessions are a regular daily feature. It is no good just doing them “when you have to.” You need to go through the procedures whenever there is an opportunity so that they really sink in.

Alan took the opportunity to report on the Lived Experience forum which happened at Head Office the previous Friday 12th February. He spoke about the Community Advisory Council and emphasised the “nothing about us without us” ethos behind it.

Jessica (who we’ve met in a couple of stories about how she had taken control of her weight) was sporting a new hairstyle and had just been on a three day cruise.

Chris said that the new contract with NSW Ambulance covers the central coast from as far South as Brooklyn and as far North as Morisset. The idea is to maintain the grounds of all the ambulance stations in that region. They had already gotten stuck into it, as evidenced by a trailer full of garden waste parked in the shed.
Fanga, who started out with RichmondPRA at our former Croydon site, has recently left shared accommodation to move back home near Mt Druitt. She finds that this is cheaper for her, besides just being fairly close to the St Mary’s workplace. She says it is better to move back home with people you love. Her mother has been living with dementia for nine years now and Fanga says that she can help out her elder sister with caring. They are also assisted by nurses who come at various times during the day, allowing her mother to continue living at home. Sadly, one of Fanga’s sisters recently passed away from illness aged only 42, leaving behind six children. “It’s hard!” Fanga says.

David from Ryde TAFE came out to talk to the crew about the new Certificate III in Horticulture which is on offer to RichmondPRA employees. It will run about one day per week over a period of two years. The course also includes people from Warwick Farm. So far there has been a really good response from there.

Participation in the course will be free because it is a way of helping people currently on the Disability Support Payment to move towards independence. Some credit will be given for people who have already done relevant studies at Certificate II level. David emphasised the flexible nature of the course and encouraged people not to be fearful of the “theory” side of it.

“There will be some theory, of course. For example, you’ll have to know the botanical names and that. But it’s not a spelling test. It will emphasise your ability to identify particular plants correctly. You will learn a bit of theory about turf laying, but the emphasis will be on going out into the field with you to lay the turf. You will need to attend Ryde TAFE to begin with, but we will try to have as much of the theory side here in the shed. Besides, Ryde TAFE is where people like Don Burke did their studies.”

Alan joked, “I can see the possibility of a reality TV show in it!” He told the group that this course was a good way to help people “move up” in their careers. Ultimately, Jay added, when you successfully complete the course, it makes you eligible for higher wages.

“It will have its challenges,” said David, “but we’ll work through them. You will have to pass the assessments, but we will have literacy and numeracy assessments so that if you need help in that area, we will give support. Think of it this way: you’ll learn about, say, propagation skills, working with nursery plants and cuttings, growing them up.

Eventually, you will be able to say, “This is the garden that I grew from cuttings.’”

One of the crew agreed: “You get out of things what you put into them.”

Another said: “I’d love to learn how to poison blackberries!”

“Yes, blackberry’s are a hard one!” David agreed. “And don’t forget, this course is free of charge to you. So if you complete it think of the thousands of dollars in tuition you will be saving.”

“‘Where do we sign?” Fanga asked enthusiastically.


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