Retirees giving back to the community

Ross Greenwood speaks to  Mark Breen, a retired senior public servant, about why he decided to volunteer with Angel Flight.

Introduction: Retirees giving back to the community

Ross Greenwood: Great to have your company here on Work, Life, Money right around the country. We often dwell on what people should do when they retire. Now, a lot of people sit there and go traveling, and indulge in the things, the fantasies they might have had when they’re at work, when often things got a bit tough and they said, “If I wasn’t doing this I’d be–? Traveling around Australia or traveling the world or on a cruise ship or doing something like that.”

But there always comes that sober realization that when you retire, you’ve actually got to do something. It’s really vital. Because if you just sit there and, read books, watch telly, play golf once a week or go and play bowls or go and catch up with your mates down the-, it really does become quite atrophying for people. I remember Gerry Harvey who now is well into his ’70s, still running Harvey Norman, once said to me, “There is nothing more boring than catching up with a whole bunch of old mates who’ve retired”. And he said ” Because ultimately they have nothing to talk to you about after the first five minutes”. He said, “It’s the people who are still working with the young ones, they’re the ones with the stories, they’re the ones with the tales”.

And so I come to a man who was in the public service. A bloke called Mark Bran. He’s from Leichhardt in Sydney. Now what he did was, as a retiree said “Well I’ve got to do something”. Like many people these days, and I think this is the change in attitude between this generation retiring and maybe their parent’s generation or grandparent’s generation, the notion of not only volunteering but actually putting back into the community is now becoming a real thing. Mark Bran’s on the line right now. Good day Mark how you doing?

Interview with: Mark Breen, Volunteer

Mark Bran: I’m alright Ross.

Ross Greenwood:  Just explain your career before you actually got into this retirement job you’ve got.

Mark Bran: I spent 26 years in the Australian Taxation Office, then after that I went and spent 14 years working in local government.

Ross Greenwood:  The Tax Office, was the most inspiring place you’ve ever worked in you life?

Mark Bran: Look Ross, it was actually a very good place to work a lot of the time, other times it drove me spare.

Ross Greenwood:  I can imagine. Because I’ve had pretty good dealings at a fairly senior level inside the tax office, and I’ve got to say the people are terrific. Their processes are great. The work can be interesting, but, as you say there’s other parts of it that can be pretty monotonous. Tell me about local government. What was that like as a career?

Mark Bran: Was very different there Ross. I actually started off painting park seats and ended up run [sic] the– and somehow became the building maintenance manager for about 10 years and then I ran their cleansing area for three years before I got out.

Ross Greenwood:  How old were you when you started doing that?

Mark Bran: When I started in the council I was probably–

Ross Greenwood:  In the council yes, how long was it when you started painting the benches in the council?

Mark Bran: That was late ’40s.

Ross Greenwood:  You were in your late ’40s at that– So you’ve had one career change, but then you’ve actually got out of that after you were the building manager, you get out of that and then you’re properly retired. Just to explain, set the scene for people, got a big smile, nice big beard on him, all that sort of stuff. Handsome looking bloke I’d actually say.

Mark Bran: [laughs]

Ross Greenwood:  But Mark, in this regard, when you retired, you clearly stopped and thought about this and said “I’ve actually got to do something”. And what was it that you came up with?

Mark Bran: Well Ross, I actually said to the fellas when I was retiring, and they said what are you going to do, I said “I reckon I’m pretty good at doing nothing”. But it turned out I wasn’t and I had to find some stuff to volunteer at.

Ross Greenwood:  Hang on stop. Go back to the doing nothing bit. What was it when you realized that you’re actually not very good at doing nothing. Because I would have thought that’s actually almost the opposite to most people.

Mark Bran: I’m pretty good at doing it for short periods of time but it really does bore you after a while so you have to find something to get up and get out of the house and keep myself a bit on the active side Ross.

Ross Greenwood:  What did you do?

Mark Bran: I went looking for places to volunteer most of the time, to do something for people who maybe needed something.

Ross Greenwood:  What did you come up with?

Mark Bran: I’ve got a bunch of stuff happening mate. One of them brought to your attention at the moment is the Angel Flight, which is a great system which takes care of people who need to come in from the country for medical appointments. Very important medical appointments they need to travel perhaps eight hours driving. The Angel Flight system provides them a service that will fly them into Bankstown airport and then they have people on the ground who drive them to their appointment.

Ross Greenwood:  Well I got to tell you, for people who don’t know Angel Flight, and I’ll give them a big plug here, they’re an astonishing charity, that basically coordinates non emergency flights to help country people to make this specialist medical treatment that Mark’s talking about. But the thing is not only do they need pilots, they’ve got some spectacular pilots in there who do all of this, but the fact is also they have some amazing people on the ground to do the coordination for many of these people coming in from the bush. And that’s where you found your niche wasn’t it really?

Mark Bran: Well that’s probably one of the things that [sic] I probably spent past 45 days of the past year doing. One of the activities after retirement and a very important one, one of the favorites.

Ross Greenwood:  Just explain why it is that you and others get so much out of this. I can understand it, but you’ve actually got people who have a need but you can fill it. But you’d hear some great stories along the way.

Mark Bran: Yes, hear some great stories. You meet some lovely people. You meet some people who you realize that there for the grace of God. People who have had tough times and who have had tough times from a long way away from where they can get treatment, unlike us city folk who can just go pop over to the hospital and get done, they’ve got to travel and take a lot of trouble to get here. Some of them have driven– we had one couple who’d been driving for six hours at twice a week each way. Sorry, twice every fortnight they drive six hours to Sydney and six hours back again until they discovered Angel Flight which was an amazing change for their complete life. It gave them more time with their kids. It gave them more time with each other, just being practical rather than travelers to the doctors.

Ross Greenwood:  I’ll tell you what the amazing part of this is. You’re obviously helping other people but at the same time it strikes me, that you’re actually helping yourself as well. That’s the other great part about this isn’t it?

Mark Bran: Absolutely. I get a lot of energy. It’s amazing how much you can benefit from being active and from thinking that you can might be helping somebody else be a little bit better off.

Ross Greenwood:  And the other little piece of trivia of course for Angel Flight is that one of it’s famous pilots, even though he’s been very much unheralded over a very long period of time is the now retired Governor of the Reserve Bank, Glenn Stevens, is one of the famous pilots at Angel Flights over a very long period of time. I’ll tell you what, great to have you on the program, it’s really good to have a chat to you Mark about this. It’s a wonderful story, a wonderful charity no doubt and hopefully might be an inspiration to other people as well.

Mark Bran: Let’s hope so Ross. Thank you very much for taking the time to promote them.

[00:07:20] [END OF AUDIO]

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