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Can one job bring together work with refugees, environmental issues and organic food? Courtney Salter found one at Green Connect

People find amazing jobs on EthicalJobs.com.au every day. This is part of a series of blog posts that go behind the scenes to meet some of the people and organisations finding each other through EthicalJobs.com.au.

Today’s story is from Courtney Salter, who found her job as Zero Waste Coordinator at Green Connect on EthicalJobs.com.au.

Based in Port Kembla, NSW, Green Connect is a not-for-profit social enterprise that focuses on creating more jobs for former refugees and young people to grow fair food and reduce waste to landfill. It employs staff in areas including Recycling and Waste ManagementManagementEnvironment and SustainabilityGreen Products and ServicesMulticulturalism and DiversityCommunity Development.

Starting out with work

From the age of 14 years and 9 months, up until I left home at 17, I worked every Saturday in a jeans shop in downtown Albury (New South Wales). I learnt the ins and outs of working with the general public, offering sartorial options and opinions for customers and folding many, many, many pairs of jeans.

After completing my HSC I moved to Sydney where I studied a Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy). Occupational Therapy as a degree offered a varied and well-rounded experience of the allied health sector while working within many therapeutic domains in acute, sub-acute and community settings. I feel this broad area of study enabled competence in a diverse a wide range of skills which has allowed me to take many different paths over my working life.

In the 12 years since I graduated from university I have had quite the varied career path. It started out traditional enough post-university, working in both private and public hospitals as a graduate Occupational Therapist over three years.

After experiencing what life was like as a small cog in a big machine (aka the hospital system) I decided to move into community-based work to trial what supporting clients living in their own homes was like, and the unique challenges that affords. I stayed in the not-for profit sector for five years, providing support to aged people, people with a disability, people experiencing mental health issues as well as carers for all of the above.

After this time, again looking for something new, I did a complete 180-degree flip and started my own small business – in food! I initially commenced selling my products at several weekly local farmers markets and eventually built up to wholesaling my product range to 20 health food stores/cafes in the Sydney and Newcastle areas. It was during this time I became acutely aware of minimising and avoiding waste and developed a strong sustainability ethos when it came to my product and samples packaging and market stall furnishings.

I was also utilising the flexible new gig economy and was supplementing my income by being a part-time Uber driver. Circumstances in my life (specifically my husband and I deciding to leave the city and move to the countryside) meant I had to make a difficult decision to close my business down – hence the job search in my new interest of ‘Zero Waste’ on Ethical Jobs commenced.

Working at Green Connect

Green Connect is a not-for-profit social enterprise that employs young people and former refugees to grow fair food and reduce waste to landfill. In a nutshell, we: a) run a farm and grow organic and free-range food; b) we help organisations reduce their waste to landfill through waste audits and management plans, and by managing waste at events to ensure as much as possible is composted or recycled; and c) we offer labour hire to connect our staff to other businesses, industries and opportunities, and to give local businesses access to hardworking, reliable employees.

I am working for Green Connect as a Zero Waste Coordinator, assisting our Zero Waste Manager by coordinating our event operations. We are engaged with many different types of events (e.g. local council events like New Year’s Eve and Australia Day, music festivals, charity days) in the Illawarra, Sydney and Central Coast regions, where we manage waste and divert as much as possible from landfill.

It’s my job to ensure the delicate logistics of staff, equipment and all the curveballs that get thrown at you once the event is in operation are managed. Working with our staff who are predominantly former refugees is completely new for me but I am loving the cultural and linguistic challenges this role presents.

When I first saw the position advertised on EthicalJobs.com.au I could hardly believe it – it was like the stars were aligning – I couldn’t have created a better position that suited what I wanted if I had tried!

My husband and I had been inspecting properties on the South Coast the previous week, but were in that twilight zone of not knowing whether to move first and then commence job-hunting or wait for a job to come up and then move. Turns out the universe took it all out of our hands as we were offered a home and I was offered the job within 20 minutes of each other one Tuesday afternoon!


Why work for a better world?

After dipping my toe outside of the not-for-profit sector I realised that I was really missing the opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives. Before running my small business I had never been employed by a business where one of the main goals was to keep the lights on by turning a profit. After a while I realised I actually wasn’t that interested in making loads of money – I’d rather get job satisfaction from the type of work I was doing.

I was recommended EthicalJobs.com.au by previous colleagues of mine who mentioned it as a great option to search for like-minded employers. I was pleasantly surprised by the breadth of organisations offering positions, especially in regional areas.

I’d recommend jobseekers consistently check back in on the website and search as many job terms as you can – you never know what job opportunities are out there that you didn’t even think you might want to apply for.


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