20 May 2024

"I haven't regretted a day in my life since doing it. I just love being here.”

Image: Brett stands with three centre attendees. Behind them is a 'Happy Father's Day' sign.

Brett first became involved with Life Without Barriers when he was running his property maintenance and electrical business 11 years ago. This year, Brett celebrates nine years as an aged care support worker at Life Without Barriers’ Capalaba Senior Centre.

“I'm a big introvert, yet I'm working at a senior centre in front of a whole bunch of people, so go figure that one,” said Brett, smiling at the irony.

“I was doing all the test and tagging for the Life Without Barriers houses, as well as the Capalaba Senior Centre, to make sure they were compliant and any repair work around the place. That's where I met and talked to some of the seniors, and I got to know them."

"I just found them really interesting - the stories that they told about their lives. Just listening to them, they were just such a big wealth of knowledge and life experience. They’ve lived through wars and have got a whole history behind them. I think that's what sort of drew me into being a support worker,” said Brett.

“I was also coming to that stage in my life that I was looking for a career change – I was getting a little bit old to be going up in the ceilings. I started pulling my business back and I managed to get some volunteer work at the centre."

"I was building relationships and found myself wanting to be there a lot more.”

“It was about six months later that I heard that they were looking for a support worker. I applied for it and here I am, eight and half years later, doing a job that I really love,” he said.

Image: Brett lights the candles on a birthday cake for a centre attendee.

Brett works at the Senior Centre four days a week and helps to make things run smoothly.

“I like to come to the centre a bit earlier so I can help set up the tables and get things going,” he said.

Brett jumps in to do whatever is needed, from preparing food in the kitchen, assisting with events and activities to picking up and dropping off senior attendees.

“I am mainly chief cook and bottlewasher. I'm basically always in the kitchen, cooking, cleaning, and trying to think of new dishes. Keeping 12 centre guests fed with three meals each day keeps me very busy. I enjoy it.” Brett shared happily.

In fact, he loves it so much that when he first started working at the centre he asked if he could start cooking a meal once a week.

“Now I’m cooking different meals every day. I love cooking. That's where I feel most comfortable,” he said.

The senior centre attendees love a good party and there are special events at least once a month, celebrating everything from Valentine's Day to St Patrick’s Day and Melbourne Cup. Brett and Linda, the Centre’s manager, always come up with a special menu for each event. At the Valentine’s Day event, Brett prepared a love-themed menu starring the “Lover’s Dessert” which he created with homemade raspberry pannacotta.

Image: Brett in the kitchen, dressed up for Melbourne Cup Day.

While he’s in the kitchen a lot, he always makes time for a chat with the people.

“I like talking with them. I like sparking a debate about mock scenarios, like whether Prince Charming had consent to kiss Sleeping Beauty. The attendees will pretend to groan ‘here we go again’ but they all love a good debate," Brett said.

"And with our centre attendees, there's nothing off the table. People say you shouldn't talk about sex, religion and politics and all that. Oh, no, no, nothing’s off the table, they'll just go in and they'll have a good discussion.”

After running a maintenance business for many years, Brett cannot help himself when it comes to looking after the centre.

“On Thursdays, when the Centre is closed, we do all the little jobs that we can't do during the week. Cleaning the oven and dishwasher, cleaning out the fridges and defrosting them, checking and cleaning the pantry. If the Council do a snap inspection, we’re always ready. In past inspections, they’ve always been very happy."

“I’m looking forward to doing more outside work, like looking after the concrete and gardens. In the mornings I like to clean and vacuum the bus," he said.

Image: Brett with his arms in the air, singing happy birthday for a centre attendee.

Brett highlights that his achievements at the centre are thanks to being part of a good team.

"It’s not just me, we’re all a big team and we all work together.”

“It’s a team effort. It's not what I do or what they do, it's what we do together. For example, on Tuesdays, while another support worker and I pick up eight centre attendees, Linda will come in and start prepping the morning tea for us, so by the time we get back, it's all ready to go,” he said.

When asked what drives him to keep giving his best at work for close to a decade, Brett said, “The good relationships I have with everybody who comes to our centre. I’ve known a lot of them for almost nine years. I like to have a banter with them, and they banter back. I love it when they give me a hard time because I know they’re only joking.”

“I consider it to be a great career change; I haven't regretted a day in my life since doing it. I just love being here.”

For anyone thinking of making a career change to Aged Care, Brett has this advice.

“Try and get in and do some volunteer work first. By volunteering, you'll know if that's a path that you want to take, and also find out what area of support work you really want to do - like aged care, disability or another type of care work. "Then apply for a job! Certificates are handy too.”

If you’re interested in a career in Aged Care, you can view current opportunities on the Life Without Barriers website.

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