Losing the ability to work is really tough for anyone, but for Robert, it was like losing his identity.
After spending three decades driving trucks, graders and excavators on construction sites in Melbourne, the need for a hip replacement at the age of 51 robbed him of the chance to work and he felt quite lost.
“Playing cricket and football from the age of five and jumping out of trucks and machinery for most of my career was a recipe for disaster for my joints,” Robert said.
“Things in my life crumbled after I had a hip replacement and I basically found myself with nothing.
“After 13 months in crisis accommodation, the Rural Housing Network found me a place in Benalla and it was amazing having a place of my own again. They’d set up all my furniture and even made my bed! Even better was the fact the Worktrainers outreach centre was only a two-minute walk down the road.”
Robert settled in to his house in Benalla but was unhappy that he was not working. He had hit such a low point he was sure no one would want him working for them, and having worked in construction for so long he wasn’t even sure what kinds of work he would be cut out for.
When a position at Town & Country Tavern came up in Wangaratta, Robert was keen to give it a go and didn’t mind it would be a 25-minute drive to get there every day if he got the job. He went to the interview with an optimistic outlook and walked out two and a half hours later with the distinct feeling he had the job.
“We spent at least half of the time talking about cricket and football; it was just a perfect fit. They called me at about four o’clock that day to let me know I had got the job and I started the next day,” Robert said.
Never one for being idle, Robert had a new lease on life, his spirits lifted and he felt proud to be working again and supporting himself. Always ready for a chat, Robert has made some good friends in his co-workers and the regulars at the tavern and anyone would think he’d been there for years the way he’s taken to the job.
“I’ve been working at the Town & Country Tavern for a bit over 4 months now and I love every day, I’m actually excited to get out of bed and get going of a morning,” he said.
“When I started I was borrowing my neighbour’s car to get to work. When my boss found out, he offered me the use of his spare car which was a big thing, considering I’d only just started.
“I always say now that this job changed my life and it’s true. I’ve now been able to buy my own car and I don’t have any debt, I can eat out and I’ve even been able to start saving money. I’m back on my feet and setting myself up a good little life here in Benalla.”
“Even if I could go back to my old life operating graders and excavators I wouldn’t do it, I love my job, I’d work seven days a week if they’d let me.”