12. It Isn’t What You Know, But Who You Know.

Outings organized for the intellectually disabled at the workshop were a natural progression brought about through me frequenting all amusement parks of the Gold Coast with my youngest son and eventually my grandsons. Also, my acquaintance with the owners was a formality to request an open and free invitation for the admission of workers and staff. Management though couldn’t fathom the ease with which I gained access to other entertainment venues too for the workers delightful pleasure. Through my efforts they were also experiencing nightlife at discos, fashion shows and theatre, but then nobody else had ever tried to integrate them into the community in that capacity. Gold Coast Sports Day was another integration innovation of mine through obtaining permission of Principal Brother O’Neil of Saint Aquinas Christian Brothers College who was a friend of mine, so as to stage it at their sports ground with the participation of the senior boys as assistance and for integration.

By then I had completed my second diploma course, which with humbleness received an A + in the overall course, and it gave me an insight into the functioning of the human brain and its capacity to fathom out the simplest and easiest methods for any task, and it also made me come to terms with what was normal. What I also came to terms with was that although I had been employed as a supervisor, that position had escalated to me then been a Cabinet-maker foreman and I approached the Head Office for remuneration for that position. I not only succeeded with that but I was also remunerated for the success in my diploma course. As a child, the way my parents said things were to be done had to be done that way. At school, discipline with corporal punishment to do it their way. As a worker, do as I say, not say as I do, or, if it isn’t broke, and that was normalization. My un-normal intellectually disabled workers, some also with physical disabilities and their chronological age that compared with their personal and physical appearance but belayed the fact that the majority with their mental age would never exceed a sixteen year old even if reaching old age pension age. Others again in their twenties with the mental capacity of a ten year old but who were all gainfully employed as adults and producing products comparable in quality to the normal manufacturing market, and they didn’t have to be brow beaten or have the stick waved at them. It was a simple looking on and then a hand’s on work operation at their individual pace, and at times a method that was compatible to their mental age.

Doing it my way after they were looking on learning didn’t mean that was the method to be ingrained in them, for when they found my way either too complicated or difficult at times, with me at times to set in my ways for their minds to comprehend while working hands on, they tried another way, their way. The end result was always as close as damn it and sometimes their work methods were quicker and easier than mine, which I adopted and adapted to maximize their flexibility. Those so called ‘notnormal’ people because of their intellectually disability were more normal in their thinking, ability and nature than most so called normal people I have known and worked with. They were as thick as two planks, didn’t know their arse from their elbow but still thought the world owed them. Everybody else was the idiots and spastics. They wouldn’t even have a bar of taking the initiative to improve their own quality of life; they wouldn’t break with tradition, reverse the process, add another ingredient or try another way. The ultimate success for my workers was that they were able to push themselves beyond the accepted limitations of their condition and became productive and valued employees. That in turn provided them with the ability to learn how to acquire information for everyday living skills and what to do with it, and in that content became contributing members in the community. They joined and became involved in libraries, debating, TAFE (Technical and Further Education) courses, sporting activities, night clubbing, wining and dining, entered local show competitions, private living, entered the local work force, obtained licenses for automobiles and forklift driving, and some even got married, which I attended, and initiated them into the rest.

There were then forty different ongoing products manufactured in my department with a minimum of five different products a week that could range from a total of 400 to 1 000 completed products. They ranged from the army contract, framed cork notice boards, multiply circular bases for industrial polishers, various sized Australian map ply cut-outs for art depicting Surfers Paradise for the tourist industry, presentation boxes for designer postcards, presentation boxes for heritage bottled wine, assortment of sport trophy stands, children’s coloured play blocks, shaped wooden fence palings, nursery toys, kitchen utensils, ornaments, free standing dividers, designer billy-carts for a tourist attraction and boarding school dormitory beds. Those and more were either brushed glossed painted or spray varnished painted, with me always bearing in mind that my workers were all intellectually disabled.  A spray booth had then become another necessity in the department. Spraying inside the factory was playing havoc with some of the asthmatic conditioned workers and others, so I converted part of a sheltered outside overhang of the workshop into a spray booth shed. But because of the complexity and involvement of spray painting, I did all the initial spray painting. However, because I was bogged down in the booth it caused the quality control, safety precautions and production to suffer immensely in the other areas. While keeping a wary eye on the ones that required constant supervision so that full production wasn’t put on hold, which the rest hated with a vengeance because of wanting to be productive at all times, I selected the ones who by then I knew had the most potential in their learned work ethic. Putting them through the paces of the intricacies of spray painting that took ‘normal’ people months to even grasp, was that quickly achieved as a new skill to add to their list of achievements that saw me out of there in no time flat.

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 Grundy’s Water Slide that was the first on the Gold Coast that my disabled workers enjoyed to their hearts content.

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Seaworld on the Gold Coast where my disabled workers were thrilled for hours on end.

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The monorail at Seaworld in which my disabled workers wanted to ride on all day.

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The pirate ship at Seaworld on which they gleefully reenacted at been pirates.

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Magic Mountain that was a magic day for them.

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Andalusia Park that was my son Greg’s first place of employment as an animal controller and photographer, which gave my disabled workers a free in there also.

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