If you have ever played that woodblock puzzle game Jenga, you will have some idea of how tight and delicate a fit it can be stacking a semi-trailer full to the brim with pallets. So much space and, right down the centimetre, just enough room to get it done well.
The process is all the more delicate when you are talking about boxes full of food. But nine pallets worth of hampers, laundry powder, nappies, fresh fruit and vegetables, and children’s arts-and-crafts packs (put together by our friend Vivi Martin), all fit in snugly.
Addi Road have put together the load at the request of Corey Tutt from Deadly Science. He has family connections in Walgett and they alerted him very early to the crisis growing out there as the local Aboriginal community battled with lockdown, COVID-19 infection rates and no real support.
This will be our third load out there, each one bigger and better than the last. A generous donation from Mirvac Residential has given us the resources to buy extra things that the Walgett community have specially requested.
Katie and Leo have wheeled out the last pallet from inside the Addi Road Food Relief Hub where they’ve been working all week with our team of volunteers. Steve Elphick and Haydn Johnston are sorting out the load to fit inside the truck from ATS / Show Freight. Almost done, they are having a hell of a time with a pallet jack that is jammed between the loading tray and the rear entrance of the truck. Some grunting and swearing is all the technique they need to free it up again.
The ATS / Show Freight truck is usually full of gear for everything from rock ‘n’ roll concerts to theatre events. Steve is a regular driver; Haydn takes care of logistics. Haydn is also a NSW Director for CrewCare. He talks in passing about how the music and entertainment industry has been deeply affected by cancelled events, long lockdowns and venue closures. It’s lead to suicides, depression, and huge financial problems for workers and their families in an industry that has been shut down. “You see 60,000 people at a sports event on the TV,” Haydn says, “and it’s hard not to feel very pissed off.”
And yet here Haydn and Steve are, fine representatives of their industry, pitching in and sorting out plans with Addi Road for a major food run to help the community of Walgett. Two guys doing it tough in their own world helping out others who are doing it even harder in another place.
Haydn’s part of the job is mostly finished. Having managed the last drive to Walgett he lets Steve know what to expect out there. He passes on some phone numbers and will keep tabs on the progress from afar. It’s all up to Steve now to get the truck to Walgett safely, a solid nine-hour drive. It’s already 3pm in Marrickville, Sydney. He will need to stop roadside somewhere tonight before pushing on to Walgett in the morning.
As a truckie, Steve has to have three covid tests a week, always within a 72-hour window. He is “double jabbed”, he says, and cleared by the authorities to make the big journey. Steve reckons he can get as far as Gilgandra tonight. He will park the truck somewhere and roll out a special thin mattress he has had made for him. Safely ensconced across the bound and covered pallets, he can turn his face to the roof and drift off to sleep.
As long as you get to Walgett by 10am for the load in, Haydn says. But Steve is not worried about that. He reckons he will be there even earlier. No problem. He knows the roads. And besides, “the only accident I have ever had in my life driving trucks is going 1km an hour in a car park. That’s when I feel stressed.”
Steve laughs at his own little anecdote. Haydn wishes him well. They close the gate of truck. Time to ship out and hit the road. Sure enough, he is a little careful pulling out of the car park. Then the heft of the vehicle kicks into gear. There’s a town out west called Walgett that is hungry and waiting.