Heritage employees are hard to find.
Do you know you have an aboriginal working on your site?
This was a phone call that I received the day that I started my friend and longest serving employee at AHR.
“Oh, good, the right guy turned up for work” was my reply.
Let me introduce you to Mitch.
He replaced two workers on one of my mid-north coast heritage church restorations. Those two workers were feeding private company information to one of my competitors.
Believe me when I say their bums didn’t touch the ground when I heaved them out the door.
So, we decided to advertise for a laborer and Mitch applied for the job.
Remembering Mitch from a local football game, his team started to come to blows with each other. Mitch was the one that stood back and tried to calm everyone down.
The next day he started work with our tradesmen.
Mitch, is a stolen generation baby and we have talked about this a lot. He is grateful that he was brought up with the benefits of being in a ‘white’ family.
After we finished the heritage church we then started the restoration at Port Macquarie Heritage Courthouse.
The first thing we had to do was clear all the convict memorabilia out of the building.
I have photos of Mitch throwing punches at the trooper mannequin on the front lawn (in fun). The prison van pulled up and the guards started laughing and thought it was hilarious. (the police station is next door)
Mitch is highly respected amongst the team in Australian Heritage Restorations. Not withstanding that there is always a lot of good natured sledging going on to help the day go by.
Every day is like watching a re-run of Blazing Saddles and we all do the best to take the piss out of each other.
We were working on one heritage site for Anglo-America coal, called Plashett Homestead.
Mitch and the farmer who bred cattle on the property struck up a funny friendship.
Mitch called the farmer ‘John Howard’ (former Prime Minister) and the farmer called Mitch ‘Mabo’ (Aboriginal activist).
A conscientious worker, he would make sure that all of his tools and materials were already set up ready for the next day.
After Mitch left site the farmer, knowing this, would come down at night time and move everything around.
Mitch freaked out, because he started to believe that the house was haunted (it is, which is another blog).
Don’t judge a book by the reviews of other people.
There’s lots of negative talk about aboriginals, that they go walkabout for instance and because of that they aren’t reliable.
Mitch has been with us for 11 years. We came to an understanding early on that he would work for about 3 weeks and then need that walkabout break.
In fact, finding reliable and trustworthy employees in the heritage building industry is probably one of the hardest things to do.
We have to train people on the job because we just can’t pull competent people out of thin air.
The average laborer knows how to use a nail gun but we don’t use nail guns.
Keeping those good employees when we find them is what our company focuses on.
As I mentioned earlier we do what we can to keep good employees and this didn’t phase me.
I knew how to approach a job so Mitch could work. He’s a bloody good worker and just gets in and gets the job done!
So, if he needed a week ‘walkabout’ then he can have it and then he comes back and continues being a hard worker.
This can relate to any business, don’t just dictate what has to be done and your employees need to fit you into their lives.
If you adjust things for those good employees, they’ll stay with you, be loyal to you and your business will be more efficient because of that.