Workskills helping the community

Helping the Community

Workskills has been involved at a Governance level in Community Blitz for the past 5 years, and involved since its inception. Workskills saw Community Blitz as a great opportunity for our jobseekers to be involved in work, skills and activities within their own community. For many jobseekers Community Blitz has not only given them the skills, but also the support, extra training and confidence to go out and gain employment or further training. Workskills involvement with Community Blitz has been a partnership with many community organisations, and through this partnership and support we have seen great outcomes.

Workskills’ community arm Impact Communities manager Mark Boonstra currently is the Chair of the Community Blitz governance group. Mark says, “Community Blitz would not have been able to achieve so many beautification projects in the Brighton community if it wasn’t for the steady stream of jobseekers from Workskills. Not only do the jobseekers leave with the satisfaction of the work done, but knowing they have left a lasting legacy in the community in which they reside”.

We are delighted to share the following testimonial from Carol Brill at Old Beach . . .

It gives me a great deal of pleasure to testify to the work Community Blitz has performed in the burial ground attached to my home, the Heritage listed 1854 Old Beach Wesleyan Chapel at 37 Briggs Road, Old Beach.

I moved to the church in August 2011, living in a little Heritage approved newly-built cabin while the derelict church was being converted into a home. The church had been empty for about twenty years then, and the grounds and building itself were in a bad state of repair.

After the church was restored, I turned to the grounds and the graves – weeding and tidying up. I subsequently applied for grants to repair the graves three years in succession, to no avail. Grants are not given to remediate properties in private hands, despite the stipulation than I must allow “reasonable daylight access” to the public, and the fact that the graves “belong” to the families of those buried here. As a single woman on just the Age Pension, I couldn’t afford to have a single grave restored, much less the entire burial ground.

Things changed for the better when I approached Community Blitz late last year. I spoke with the Works Manager, Peter Griffiths, and told him what I was hoping the team would do here. He visited the church soon after, looked at the gardening I hoped to have done, agreed that the team could help, and then told me he’d really like to do some repair work on the headstones in the grounds as well.

At first I put a dampener on that, telling him there was no way I could afford to pay a stonemason to supervise the work, but rather than be discouraged, Peter spoke to several stonemasons, while I researched the Heritage Council’s requirements and the materials which were to be used. I also told Peter that I was happy to pay for the materials required – stainless steel pins at about $10 each, two-part glue at about $200.00 for two 2 litre buckets and masonry drill bits.

Peter also asked whether I would agree to be a mentor for the Community Blitz team of Work for the Dole participants, given my interest in early Tasmanian history and background as a teacher. I was very happy to agree, and we’ve spent a number of mornings at the Bridgewater LINC, using the Trove website (Australian Historic Newspapers) and the Tasmanian Names Index, teaching them how to research the history of the people buried here, and discovering a vast amount of material on the early history of Old Beach at the same time.

The team is justifiably extremely proud of their work thus far, having restored and repaired almost all the headstones on the Northern side of the church. Their enthusiasm is infectious, their work ethic commendable, their team spirit and collaboration are outstanding, and their skills are remarkable. They are also very appreciative of the chance they’ve been given in working here, with comments like “not many people are lucky enough to have the chance of working on heritage sites like this and learning how to do this,” and so forth.

I am absolutely thrilled with their work, as are the families who have relatives buried here, and the wider community. I post photos of their work each week on my own private Facebook page. Their work is also posted on the Gravesites of Tasmania Facebook page, where literally dozens of people have posted complimentary comments.

Here’s one conversation I had with a friend, and fellow historian:

Friend: What a wonderful effort by community volunteers to preserve our history.
Me: They’re not exactly volunteers, but Work for the Dole people absolutely loving the history they’re learning and loving what they’re doing, which is even better than volunteers really! It gives me such a buzz to hear them referring to the headstones by name – they all “know” the lives of the people whose headstones they’re repairing thanks to our research at the local LINC – it’s so wonderful to hear them talk about Martha, or Alfred, or whoever!
Friend: Tell them all I said thanks and well done. More people need to read and hear that.

We are also producing a booklet together with LINC titled “No Expectation of Survival,” a phrase used by Rebecca, one of the team, when we were discussing the deaths of women buried here who died in childbirth, and a young man who accidentally shot himself. She made the comment “they’d have no expectation of survival in those days,” and it was such a pertinent observation I thought it would be perfect for the title of our booklet. The booklet will be sent to various history groups, Brighton Council and distributed far and wide.

The graves are constantly visited by history lovers and family members from all over Australia, and even one couple from England. I’ve taken history groups around and given talks and tours to Bridgewater School for Seniors as well. Just this week I was told by some visitors from Devonport that they have photos of the graveyard and church taken in the 1930s and 1940s which they’re going to email me. I’ve also got photos of many of the people buried here: even though I’m passionate about our history, I didn’t realise how many others care about the church as much as I do until I moved here.

When we finish the graves on the Northern side of the church, we hope to repair the Gage family plot on the southern side of the church. This is a very important and historic family in the Old Beach area, containing the graves of John Ogle Gage, and his wife, who arrived in VDL in 1824. Their four daughters, a son-in-law, a son, and several grandchildren are all together here. A relative of that family has told me she’ll pay for all the materials required to repair these graves, so I really hope Community Blitz will still be able to do that work when the time comes.

This is quite a significant building and burial ground – it was the only church between Bellerive and Pontville for 25 years. The work Community Blitz is doing here is truly important to the preservation of Brighton’s early European history, and I’m really grateful to the Community Blitz team and to Peter Griffiths, for making it happen.

Carol Brill
Retired Teacher, Old Beach

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