Michelle Bourke and Renee de Bruyn

Michelle Bourke (right) with manager Renee de Bruyn at the Devonport kitchen.


By Paul O'Rourke

Like many other employees, Michelle Bourke worked as a volunteer for six months with Loaves and Fishes before being offered a paid position.

The production supervisor discovered Loaves and Fishes while studying for a Certificate IV in Community Services at TAFE. She read an article about the organisation and its CEO Andrew Hillier, researched the charity, and decided she wanted to give back.

Michelle has also joined parent organisation Devonport Chaplaincy’s student mentoring program, meeting each week with a Miandetta Primary School student for the past six months.

“We play games, cook, do craft activities. It’s very rewarding to see students come out of their shell as they become more comfortable with you,” she said.

“When I was studying for my Cert Four, I found that many faith-based organisations wouldn’t employ you if you didn’t go to church or share their religion.

Faith based, not faith biased

“I love that I have been able to participate in the Devonport Chaplaincy mentoring program as a volunteer despite not having a faith.

“I’d had a six-year break from the workforce in retail to raise children before going to TAFE, however I wanted to do something that would make a difference in the lives of others.

“I was amazed at the amount and quality of food that Loaves and Fishes produces.

“Loaves and Fishes were welcoming and allowed me to get my confidence back after such a long break from the workforce.

“They have also allowed me to work flexible hours to be able to take the girls to and from school.”

Michelle said it had been pleasing to see a stream of school-based and adult trainees working at the kitchen and warehouse in a variety of roles.

She worked three days a week in the Devonport kitchen before being offered the position of production supervisor about eight months ago. Michelle is responsible for fulfilling some of the organisation’s social enterprise food production contracts, enabling profits to be used in the charity’s emergency food programs.

Often working on her own on repetitive and mundane tasks from the mezzanine level of the Don Rd warehouse, Michelle admits she enjoys the solitude and familiarity of the work.

“I put on some music and go into my own little world," she said.

"I also know that I'm still contributing to helping people in real need in our state through my unseen efforts. It's very rewarding.''