Faces of Baptcare #41 | Meet Bryan Mooney, Volunteer Program Specialist

Talking with Bryan is energising. His active mind darts from anecdotes to philosophy, intermingled with playful asides. As Volunteer Program Partner, Lana Davis commented “engaging Bryan to be our Volunteer Program Specialist was an easy decision. Bryan brings a wealth of knowledge coupled with a vibrant can-do attitude”.

Bryan’s life mirrors the Ancient Roman philosopher Seneca’s famous saying that “Life, if well lived, is long enough.” Bryan Mooney has a full, ‘well-lived’ life and we’re just grateful to be a part of it.

What is your current role and what does it involve day to day?

My title is Volunteer Program Specialist and it’s quite a diverse (and busy!) role. There are many, many meetings that aim to increase our volunteer numbers so as to improve the quality of life of our residents. An important part of my job is to check in with our volunteers. My aim is to let the volunteers know that we appreciate and value them, to make them feel special – because they are.

Baptcare has a duty of care to look after the wellbeing and happiness of our volunteers in the same way they give back to our residents. It’s all part of a wonderful circle of care.

What drew you to the world of volunteering?

I’ve always had the mindset of service and giving back to the community and this has just been intensified through life experience. I guess we all go through life stages where we focus on different needs. For me from about my 30s I started to think about how I could help others and what difference could I make in life.

The most valuable thing we all have in life is time. As you get older, you become conscious that time is running out. You ask yourself questions like what sort of legacy do you want to leave? Who have you impacted in this life?

You’re quite the philosopher Bryan!

Yes, I’m clearly feeling a bit philosophical today - and I haven’t even had a coffee yet!

But I really believe that the good news stories are so important. They can be a foil against the heaviness of life.

I think it’s important to highlight that life isn’t all black. There is so much good and so much joy in life and so much of that joy comes from helping others.

How would you describe volunteers?

Volunteers are really lovely people – beautiful souls. It is wonderful being around them.

How long have you been working within the Volunteering team at Baptcare?

I have been at Baptcare for a total of three years, and in the volunteering team for one-and-a-half years.

What was your professional background before you joined Baptcare?

I had completed a course as a Personal Care Worker (PCA) and was required to complete my qualifying hours.  My teachers recommended Baptcare, so I started as a PCA trainee at Hedley Sutton aged care community. I ended up satisfying my 150 hours of training at Baptcare then was delighted when they asked if I’d like to stay.

When did you move to the Lifestyle area?

One day I was asked to help out in Lifestyle for the day and it was a great fit because I’m convivial and can talk under water. I ended up moving to Lifestyle permanently for six months and loved it. Baptcare Hedley Sutton wanted to keep me but they didn’t have the space but I was fortunate enough to be wooed by Baptcare Karana too. In the end I split my hours between Baptcare Hedley Sutton and Baptcare Karana.

What was your role in these early days?

I started driving the bus with residents for outings. Then someone from the volunteering space left from Baptcare Hedley Sutton and kindly put my name forward. This was at the very start of the pandemic, so I was able to help enforce COVID protocols, amongst other things.

After nine months in the volunteering space, I was promoted into my current role as Volunteer Program Specialist.

What do you like about working with Baptcare and in the volunteering space?

I find working in the volunteering space really fulfilling. It reflects my values, in particular caring for and celebrating people. I think that people are beautiful spirits and souls, particularly volunteers, so it’s a privilege to work alongside them daily in my job.

It also suits my skill set and personal qualities. In my job you need to be able to bond quickly and find common ground to interact effectively with people. My background in DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) with all its travel and diverse interactions means that I’m an easy match for my job.

What makes a good volunteer?

I think this is a redundant question. Anyone who wants to volunteer IS a perfect volunteer because they want to create change and comfort people.

What is your work background?

My original career was in the public service as a diplomat. I was with DFAT for 13 years. I was lucky enough to have been chosen as one of a select group for a year-long trial, and one of only two people who passed. In 1986 the Public Service approached me to discuss potential diplomatic training. My details were sent through to DFAT and then I had to undergo a range of testing before being offered a spot in the diplomatic training program.

What do you mean ‘testing’?

There were polygraphs done and psychological profiling – it all seemed quite James Bond to me, and the international travel appealed.

Did you like being a diplomat?

I loved it! I think my characteristics of being efficient, polite and discrete were a good fit too.

Can you tell us a bit about life as a diplomat?

Originally, I was seconded to work for Gareth Evans, then posted to Turkey for 2.5 years. After that posting, I left DFAT so I could keep travelling the world. Around this time I designed a shaving product for sensitive skin and spent a year developing the product for commercial sale.

All this travel – what are some of your favourite places in the world?

Turkey is close to my heart as well as Jerusalem – such a magical space – really the most beautiful city on earth. I also love Egypt and travelling through the Valley of the Kings.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to do everything – mirrored by my very full life now! The way I see it is that unless you’re reincarnated you’ve got one shot at life so it’s good to experience whatever you can.

(Ed. This reminds us of the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca’s quote “Life, if well lived, is long enough.”)

We can feel some more philosophy coming on Bryan. (And still without caffeine – impressive!)

Yes, I think that learning is infinite in this ‘school of life’ we live in. It’s good to keep improving yourself.

For me, my aim is to build wide life skills because these will mean I can empathise with, and help, more people.

Can you tell us 2 surprising things about yourself?

I built my own 100 kilogram record turntable! (photo below). It took me almost a year to make in my spare time.

Also, I was obsessed with martial arts from the age of five to 27 years old. I was addicted to it but didn’t compete. I’m not interested in competitive levels in life – just the experience itself.

We’ve heard on the grapevine that you’re into music. Who are your favourite bands/musicians?

I love all types of music from classical music when I grew up to opera, ballet, experimental jazz, avant garde and even German psychedelic rock. It transports me to other worlds.

My favourite living artist is NIls Frahm.

Do you play any music?

While I’m heavily into the musical thing, I don’t play any instruments. But I do enjoy looking for rare and obscure vinyls and first pressings. We’re so lucky in Australia. I reckon we have the best record shops in Melbourne and Sydney.

I also love going to concerts.

Do you have a favourite quote or motto in life?

Carpe diem – seize the day.

If you could sit next to someone at a dinner party, who would it be and why?

Alexander the Great.

Assuming that I could understand ancient Macedonian/Greek, I would like to ask him how he accomplished as much as he did in his 32 years of life, and how he found being taught by Aristotle.