Where’s Wally?

This week we say goodbye to our Quality and Compliance Program Manager Wally Guivarra.

Wally joined the Mookai team as a casual in 2015, and has been with us ever since. Over the past 9 years, he has supported a range of activities including quality and compliance, transport and maintenance, to being part of the Senior Management Team. Wally shares some of his fond memories of working at Mookai.

Favourite occasion

We celebrated NAIDOC Week on-site for the first time ever in 2019 and I cooked my special bully beef. Staff, visitors and clients were all quite impressed with my culinary skills! I felt honored when Aunty Irene Major, a Mookai Community Ambassador from Kowanyama, commented that it was ‘the best bully beef she’d ever tasted’. To this day, every time Aunty Irene is back at Mookai, she asks when I will be cooking bully beef again.


Funniest memory

I refer to this as the ‘kidnapping incident’…

Not long after taking over management of the Transport and Accommodation Support Teams, I had a driver unable to come to work, but only notified on the morning of the shift. I quickly jumped in to cover the bus route. I drove to Cairns Base Hospital, and pulled up to the Transit Lounge, under D Block. The other driver mentioned that he had dropped off an Aunty from Kowanyama that morning, and as I pulled in an older Aboriginal lady came out of the Transit Lounge. She looked as though she had some mobility issues, so I rushed to her and offered my arm for support as she moved slowly towards the bus steps.

When we arrived at Mookai she remained on the bus until the other passengers got out. I told her I could assist her and again, offered my arm for support. As we slowly entered Mookai, I noticed a funny look on the Health Workers face. I led the lady to the lounge and she sat down, then I went back to the Health Worker and asked what the issue was. The Health Worker informed me this lady was not the client that was dropped off at the Hospital, and that she was not even staying at Mookai! I had taken a random person from the hospital!

Shortly after I picked my jaw up from the ground, a phone call came through from the Hospital looking for accommodation for a patient being discharged. It turns out that this lady WAS to be accommodated in Cairns, and she HAD chosen Mookai! Another long-standing driver at Mookai, Terry Whitla, wryly commented, ‘So they pay you as a Manager here, aye? I quickly said ‘yes’ and explained to him that I was just ‘being proactive’….

Why I decided to stay at Mookai

I had worked at other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations in Cairns, but for me, the mission of Mookai Rosie Bi-Bayan captured my heart and imagination. To play a role in helping some of the most vulnerable women and children in the state, perhaps the country, was a challenge that I needed to accept and run with. I have witnessed a real transformation of the organisation from quite humble beginnings to full expansion, now providing clinic and wellbeing services. After almost three decades working in public and private sectors, I came to realise that I loved working at a Community Controlled Organisation, and specifically Mookai.

What I’ll miss the most

I am a ‘people person’, so I’ll definitely miss the staff at Mookai the most. Because even when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds to assist the complex needs of our clients, the sad occasions that we share with them, the happy times when a new-born returns from the Hospital, and even those times when some of us were brought to tears due to the plight of some, we still find time to laugh! I love hearing that in a workplace, and I loved hearing it at Mookai.

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