"You saved my life that day."
On one of his routine visits to a small Aboriginal community, 185km from his office in Central Western NSW, Aboriginal men’s worker, Jack, caught up with Lisa. She told him that her husband, Tom, had just lost his job.
Later that week as Jack drove past Lisa’s house, he spotted Tom in the front yard. He pulled up and introduced himself. Tom asked Jack if he wanted a cup of tea and the pair settled on the front verandah.
As the men began talking, Tom mentioned that since losing his job, he was not quite sure how to manage financially. He had loans to pay off and a family to care for. He could not see any other solution but to declare bankruptcy.
Jack organised for Centacare Wilcannia-Forbes’ financial counsellor to visit Tom on her next visit out, and she was able to help resolve his financial issues.
Jack continued checking on Tom during his weekly visits. As they were talking one day, Tom made a poignant confession. “Jack, you saved my life that day you called in,” he said. “I had the gun in my bedroom – loaded and ready to go.”
Eventually, Tom won a traineeship with the local Aboriginal Medical Service. In the very same year, he lost a son to kidney disease, his mother died and a nephew committed suicide. Through all this, Jack continued his visits, being a listening ear and offering practical support.
Tom completed his studies, receiving the Student Award of Achievement not long after his son Ben had become the first Aboriginal dux at his high school. Jack suggested Ben apply for a scholarship with a mining company. Tom could not think of anyone better than Jack to attend the job interview with Ben. He won the scholarship and is now studying social work at university.
Jack’s visits to the small community continue on, and as often as he can, he checks in with Tom. Recently he encouraged him to attend the ‘Strong Aboriginal Men’ workshop in a nearby town, as an opportunity to gain further skills to enhance his wellbeing and relationships. As it turned out, Tom took quite a leadership role during the six week workshop, sharing his story and inspiring others.
“To be part of Tom’s story as a men’s worker for Centacare is something special,” says Jack. “My part in this was to be a support person with his decisions, a friend when things were tough and a guide when things were wrong. To this day he is still a client with many needs, but he is also a person who has shown more courage and resilience that I have ever seen and that is why I call him a friend.”