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A day in the life of ... Vernessa Heta

A day in the life of ... Vernessa Heta

A day in the life of ... Vernessa Heta

5 August 2022

Vernessa Heta has worked for The Salvation Army for more than 30 years. 

Vernessa Heta is passionate about providing high-quality care to residents of The Salvation Army Aged Care Services. Others writer Jessica Morris recently caught up with Vernessa in her role as the Senior Care Coordinator for Salvation Army Aged Care in Abbotsford, Victoria.

Hi Vernessa. Can you tell us about yourself?
TENA KOUTOU KATOA (Greetings to you all). KO VERNESSA HETA TAKU INGOA (My name is Vernessa Heta). KO NGAPUHI TE IWI (My tribal people are Ngapuhi). NO MOEREWA, PEOWHAIRANGI AOTEAROA TOKU KAINGA (I come from Moerewa in the Bay of Islands New Zealand). NO REIRA TENA KOUTOU KATOA (Once again, greetings to you all). NGA MIHI (With thanks). This is my PEPEHA – a short history of my heritage: Family is very important to me – they are the foundation of who I am and what I value. I have 11 siblings, 38 nieces and nephews and many more great nieces and nephews. I moved to Australia in 1990, moving from Brisbane to Melbourne.

When did you start working with The Salvation Army?
I started at the Salvos in 1991 – 31 years ago as a student at what was then The Gill Memorial for Men, a homeless shelter in the Melbourne CBD. I loved it so much that I got a job after my placement and have never left. One year on my birthday some of the clients organised a Harley ride for me around Melbourne! I also met my life partner Barb through my work at The Gill and the RecLink group. We have two beautiful fur babies, Oke (named after a beach near my home in Aotearoa) and Buddy, both cavoodles.

Can you give us an overview of your role working in aged care?
Typically, my day includes meeting with clients and their families to develop care plans that support their ability to maximise their independence and stay in their homes as long as possible. I ensure we have workers providing the support, and support-care workers to ensure they have what they need. I also liaise with other providers to ensure care is coordinated across services; and, of course, the thing we all love – documenting what we do so that there is a clear set of agreed goals and support for each client, and it ensures continuity of care regardless of who is in the job.

How has COVID-19 affected your work?
Obviously, COVID-19 threw a curve ball for all of us. We weren’t always able to work from home as we needed to continue to provide support to a really vulnerable community. Despite our fears and uncertainty, I am so proud of our people that continued to show up every day to provide that continuity of care and support for our clients. It was also a time of fear and isolation for our clients, so our continued connection to them was critical for them to navigate the pandemic. We had to learn and adapt quickly. I now have a lot more knowledge and experience of PPE [personal protective equipment] than I ever thought I would! How well we adapted and supported each other through this time is demonstrated by the fact that we were able to continue providing a high level of service during the tough lockdowns. It was so weird driving to clients along deserted streets – it felt so surreal.

What do you do in your spare time?
My favourite things are bike-riding, and I have ridden on three Great Victorian Bike Rides and Around the Bay in a Day. [I love] following the All Blacks, watching movies and hanging out at the beach with family.

Why do you enjoy working with The Salvation Army?
During my 30 years of work at the Salvos, I have done various work including recreation worker, case manager, housing worker, outreach worker and community aged care. What’s kept me at the Salvos for so long is because I really connect with the vision and mission, including providing dignity, respect and compassion to people from all walks of life. Most importantly, doing this work alongside people who also share these values and were people-focused, fun, supportive and caring.

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