Sport creates conversations by providing a common ground, and a unified sense of purpose. Even when the sport being played is for fun rather than competition, the passion brought to the field forges bonds between players.
It's no wonder then that Senior Facilities Manager Keith Lewis signed up for a few local sports when he and his wife relocated to Norfolk Island, about 1700km off the coast of NSW, in late 2021.
"We play golf and tennis, and recently signed up for lawn bowls," Keith says. "My wife Robin is on the tennis committee, and I helped set up for the recent duathlon held on the island."
Keith looks after federal government facilities on the island under Ventia's Whole of Australian Government contract, including the school, hospital, police station and two wharfs. He says that a key part of his role has been in building relationships and improving communication.
Contract Lead Michael Kirk says over the years Ventia has managed this contract, he's observed the role being very much a combination of vendor and supplier management, community engagement and maintaining facilities. He says Keith's ability to engage makes him the perfect fit for this role.
"Keith has embedded himself well in the community over the past 12 months," Michael says.
His talent for building strong, trusting relationships with the community and the vendors we use has been of huge benefit to this contract.
Norfolk Island is about 1700km off the coast of NSW. Ventia looks after federal government facilities on the island as part of our Whole of Australian Government contract.
Delivering customer service
Keith says that customer service is also important, given some of the more unique challenges they face being so remote from the Australian mainland.
"Most supplies come to Norfolk Island by ship, and sometimes it can be four months between ships arriving," he says. "So if we have a job that requires parts more urgently, we have to look at air freight, which of course adds cost to the job."
"It's important that I can manage expectations and also ensure a positive outcome for all parties."
Keith has been particularly supportive to suppliers who are required to use Ventia systems to action work orders and invoicing, where they may not be as comfortable with the technology.
"Internet access can be less than robust, so getting online to use a portal like this can be frustrating for them," Keith explains.
Sitting down with someone and talking them through the steps face to face has really gone a long way to showing them that we care and understand the challenges.
Keith and his wife - here pictured with their grandchildren - have been motivated to get involved in their local community on Norfolk Island.
Leveraging his military career
Keith and his wife met whilst serving in the Royal Australian Navy. Robyn was a nurse who specialised in managing the health of Navy divers and became a qualified diver herself in the 1980's. Whilst she is now retired, she volunteers for St Johns Ambulance on the island two days a week.
Keith says for them, like for many veterans, the transition to civilian life brings a certain level of anxiety given the years of structure you experience whilst in the military.
"You can forget what it's like on the outside," he says. "And you also worry that you'll lose that level of expertise you've acquired through your years of service, and basically be starting from the bottom in a civilian career."
Keith says he found that the culture of teamwork and camaraderie that he was used to in the Navy served him well when he did transition to civilian life, as he was motivated to get involved in his local community. He also still gets involved in military events, such as the ANZAC Day parades, which he was proud to participate in on Norfolk Island this year.
The hospital on Norfolk Island is one of the buildings under Ventia's Whole of Australian Government contract.
Leaving a legacy
Keith says he wants to ensure that when he moves on from this role, he leaves behind a positive legacy for Ventia on the island.
"I want the community to know who we are and the value we add through the work we do maintaining the facilities that they use every day.". "I am proud of the work we do."