Lee’s new lease on life after spinal injury

Published by MAXSolutions on October 04, 2022
Lee and George stand side by side on the farm

When Luke introduced Lee to farmer George at Panshanger Estate outside of Launceston, Lee wasn’t what George had in mind for his new farmhand. 

Several months on and Lee has found a new lease on life, his health has improved and he hopes to continue working with George for many years to come. 

George Mills is the fourth generation Mills to farm and nurture the expansive grounds at Panshanger Estate outside Launceston in Tasmania.

When Lee arrived alongside MAX employer Partnership Manager Luke at the stunning Panshanger Estate outside of Launceston, he wasn’t what farmer George had in mind for his new farmhand.

George was looking for someone young who he could train up to help manage the gardens, the extensive crops including vegetables, poppies, cereals and seeds along with beef cattle, over 9000 Merino sheep for wool and lambs across over 6000 acres. 

On the contrary, Lee stepped onto Panshanger in his late thirties, bringing with him extensive labouring experience across a range of industries – and an injury.

In a previous labouring role, Lee had sustained a severe spinal injury in the workplace.

He’d undergone a range of treatments including physiotherapy to help address the chronic pain in his back, shoulder and knees. Although his treatment has been successful, he continues to live with arthritis and long periods of sitting and bending cause him pain.

For Lee, this is likely to be a challenge for the long term, limiting the types of jobs he can comfortably do.

During his rehabilitation, Lee had resigned to not being able to work again. However, during his meetings with our Disability Employment Services (DES) team, Lee’s eyes were opened to the different types of jobs he might be able to take on despite his injury. 

The team supported Lee to obtain licences for traffic control, and after working in this field for a time, it became obvious that the work was not going to provide the stability he needed to take care of his family. 

At the same time, employer Partnership Manager, Luke Robinson had met with farmer owner George Mills, learning of his need for a farmhand.

“I wanted to make sure we found George someone who lived close by, had an interest in farming and labouring skills,” says Luke. 

The MAX team in Launceston told Luke about Lee and spoke highly of him. 

“The team shared that Lee had a great attitude and wanted to work and support his family,” says Luke. “I knew George was looking for someone younger, but after meeting Lee, I was confident he might be the right fit at Panshanger Estate.” 

After meeting Lee, George agreed to give Lee a trial – and the pair haven’t looked back.

“Not long after Lee started, I visited Panshanger and saw firsthand how confident Lee is in working the various labouring roles across the farm. George shared with me that Lee had quickly learned the inner workings of the farm and how valuable his contribution is. It’s clear there is a great deal of mutual respect between the two men,” shares Luke. 

Lee and Luke on the farm

Lee is loving working on the estate and undertakes multiple labouring roles across the extensive grounds. 

Holding grain in hands

As he found his feet at Panshanger, Lee also started making better decisions for his health, including giving up alcohol and cigarettes.

“George and his family have been so supportive and inclusive, encouraging Lee to make healthy lifestyle choices, and even offering some casual work to two of Lee’s teenage sons,” says Luke.

Lee’s wife has witnessed the tremendous change in Lee since he started working with George and sent a thank you letter and gift to the Millers to show her appreciation.

Lee is now a permanent full time employee and has exited from Disability Employment Services as an independent worker. He hopes to continue working on the farm until he retires. 

Since Lee started, Luke has helped George find two additional workers for Panshanger Estate.

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