Recovery at Harris Park

Jimmy Zahra with the forkliftPictured: Jimmy Zahra

We preview the new Physical Health and Wellbeing microsite!

By Warren Heggarty

We managed to get Jimmy Zahra to stand still just long enough to take this photo of him working the forklift at the busy loading dock of Prestige Packing, Harris Park. Lately, as Manager Mihaela Stanculescu says, it has been very busy and that’s exactly what we like to see!

In fact, there was a second truck queued up behind the one in the driveway.

Kathy Te Nuku, one of the peer workers at Harris Park told Panorama that “we are very very busy with new employees and a lot of work coming in all the time, it’s hardly ever quiet. Three trucks of 6 to 8 pallets came in today. We have between 40 and 50 and up to 75 employees on any one day. I have to start at 6:30 so I can get my work done before the employees arrive!”

If you think peer work is a kind of desk job, take note that Kathy joins in with directing traffic to help with the unloading. That’s teamwork. And Kathy and fellow support worker Boris Borissov often go into Parramatta to visit the NDIA office and see whether they can help people with the smooth flow of paperwork for the NDIS!

Work is part of the road to recovery and so Recovery Sessions are a part of the work routine. Panorama took part in a recovery session dedicated to the topic of Physical Health and Well being. Kathy and NDIS coordinator Melissa Schwartz were there. 

Jade Ryall (Program Manager, Back On Track Health), used the hour long group discussion to let employees know about our new Physical Health and Wellbeing microsite.

Gerry and Dina.jpgGerry and Dina at a weekly recovery session at Prestige Packing Co Harris Park

One thing of particular interest to the audience was the side effects of medication. Jade displayed the Physical Health and Wellbeing microsite at on the big screen. 

We saw 32 ‘cards’ set out covering every kind of health issue. One of the most common side effects of medication is weight gain,  so Jade clicked on MY WEIGHT, and voila! We find a screen with some common questions about weight such as: 

  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Finding it hard to maintain a suitable weight
  • Wanting assistance to manage your weight.

Scrolling down, we found a list of resources and places to get additional information about weight issues. 

Why stop there, though? With a click, Jade showed us that we can actually be linked to those other resources through the internet. 

So people using the Physical Health and Wellbeing microsite can go directly to the experts, rather than getting information second hand or relying on other people to find the information out for us. This is in line with Flourish Australia’s belief that the more we can do for ourselves, the better our recovery proceeds.  

For example, the My Weight card has a link to the Dieticians Association of Australia and numerous other organisations in that field.  We are sure that the My Weight card will get a good workout! 

‘Some medications can really affect our appetites,’ said Jade.

‘Not mine,’ responded Gerry Connolly dryly from up the back of the room to much laughter from everybody.

‘He generally eats about five plates full,’ in a sitting, explained Jimmy Zahra to further mirth.  

Actually, most people report weight GAIN, and a stronger appetite with medication so obesity is an issue for most of us. Though obviously not Gerry who is still fairly wiry. 

The Physical Health Message is already well established in Harris Park. We even saw that their selection of brochures included one entitled Monkeys Check Theirs…Do You? It’s a brochure about checking for testicular cancer. 

Skipping meals had been a major issue among employees. Kathy Te Nuku raised this issue at the June Physical Health and Wellbeing Community of Practice meeting.There are many reasons why a person might lose interest in preparing food or cooking. Jade knew a lady who used to regularly cook roasts, but when her husband died, she lost the motivation. ‘You don’t cook a roast for yourself, surely?’ Perhaps you could find friends to do it for. Or maybe that just brings back sad memories.

In any case, when big changes happen in your life, you have to take a new approach to meals and cooking. Then there is the problem of living in a group home where sometimes the dynamics between residents are not perfect!  So you can see how people with mental health issues might have difficulty with such a fundamental thing as meal times! 

After the recovery session, tables and chairs were reorganised by the employees in preparation for today’s International Cuisine Day. We couldn’t help noticing that Dina (from the EAP) set to work polishing up the tables in readiness for the food. 

Jade talking to Sharon.jpgAbove: Jade (left) the Program Manager of Back On Track Health talking to Sharon (right), who is an employee at Harris Park. Sharon’s artworks explore themes about Australia, New Zealand and the indigenous people of both countries, and adorn the walls of Manager Mihaela’s office.


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