Ross’s search for meaning

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Ross’s search for meaning

February 27, 2019

Ross Courtney has lived an adventurous, and often ‘fearless’ life, leaving England for Australia at 18, then travelling and living around her adopted country and through much of the world searching for meaning. These days she is content living at OCAV’s Braeside Park village where she has found meaning supporting people in the nearby St John of God Hospital.

Ross’ early years in Australia were spent building a successful career in various fields, including merchant banking, but she had always done voluntary work in some capacity. In her 40s she had a profound faith experience and decided to give up corporate life and travel overseas.

She undertook bible study to prepare her for ministry work in Israel and moved between Jerusalem and Australia for five years before selling up and moving to Israel long term.  During her time in Israel Ross was able to fulfill a life long dream to go to University.  Prior to her return to Melbourne at the age of 64 Ross graduated from the University of the Holy Land, Jerusalem, with a Master of Theology (Honors) and Master of Arts (Honors).  All the hard work paid off as she felt it was a great achievement.  Leaving Israel in 2011 was a wrench.

“I love the Middle East and the people who are so family minded and who have such a depth to them,” Ross said. She worked there for many years mostly volunteering in Israel nursing homes and hospitals visiting and offering support to people, building on her years of service as a Lifeline volunteer. She realised as she got older that she needed to find secure housing.

Ross returned to Australia in 2011 with no house and little money. She also discovered that gaining employment in your 60s is difficult, so she did more study, firstly in aged care and then gained her chaplaincy credentials. Things really fell into place when she found Braeside Park and put her name on the list. Ross waited six years for a place to come up, and a year down the track she feels like she is settling in.

“I like it here very much and the people who live around me are very friendly. I occasionally go to chat and chew and the various event celebrations that are on. But like most people who start over later in life, making deeper friendships can be difficult,” Ross said.

Ross’ weekly ‘volunteer job with the pastoral service support team at the hospital in Berwick is important and her way of contributing to the community.

“I am given my list of people to visit and sometimes they do want to have a chat and sometimes they want to be left alone. We respect what they want,” she said.

“It is companionship and often a comfort to patients to know that someone cares how they feel and is willing to just sit and listen to whatever they want to say. Sometimes they say things that they don’t want to burden their family with.”

“It gives me a lot of joy knowing that I can make a difference to someone’s life by just listening to them. I am very lucky to be able to be with these people at what can be a difficult time and it doesn’t matter what their faith is or who they are, everyone is offered the same support.”

Ross is currently undertaking an online course from the University of Tasmania on Dementia to further enhance her voluntary work.

Ross sometimes wonders how she ever found the courage to do the things she has done and survived the precarious places and situations she found herself in. But she did.

“I still ask myself how I did that.”

Caption: Ross with her son, Marcus.

Pete Zawacki drove to Leith Park twice a week to visit his mother, Helen, until her death a year ago. After she died he wanted to honour her memory and ‘repay’ the kindness staff showed her by volunteering.

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