Chris has something to smile about with a new job after 7 years of unemployment. Pictured here with Beaudesert Placement Consultant Leya Mercer.
58-year-old Chris from Browns Plains, QLD has not only found permanent employment, he has found a completely different life for himself with Voyagers Indigenous Tourism Ayers Rock
The ex-labourer was unemployed for seven years after arthritis in the knee left him unable to meet physical requirements of such work.
When Placement Consultant (PC) Leya Mercer first met Chris over five years ago, he was down and out, wanting to continue in his chosen field of labouring while becoming increasingly frustrated at his body’s inability to do so.
Leya worked with Chris, helping to renew his expired driver’s license and put forward Voyagers as a suggested employer.
“At first Chris was hesitant to apply with Voyagers as he had been unemployed for such a long time.”
“I organised the phone interview which he passed with flying colours.”
Chris then flew up to Ayers Rock to partake in a one week work trial to see if he would be suitable for the position.
Browns Plains PC Gary Remeka saw Chris when he arrived back from the trial and could not get over the difference from when they first met, also over five years ago.
“What a change - the glow on his face said it all. The first thing that came out of his mouth was Voyagers. That’s when he started sharing his story with me, the significance of it all for him.”
“He said, ‘Mate, I’ve got to go back. I don’t know why but that’s where I’ve got to be.’”
Chris’s mother died when he was a baby and he had never had any real connection to his Aboriginal heritage or culture.
“When I first walked off the plane on my first visit to Ayers Rock, I was overcome by emotions as I had never felt spiritually connected to my Indigenous side until that very moment,” Chris said.
After that first day, he knew in his heart that’s where he wanted to be. It’s with that he made a commitment to himself and MAX that he would do whatever it takes to start work.
But then came further setbacks.
As part of the Voyagers pre-employment check, Chris was to undertake a medical examination. During this examination, Chris was diagnosed with extremely high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes which he had unknowingly been living with for over four years.
PC Gary, who had taken Chris to his doctor’s appointment says Chris was disheartened but remained in good spirits, even after this examination left him in hospital for four days. The Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) where Chris had selected to be examined worked with Chris to help him manage his diabetes and continue to call and check up on him.
It was with this support and the on-going support of PC Leya that allowed Chris to get the all clear to relocate to Ayers Rock on the 18th of July 2017 and begin permanent full-time work with Voyagers.
“What a legend,”
- the first thing that comes to Leya’s mind when asked about Chris.
And for Chris? He’ll be missed by all that worked with him at MAX over the last 7 years and also by his daughter who has purchased smart phones so the two can keep in contact via video chat. But his spiritual journey has just begun, surrounded by those who no longer call him Chris, but instead refer to him respectfully as ‘Uncle’.
“Thank you MAX, you have changed my life,” were Chris's parting words.