Familiar face says ‘farewell’ to Northcott
Anyone who has visited Northcott Equipment Services (NES) in the last two decades will no doubt recognise the smiling face of NES Manager Dennis Williams.
Since he first walked through the Northcott doors on 27 September 1999, this kind-hearted and humble man has worked hard to ensure every customer has access to the equipment they need to support their mobility and communication goals.
This week, we sat down with Dennis to chat about Northcott, the evolution of equipment services and his plans for retirement.
How did you first get into this type of work?
I had come from a radio trades and electronics background and it was time to move on. I’d been working in that trade for 30-odd years and the place I was working for at the time was shutting down. I saw the ad for Northcott and I thought I’d apply for it. I was lucky enough to get it (laughs).
What kind of changes have you seen in disability equipment/technology since you started?
The availability and the variety of equipment has certainly changed. When I first started, the equipment to me was pretty primitive. Then Invacare arrived in Australia and they brought in their equipment. At the time it was very state-of-the-art.
When I first started there was the old heavy power wheelchair and then Invacare came out with their nice new chairs, including one that you could operate with fibre optics. I set that up and had a go. You only had to cover the sensors with your finger and you could drive the chair. I found it amazing.
The assistive technology has changed too. We now have computers etc. which we didn’t have when I first started. There seems to be never-ending change when it comes to electronics.
What’s it like being part of NES? I imagine it must be quite rewarding.
It is, especially with the kids. The kids get me (laughs). Their biggest issue in life is that they might have a squeaky wheel or something like that and their eyes beam when you repair it.
The customer I remember the most is a lady who I saw when I first started. She had motor neurone disease and the only thing she could move was her eyes to blink. She had no movement anywhere else because of this disease. I made up a special switch for her that we could put on her cheek so that when she blinked she could make things work – like the light or the TV. That just blew me away that I was able to do that. That was before all the fancy equipment came out; I had to make that from scratch (laughs).
What do you enjoy most about this work?
It’s mostly that at the end of the day you know you’ve helped people that possibly years ago would have been bed ridden. Plus I like the work atmosphere that we’ve created here in NES; we all get along really well, we work together and we help each other out.
I watch the young staff come over from Life Skills and I think there’s not a lot of young people who would do that work. But here they are, taking these customers out and doing whatever they want to do. I really enjoy that aspect.
What do you think you will miss the most?
I’ll miss my team for sure! We went for a cruise on Saturday night for some of the staff’s birthdays and it was absolutely fantastic.
What’s next for you?
My wife and myself love to travel, so that’s what we’re doing. Initially we’re heading off to Canada; actually we’re leaving next week (laughs). Then when we come back we’re going to travel Australia for the next 12 months.
Any final words you’d like to share about Northcott?
I think Northcott is a fantastic place. It’s certainly opened my eyes to a lot of things and Northcott has been very supportive to me and my team.
I’d like to thank the management, [CEO] Kerry and [Deputy CEO] Lee, for supporting me and giving me the opportunity to manage NES.
I’d also like to thank my team Craig Scott, Gabe Costaganna, Vandeth Chunn, Kate Pain, Catherine Kos and Geetha Jeyanarayanan. They’re special people doing special jobs.
Read all about Ethan’s volunteer experience with Northcott.