What is your role and what does it involve?
I’m the Safety Officer at Balmain Shipyard. It entails overseeing the safety and activities that happen in the yard, making sure that everybody who comes on site goes home at the end of the day. Being a support for the supervisors and general manager of the yard and making sure everything is done safely and no one gets hurt.
How long have you worked in this role and at the ferries?
In this role about 12 months. I’ve been here nearly 20 years. I started as a Boilermaker Apprentice when I was 19, and have worked through supervising and facility management and now doing this safety role.
What drew you to doing the safety role?
I guess it was an avenue from overseeing all the work as a supervisor and stepping out of that role and seeing it from a different perspective. When you’re a supervisor you’ve got time restraints – you’ve got to get this and this done. I guess there’s little things you do miss. I went and got my safety diploma and ended up with the role I am doing now.
Do you feel a lot more pressure in a role where you are looking out for everyone?
Yeah, I mean you do that as a supervisor as well, but I guess when you’re the overarching set of eyes to make sure things are going on, there’s definitely more responsibility. But it’s good.
What drew you to working for the ferries in the first place?
Working on the water and working with boats. I’ve always lived near the water and enjoyed boats. I mean look at the place!
It’s got great views and it’s good camaraderie with the guys, it’s a bit of a team-effort work environment. It’s nice.
Where do you live?
Collaroy, so it’s only about 35 minutes or so to get here. It’s not far from home.
Is working in this role, or even within this industry something you envisioned doing when you were younger?
Not really. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left school. I stayed until year 12 and then after that I was doing bits and pieces, different sorts of jobs. Pool-cleaning and things like that. Then I was offered an apprenticeship outside and then after 9 months they closed up. That’s how I ended up applying here. There was an apprenticeship going here.
So it’s really sort of nurtured you along the way, allowing you to move into different roles.
Yeah, moving into supervising and other roles. I ended up doing the qualification in safety and being able to do that at the yard.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face with this safety role?
Culture change. Obviously with the change from government to being privatised there’s been cultural changes that I’ve had to be involved in and try and lead by example to try and get these guys to change over as well. Whether that’s just PPE or wearing a hard-hat. I mean there’s a lot of resistance to change with people that have been doing the same thing for a long time. Some, not everyone, are hesitant to change. That’s probably been one of the bigger things.
What do you most enjoy about living in Sydney?
I live near the beach – I’ve got everything! Sports, everything’s close-by. I pretty much only come off the Northern Beaches to come to work (laughs). We’ve got the harbour, we’ve got everything. There’s plenty to do in Sydney. It’s not cheap, but there’s plenty.
What tips do you have for anyone visiting Collaroy?
The beach club’s good for a beer and lunch! (Laughs). It’s right on the beach . You can’t get any closer unless you’re in the water. Everyone knows each other. You can go to the next suburb and see someone you know. It’s a got a good community feel.
What about in Balmain?
Balmain is very similar, it’s very community orientated. And certainly not short of a place for to go for a feed or to meet up with friends for a beer. Balmain’s good too. I’d live in Balmain!
Do you have a favourite ferry route?
Is that your favourite ferry too?
Yep! Definitely the Manly Ferry or the Lady boats. You can get on the Manly Ferry, kick back and relax and take in the scenery for 30 minutes.
I’m sure your time here has created some good stories and adventures. Can you tell me any?
Previous Christmas parties have always been adventures. I won’t go into those too much, (laughs). There have been a lot of people who have either unfortunately passed away, retired or moved on. I mean coming through my apprenticeship, it was a different culture then. Socialising after work was always fun, Christmas parties. There was always an adventure at work Christmas parties. They were all good times.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
Usually something with the family. The kids have either got sports. I’ve got a son and daughter so it’s either netball, softball, soccer, martial arts. Again, going down to the beach and enjoying the water. Usually water orientated, paddle-boarding. Catching up with friends.
Do you think your kids will follow in your footsteps in the maritime industry?
My daughter is 10 and very creative, so probably not, but my son, he’s 12 and he loves boats and I bring him here every now and then on a Saturday if we’re working. I could see my son being a harbour skipper or something like that.
Does it run in your family?
No, I’m the first one on the waterfront.
Is there anything else you want to tell me about the shipyard?
It has been a change, bringing in commercial work. I’ve seen our own vessels for twenty years, so it’s good to bring in commercial work and be doing something different. It’s still in your own backyard, but you’re learning off that.
What’s your favourite thing about the shipyard?
Being on the water. Everyone’s pretty friendly, everyone says hello. A lot of the guys have been here for a long time so obviously sometimes you see more of your work mates than you do your own family. If you’ve been here a long time, you go through a lot with people passing away, people who are here no longer.
And the cat’s good of course.
And the cat! I was going to say, I love the cat.
Someone else yells, “What about the duck?”
I love the cat. The duck’s alright, he’s messy.