Meet the team: Gemma

Hi. I’m Gemma and I’m the Recreation Manager at Royal Far West. My awesome team members and I provide fun, safe and interactive activities for all the children and young people who come to RFW, as well as their siblings.

Tell us more about your role and how it’s changed recently…

Known as the Rec Team, we provide a huge variety of activities including crafts, sport, science, cooking, gardening, exploring the local community, rock climbing and surfing. This is all done on a very lean budget, and we are very grateful to the local community and business owners who waive or lower their fees to enable our kids to enjoy more experiences.

During regular weeks we provide activities every afternoon (between the end of school and before dinner), and then after dinner we run our second lot of activities.

Our team also provides activities for the Paediatric Developmental Program (PDP)  and Windmill camps at Manly. This has temporarily stopped because of the COVID-19 lockdown, but that hasn’t stopped the Rec Team supporting country kids! We’re just about to start our Online LIVE Recreation sessions, where we’ll beam activities into homes via Zoom, so groups of up to six kids can ‘virtually’ join in the activities and be able to watch each other, make friends and have fun playing balloon volleyball, cooking up pikelets and lots of other fun things.

Rec is such an important part of each child’s experience at RFW. During activities we provide time for positive interactions to build each child’s confidence by promoting social skills, team building skills and problem-solving skills. We’re always encouraging children to try new things, learn new skills and just ‘give it a go’, all in a supportive, non-judgemental environment.

Name a highlight

I’d have to say running rec camps with the Fitzroy community in a remote area of Western Australia. I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of the team, and I learnt so much.

Why did you come to RFW?

I started working here as an activity officer in 2006 whist studying for my PDHPE teaching degree.

I continued as a casual activity officer at RFW when I started teaching at primary and high schools on the northern beaches, and was promoted to the Rec Manager position in 2011.

Through my years of working here I’ve been a part of some very special programs. Using my background in PDHPE, we developed a plan to put a strong emphasis on the kids being active and healthy, with sport, mindfulness and healthy eating being important components of the weekly programs. This means things like having the kids help in our rooftop garden, including planting new vegetables and herbs, and then we’ll have an activity in the kitchen where they use the produce they’ve picked from the garden to enhance their cooking. They love it! (It’s a great way to get kids to be enthusiastic about eating their veges!).

You’ve been here a long time!

I love working with the kids and their families, and these families are the reason why I have stayed for so long. Each week we get the chance to meet with new families, and also welcome back families whom we have built lovely relationships with over their visits. I have had special moments of past clients popping in to RFW to say hi. It feels very special to see how they have grown and become amazing young adults! I have such great memories of talks with kids as we’re walking around Manly, the fun bus rides we have, and the singing and dancing.  My memories also include interacting with their parents and carers, such as having a good old yarn in the kitchen.

RFW is a special place because of our families!


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