Hi, my name is Paul Manfrin and I’ve been working at Bedford’s Mt Gambier Timber Mill for the past seven years.
My day starts quite early, the bus picks me up at 7.30am and I pretty much hit the ground running by 8 o'clock.
While my specialty is carpentry, the projects vary from day-today, and it keeps things different and fresh and I really like working with different people too. At the moment, we’re making specialty wine boxes with silk-screened labels, but another day it could be furniture or kindling, or just general work in the mill here on Attamurra Road.
I think that variety is important when you have a visual impairment. I also bring in Bree my seeing eye Labrador and she sits next to me in her bed and then comes with me into the cafeteria at morning tea. I have to say work has been really good to accommodate her needs.
My supervisor here is Dave Wilsmore and he too has a visual impairment – different to mine. Mine is called Cone-Rod Dystrophy and it’s a form of macular degeneration and I have about 5% of vision. When I first started, I thought it was going to be impossible to work in a mill, but Dave showed me a way to use the jig and my fingers to feel the proportions. I’ve surprised myself with some of the things I’ve been able to create – for example I helped make all the furniture at our renovation project, the Bedford Cottage – so all the beds, cabinets, even toy boxes.
It’s been really good to have the support of Bedford to help me along that journey and it’s also given me the confidence to do things outside of work and teach other people skills too. I recently became involved with the not-forprofit, Purple Orange, to do some disability inclusion training here. That involves me hosting sessions with local government, sporting groups and arts societies, that type of thing. I help them communicate with people with disability and behave differently in terms of accessibility and universal design.
Life is so busy for me now. I’m also a board member of another community group and I do park runs on weekends too! So, it’s fair to say I’m quite active!