ConnectGV chief Carolynne Young finds home a safe haven

By Shepparton News

When every minute of your working day is packed with people wanting meetings and decisions, it is no wonder your favourite place is somewhere you can switch off. John Lewis spoke to ConnectGV chief executive Carolynne Young about how, and where, she winds down.

Carolynne Young’s Kialla home is a neat and tidy place tucked away in a quiet little street with no traffic and nothing out of the ordinary. And that is just how she likes it.

‘‘When I come home to the boys, the carport door is already open for me so I can drive straight in and switch off,’’ she says.

‘‘This is my safe haven.’’

As chief executive of Shepparton’s largest not-for-profit disability services provider ConnectGV, Carolynne is responsible for 110 staff who deal with 160 clients from the organisation’s main offices in Bowenhall St.

A registered NDIS provider, ConnectGV offers support, employment and accommodation for clients and their families.

On top of this, the organisation also runs community enterprises such as the Billabong Garden Complex, Billabong Sweets and Treats, Flower Power deliveries, GV Ragz and the canteen at Mooroopna Primary School.

As if this was not enough, Carolynne is in the process of planning a $5million upgrade to ConnectGV’s ageing Bowenhall St facilities.

So the 45-year-old mother-of-two is at the pointy end of a large pyramid of activities, all aimed at one thing — improving the lives of those with a disability.

Her days can be a whirlwind of phone calls, paperwork, meetings, discussions and decisions.

She says she does not like surprises, but because of her open door policy she often gets what she calls ‘‘drop-ins’’.

Not surprisingly, when Carolynne gets home there is nothing better than getting stuck into the ordinary stuff of life.

‘‘I actually love doing things like washing clothes and cleaning. I love to get into the mundane day-to-day things. It de-stresses me, and I’m one of those people who loves a tidy house,’’ she says.

‘‘I also take a lot longer to make decisions at home. What’s for tea? I don’t know,’’ Carolynne says with a laugh.

Then there is her husband Travis — cook, sport run taxi driver and message leaver.

‘‘He calls time out. He leaves Post-it notes on the chopping board or the table — things like ‘have a spell’ or ‘take time out’. He’s taught me what’s important — you have to re-charge,’’ she says.

Carolynne’s relentless work ethic and deep well of commitment to improving the lives of those less fortunate comes from lived experience.

She remembers two children with special needs in her classroom as a Year 6 student at St Mary’s Primary School in Mooroopna.

‘‘I’ve just always thought — I may not know everything, but I want to help. My motivation gets even stronger when I see people struggle — if I can make it easier in any way,’’ she says.

Her father Tony Bell, who operated the popular Rich River Soft Drink company for many years, was an amputee after losing a leg in a motorcycle accident aged 19.

‘‘You never heard him whinge. There was never a barrier or an obstacle, he just got on with things,’’ she says.

Carolynne remembers working with her father from a young age, either in the bottling plant or on his delivery rounds.

‘‘We shared his work ethic. If it was home deliveries or helping with de-capping the bottles, you never thought about the blisters. I didn’t think twice about helping out — I was working with Dad,’’ she says.

She went on to study at Deakin University in Burwood — working three jobs to support herself until she emerged in her 20s with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Nursing, specialising in intellectual disabilities.

She went on to work with the Department of Human Services, Shepparton Access and Berry St before joining ConnectGV in 2014 as a future directions manager. In 2016, retiring ConnectGV chief executive Bruce Giovanetti approached her to take over his role.

Carolynne’s tenure has involved massive changes brought about by the National Insurance Disability Scheme.

‘‘Everything is changing, everything is measured now. The NDIS makes us zone in on people’s different needs — helping them be the best they can be. It’s also about ConnectGV working out what we’re good at and working collaboratively with other organisations,’’ she says.

Carolynne says her job might be a demanding one, but the rewards are incalculable.

‘‘It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. I’m not just shifting numbers. It’s absolutely important to do the right thing for people you support,’’ she says.

‘‘When I feel I can’t do any more — that will be when I think I’ll run a milk bar or become a receptionist and put the call through to someone else. But not yet.’’