It’s a pretty amazing turnaround for someone from an Indigenous background with very limited professional skills to find themselves a couple of years down the track running a $1.3 million health service. Add to that, the fact that this turnaround happened to that someone in his 50s after being made redundant, and you have a very remarkable story indeed.
Enter Chris Medcraft, now the Manager of the Mental Health Recovery Program in Hobart and formerly a worker at the Australian Paper Mill in Devonport.
“I had worked at the mill all my adult life and I was 52 when it closed down,” said Chris. “My redundancy felt like the end of the line but I had to pick myself up and look at the options available to me.”
Not having completed school and with few literacy, numeracy or computer skills, Chris decided that the best option was to re-school through TasTAFE and then begin a vocational education and training (VET) qualification.
His outstanding efforts in completing a Cerficate III and IV in Community Service earned him the Tasmanian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year in 2014 and a place as Runner-up at the Australian Training Awards. Since then he has gained a Diploma of Mental Health while working for the Richmond Fellowship Tasmania and has completed a Frontline Management Certificate.
“Losing my job was a chance for a new beginning,” said Chris. “It was the opportunity to do something I was passionate about, which was helping others. Until I discovered the world of TAFE I didn’t know how to give substance to that dream. Re-skilling was the answer.”
Chris is now a member of the VET Alumni and wants to share his story to prove that there is a pathway for the over 50s, “as long as you find out what you’re passionate about, do your research and make a road map to get there”.
“You don’t have to hang on to a job for years that isn’t fulfilling. There are no dead ends if you take the opportunity to re-educate yourself,” he said.
Looking back, he says his former self would never have believed how his life has turned out. “I’m someone who didn’t know his nouns from his verbs and here I am leading a major health service. I’ve grown so much as a person and I’m a much better version of myself. Education has transformed me and I am so very grateful for how my life has turned out.
Watch Chris's success story: The Mental Health Worker: Chris Medcraft
Book a VET Alumni member
To invite Chris to share his success story at your event please contact VETAlumni@education.gov.au.