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Glebe Essential Workers - Local Heroes

Interviewed by Ruth Goodwin, Documentary Photographer

Glebe has always had a strong community spirit, but last year it proved it had local heroes. Glebe based social documentary photographer, Ruth Goodwin, spoke to Covid lockdown essential workers.

In the midst of a pandemic and lockdown that no one saw coming, many Sydneysiders were able to transition to working from the safety of their own homes.

However, this was not possible for all, and a number of workers consistently showed up to keep essential services running smoothly: bus drivers, those emptying our bins each week, childcare workers looking after the children of medical professionals, local pharmacists, and the Australia Post workers delivering increasing numbers of packages as online purchases spiked.

We pay tribute to these workers, who often humbly flew under the radar and continued to put themselves on the frontline, all with a friendly smile and good spirits that are the hallmark of the Glebe community.

Glebe Essential Worker - Steve, Galluzzo Fruiterers

Galluzzo Fruiterers can be found on the corner of Glebe Point Road and St John's Road and has been supplying locals with their five-a-day since 1934. It is impossible to spend much time in Glebe without sampling their wonderful fruit and vegetables, or popping into their deli for quality meats, cheeses and other gourmet goods.

When coronavirus local transmission was increasing in April, Galluzzo's was quick to adapt by offering all customers disposable gloves for shopping and strictly overseeing the number allowed to enter the store at a time. This regularly led to a socially distanced line of residents waiting patiently to stock up on essential groceries. Damian, the manager, reported that business increased a lot this year, with more people cooking at home, choosing to avoid the bigger shopping centres and buying local.

Making this possible was the Galluzzo's team, including Steve (pictured). Steve represents many essential workers who continued to work, out of both necessity and the passion of serving their community, despite the personal risk associated with interacting with so many people. Steve had suffered from a cardiac arrest in the months before we spoke to him, but, accepting that every job has its risks, was willing to adapt his working hours, take the necessary precautions, and get on with it.

Glebe essential worker Steve at Galluzzo Fruiterers

Glebe Essential Worker - Neil, Taxi Driver

Neil drove his first taxi in 1977, and during the lockdown this year he could often be found sitting in a quiet Glebe street, reading his book and waiting for his onboard computer to come to life with a request for a nearby booking.

With only approximately 5% of the taxi fleet on the road during the height of lockdown, Neil was one of the few drivers available to take Glebe residents safely to their required destination. He often took elderly locals and those unable to travel by public transport to their medical appointments at the nearby RPA hospital.

Neil chuckles as he describes the change in driving conditions he experienced with the decreased traffic resulting from restricted travel across Sydney. From the challenge of navigating around once full buses crawling along to stick to schedules designed for busier times, to cement trucks taking advantage of the clear roads and zooming around to ensure construction continued across the city.

Making less than a third of his regular income from driving, Neil was determined to stay out on the road and keep this essential service running when locals needed it more than ever. He thanks his superhuman immune system, developed from years of driving, with the confidence that enabled him to continue without fear of the virus.

With his calm presence, there is no doubt that travelling with Neil this year was and continues to be a delight for all his passengers. And, for anyone looking for a great summer read, Neil recommends any book by Chilean writer Roberto Ballenio.

Glebe essential worker Neil, taxi driver

Glebe Essential Worker - Juan, Food Delivery Driver

Juan (pictured here on Glebe Point Road), was one of those local food deliverers who became a God-send during lockdown, when many of us realised our home cooking skills really needed improvement!

Juan moved to Sydney from Medellín, Colombia during 2019 and was just one of the many temporary visa holders who were unable to benefit from government support payments and had no choice but to find ways to support themselves as a number of job opportunities vanished suddenly.

Juan, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Commerce, increased his hours to deliver orders full time and found that the number of delivery drivers increased substantially and became a much more diverse group. Thankfully he was able to earn enough money to pay his bills and to "more than survive" during this time period, with the help of the occasional beer or two.

The ability for local establishments to stay open for take away and delivery orders during lockdown was an economic lifeline to restaurant owners, employees and delivery drivers alike, and due in part to the many drivers and riders who consistently showed up to service deliveries.

Locals sipping a take-away lockdown cocktail, served street side, could take a moment to appreciate the incredible local cuisine options that are found in Glebe, and to marvel at the adaptability of our entrepreneurs.

Glebe essential worker, Juan food delivery


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