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2 December 2020
Amanda with her mentor, Major John Farquharson, preparing for emergency relief.
One of Amanda’s first jobs was at the Doveton Salvos in south-east Melbourne, sorting and distributing toys for children at Christmas time.
Today, Amanda is the team leader for emergency relief at nearby Packenham Salvos. She is well-known for her professional and warm approach, her understanding of client needs and her work with volunteers, local agencies and surrounding businesses.
Below, Amanda shares her story:
Mum’s dad was an alcoholic and her mum was abusive. Sadly, Mum became a heroin addict through the 1990s and my sister and I were taken from her care.
We lived with my father’s parents and had a great life. I always knew, though, despite everything, that Mum loved us.
I stayed with my grandparents until I was 13 and was expelled from school. My sister and I moved back to Mum’s and lived the party life for many years. We also became homeless and lived with a bikie gang in a factory in Dandenong.
I wanted my life to be different.
I went to TAFE and completed years 11 and 12, and then started a Diploma of Community Services. Due to my background, I had so much insight into different issues and how people coped with them. I was a natural debriefer. I knew where people could get help and could assist them with the best avenues to take.
For my placement, I contacted The Salvation Army’s Doveton Community Services Centre. I didn’t know much about the Salvos, but I knew they were there, some of what they did, and that this was the work I wanted to do. Major John Farquharson – now my mentor – was the manager there and was so encouraging.
After my initial Christmas work, I continued with the job throughout my second year of studies. It was just where I needed to be. I worked in emergency relief and everyone was so supportive.
My second-year placement was at the Salvos in Dandenong. The role was a mixed one, and I worked with the youth minister in a homeless feeding program. It was through this program that I met John, a long-term Salvation Army volunteer and employee who now works with me here at Pakenham.
In one of the most eye-opening work experiences I’ve had, I became involved in the PIVOT youth crime prevention program run from the Dandenong Salvos. The kids could relate to me because I knew what it was like to be drunk, hungry, not able to rely on family, and surrounded by drugs. I had a deeper understanding of what they needed and how they wanted to be treated. I became more of a role model to them.
I finished my diploma in late 2018. It took me almost three years and two attempts, but I did it!
Having been on ‘the other side’ has made me an emotional person with massive empathy for others. I love doing special things for people and for the kids of clients. I am professional and have boundaries, but am very human too.
I love that the Salvos care for the whole person. We can offer them food, crisis assistance, referrals and a faith pathway if they are curious.
I tell Mum that she did the best she could at the time, and you never fail until you stop trying. I keep encouraging my family, our clients, everyone – if I do this, my job is being done.
Through the pandemic, I have felt the need to belong somewhere, to have that feeling of family and community. My colleague John sent me the link to Berwick Salvos online church, and my partner, Greg, and I have been going for a few months now.
In the context of 2020, it has been easy for me to join church online. I can be in the background, in my home environment and I feel really comfortable and enjoy being there. I have found people to be friendly, open and accepting. I want to be a part of this, to get to know the congregation. The format allows people to share and we get insight into others.
The sense of belonging is phenomenal. I didn’t think that was out there. There is a sense of a wider experience, that someone is there looking out for us. I have a community of support for hope and inspiration, and someone to sit in the good and bad times with.
Church online also brings meaning to the work I am doing. I want to align this with who I want to be as a person.
I feel like this is the start of really nice journey for me. Difficult roads definitely lead to beautiful places.