Ron Donovan, 19
Carpenter, Maitland, NSW
A proud Indigenous man and one of 11 siblings, Ron has had an unconventional upbringing. He was just seven years of age when he and his siblings were placed in care.
'The kids went to DOCS (NSW Department of Communities & Justice), and all the babies went to my aunty,’ he recalls. ‘When we were separated further, my eldest sister fought to get us all back. Eventually, we went back to Mum and Dad. But where I grew up, I watched people do nothing with their lives. I didn't want that, so I have really tried to break away and do better.'
Since then, Ron has not only tried to do better for himself but has also helped his young family. He lives with his partner and their two young children, and cares for his 15-year-old sister. 'My little sister was too much for my aunt, and DOCS planned to take her. When nobody else put their hand up, I took her in.'
When Ron started work, his first job was helping set up concert construction, with high-profile artists such as Taylor Swift performing on these stage. 'I had a pretty good start, but it was only once or twice every month,’ he says. ‘So I started to jump around here and there. I was concreting and waterproofing for a while but couldn't find anything I really wanted to do.'
His saviour was meeting HIA Apprentices field officer Penny Lees. 'She suggested I consider an apprenticeship in carpentry. She gave me a few numbers, and it went from there.'
Ron was paired with Bradie Smith, owner of Modified Constructions
, a carpentry business based in Maitland. 'Bradie is awesome. He takes the time to go through the whole process and understands if I don't get it right first go. He doesn't rush me or stress if I make a mistake, and simply shows me how to fix it. He always has the time and patience to help me. That’s why he’s a really good bloke.'
Ron and Penny have regular catch-ups too. 'She helps me out and is there for me if I need anything or if I'm struggling. I don't know where I'd be if it weren't for Penny.'
Ron's partner, Taylor Zamora is a beautician who hopes to own her own business in the future. This has spurred Ron on to complete his trade. ‘I would like to open my own business, slowly building it up. My partner wants to open a business, so I would love to build something in our home so she can continue to do what she loves.'
According to Ron, signing up with the LAHC program ‘means a lot – this is my breakthrough’. He explains: ‘I feel I'm getting somewhere and am going places. I wake up every morning excited to go to work and when I come home, I'm proud of what I’ve done for the day. It's life-changing.'