By JOHN HALL
CHRISTINE Gimblett, a Bridgewater mother of three, has achieved a personal milestone – and now her story has been broadcast across Australia and beyond.
Amid the ‘hoo-haa’ of the final week of the Federal election, a five-minute radio interview with 31-year-old Christine was broadcast on ABC radio’s PM program through 60 stations around Australia. Radio Australia took the interview further afield to untold thousands of listeners in Asia and the Pacific.
Suddenly, for those five minutes at least, a success story in the communities of Gagebrook and Bridgewater was diverting national attention away from the Gillard-Abbott battle.
Christine told her national audience: “I was brought up old-fashioned … you were supposed to be a stay-at-home mum.”
She achieved year 12 at Rosny College, then embarked on a year 13 hospitality course. A car accident followed by pregnancy ended career plans. With three children to look after, Christine was becoming, according to concerned elder sister Marie, a hermit.
“I was too scared to drive, I would get panic attacks when I had to go to the supermarket and I was becoming depressed,” Christine admits. She was definitely a stay-at-home mum. Too stay-at-home.
ABC listeners across Australia and overseas heard how Christine reluctantly visited the Gagebrook Community Centre a year ago. There she found a friend in the centre’s coordinator Helen Manser.
Gagebrook Community Centre addresses skills shortages in the area. It provides nationally accredited Community Services Certificate Courses, which are conducted by the Campbell Page organisation.
Over recent years 50 local people studying at the centre have received certificates and diplomas to work in the community service fields of mental health, youth, aged, disabled and alcohol and drug dependence.
Christine spent 48 weeks studying at the centre and doing on-site work experience, achieving certificate four level just two months ago.
Now she is employed on a casual basis at two local homes for the disabled. Her favourite time is on Saturday when she conducts two-hour art therapy sessions for 15 clients. She’s planning an exhibition of their work.
Last fortnight Christine worked for 57 hours. The casual work suits her and husband Warren, 35, who works part-time at Second Bite, which distributes food for the needy. He found the job while doing volunteer work at Gagebrook Community Centre. The flexible work hours means one of them is always at home to look after their three children, Crysta, 3, Drae, 10, and Alalle, 12.
Helen Manser, Christine’s mentor, told ABC’s national audience that studying at the centre had dramatically improved Christine’s self confidence.
“You would not recognise her as the same person, apart from her appearance. Her personality is completely different to when she first arrived. She was quieter, reserved, didn’t really mix in at all. Now she’s the life of the centre. She’s the complete opposite to what she was.”
Christine told ABC listeners: “I now do disability support work, helping clients within their homes to live their everyday life the way they want to live it.”
She tells me: “I was an introvert. Now I’m full on! My clients get on well with me.”
Gagebrook Community Centre’s co-ordinator, Helen Manser* says it’s a struggle to find the funds to run the courses.
“We receive some funding from Brighton Council, Skills Tasmania, even organisations such as Red Cross, wherever we can. It’s beg, steal and borrow to finance the courses,” Helen said.
“The girls (most of the students are female) say, ‘We want to do the training in our own community’.”
Christine, now the extrovert, was asked on the ABC program if she would have done the course elsewhere.
“If they were in TAFE? No way. Coming here wasn’t like a school environment … it wasn’t scary.”