Our wonderful brother Andrew, or Drew as he has always been called by his family and friends, was born in July 1957 and raised in the Swan Valley as part of an extended Yugoslav and Australian community. Despite difficulties that occurred during his birth resulting in areas of developmental delay, Drew is a vibrant, intelligent and charming member of our family and the Crosslinks and GSI (Good Samaritans Industry) families.
We look back now and realise how progressive, resilient, and perhaps even stubborn our parents were in the raising of Drew. In an era when anyone with any differences was sequestered away, our Mother and Father ensured Drew lived a normal family life at home and attended mainstream school at Upper Swan Primary and later Governor Stirling Senior High School.
Drew’s early years were spent on the family vineyard where his strong sense of family and work ethic was fostered and encouraged. After a full day at school, like us his sisters, he would head home and do ‘his Jobs’ on the vineyard. One job he took great pride in doing was to make up, by hand, the wooden packing crates our Father used to pack the grapes in for sale, an integral part of our family business. Drew made all the boxes ensuring there were always enough for the next day’s grapes and sometimes so keen was he to do his work he had a week’s worth of boxes at the ready.
In 1973, after leaving school at 16, Drew began work for GSI (Good Samaritans Industries); every day he had to take two buses from the Swan Valley and the train to get to work. He then moved to the Midland store, followed by many years at the Perth store before taking on a new position at the GSI store in Rokeby Road, Subiaco. For most of his working life Drew has worked full time, five and a half days a week, and only in the last few years, as he has got older, has he moved to part-time hours. Drew enjoys the company of his co-workers, likes chatting – especially about football, and telling jokes with the many customers he meets each day. Drew is somewhat of a ‘local’ identity, and it’s not often we don’t go somewhere and someone who knows Drew calls out hello or stops for a chat.
As Drew became older our Mother realised he needed more than just our large extended family for company and to share outings with. She was looking for something for Drew when she was told about a very new and progressive organisation called Crosslinks. We still remember our Mother talking with great enthusiasm, after one of the first meetings of the new Crosslinks, what a wonderful step forward the organisation was for those with disabilities in the Midland area. Drew soon became an enthusiastic member of the Crosslinks family going along to fortnightly, Saturday evening outings with Crosslinks and from there, his relationship with Crosslinks has blossomed.
He celebrated his 50th birthday with Crosslinks and members of his family back in 2007 and then his 60th in 2017 at his house in Ashfield, where all who help with his care and his family joined together for a fantastic birthday party. Sadly, Drew lost his Father in 2012 and then his Mother in 2013. He had lived with our parents, almost up until the time of their passing, and so for him this was a time of upheaval and change from the life he had always known. It was also at this time that Crosslinks, and one of their amazing support staff Tania, were always there for Drew and their professionalism is what helped guide Drew into a new phase of his life.
We are so proud of the way Drew has adapted to his new life living with the Crosslinks community – he has learnt many new domestic skills – we never thought we would see our brother ironing his work shirts or helping to prepare a meal! We know our Mother and Father would be very pleased with the happy, safe and interesting life Drew leads with Crosslinks.
Drew has matured into a kind, charming and lovely gentle man: who loves telling jokes, follows Swan Athletic Football Club, Swan Districts, and the Western Bulldogs, can read beautifully, enjoys karaoke, going for a swim, has an amazing sense of direction on roads even though he does not drive, and is now quite the coffee snob!
We still make a point of maintaining strong family connections with Drew, regular visits to both of our homes, family events, and visiting extended family are something Drew looks forward to and enjoys.
We ring Drew regularly throughout the week and are quite often surprised and pleased by the varied outings, that are specifically tailored to his interests and some that help nudge him out of his comfort zone! But we think what really sets Crosslinks apart is their staff. From the administrators through to the support staff – we feel Drew is genuinely cared about. His thoughts and feelings are taken into consideration, and everyone has his best interests at heart. Drew talks so fondly of the staff that comes to his house and help support him, we can hear the happiness in his voice – and that speaks volumes to us.
We would like to say ‘thank you’ to Crosslinks and in particular to the Support Workers at Guildford Road house. Our family are so appreciative of the care Drew receives, and we all rest easier knowing that our Mother and Father would not only be proud of the life Drew leads but so very grateful to everyone who cares for him.
On behalf of Andrew (dec) and Joan (dec) Rakich.
Kind regards, Robyn Jennison, Maryanne Milloy-Rakich and all the members of our extended families.