Dedication and diversity: celebrating 41 years with Dean

09 November 2023
A photograph of Dean Raymond wearing his yellow SMCT uniform. Dean is smiling at the camera.
Much has changed in Dean's 41 years at SMCT, but the friendships, support and stories continue

For more than 40 years, Dean Raymond has been a proud member of the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (SMCT) Horticulture team. His commitment to excellence in his work, and his affability, have made him a popular – and fast – brush cutter, as well as SMCT’s longest-standing team member who continues to work at Springvale Botanical Cemetery.

At SMCT, diversity and inclusion are the cornerstones of our organisation and community. It also reflects the collective experiences and backgrounds of our team members. As part of Inclusion@Work week, we are spotlighting Dean’s contribution over the past four decades and our commitment to supporting the diverse needs of our workplace.

Dean began his career over 41 years ago at the age of 15 with the former Springvale Necropolis. It was part of a work experience opportunity initiated by his teacher at Vermont South Special School. And neither he nor SMCT – or the various Trusts that came before it – have ever looked back.

Dean was offered training in several areas, but his brush cutting skills earned him the nickname ‘Speedy', highlighting not just his work efficiency, but also the evolution of technology that has made these tasks lighter and faster - reducing the amount of manual labour required to care for our extensive grounds.

“There were a lot more gardeners back then, close to 180 gardeners and about five crews of brush cutting teams. Compared to when I started, we have fewer gardeners now, and a smaller team,” says Dean.

During his tenure, Dean has seen Springvale Botanical Cemetery grow and become more environmentally sustainable. Over the years, the size, appearance and plant species found in the grounds have evolved, along with the techniques and tools to manage them. However, a gardener's work is never done, and Dean’s skills are still in high demand.

Making work work for everyone

His time at SMCT has not always been a smooth garden path. Dean has navigated personal challenges – notably managing epilepsy, a lifelong genetic condition.

“I started having epileptic seizures when I was a kid and I've never grown out of them,” says Dean.

Having a team member present during his work shifts was important for Dean to have confidence and independence to work safely, given his history of having epileptic seizures.

SMCT values the diverse backgrounds and experiences of its team members and is committed to supporting them to thrive in the workplace.

A photograph of several uniformed SMCT horticultural employees alongside two of SMCT's executive leaders. One leader is holding an AFL football, the other wearing a Sydney Swans scarf.
Dean and SMCT Horticulture team members, Louis, Marty and Winter, at the AFL Grand Final BBQ hosted by Executive Leadership Team members, Con Rodas (in apron on left) and Lucas Robertson.

SMCT’s People Capability and Services Manager, Ashleen Butters, says SMCT has proactively assisted Dean in applying for and securing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to receive funding for daily living and community access supports.

“The value of team members who can perform repetitive tasks consistently cannot be underestimated. Studies have shown that workers with disabilities often find comfort and confidence in job tasks that are routine and stress-free,” says Ashleen.

We are committed to nurturing a diverse and inclusive workforce through various initiatives, including our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Gender Equity Action Plan and collaborations with Diversity Council Australia, as well as Work 180 – a platform promoting roles for women.

A meaningful connection to the grounds

SMCT’s Operations Manager of Melbourne General Cemetery, John Wright, worked alongside Dean in the brush cutting team at Springvale over a decade ago.

“For many of us doing the same brush cutting job, it can get very routine. However, for Dean, he really enjoys what he does in the cemetery,” says John.

Dean’s team members describe him as someone with extensive knowledge of the grounds and its history.

“He is such a friendly person, who is polite and reliable. I would consider Dean a friend of mine. He has treated me as a leader with the utmost respect, and the relationship is one of mutual appreciation. At SMCT, we are fortunate to have a team member like Dean, who remains very committed to his work,” says John.

He is a dedicated worker who does brush cutting with precision and speed, ‘right to the dirt’ says the Horticulture team at Springvale Botanical Cemetery.

A photograph of Dean in his SMCT uniform, a red and black harness, cap and sunglasses. He stands outside on the grounds at SMCT.
Dean still wears his original harness from 1982.

Working in the gardens at SMCT holds a personal significance for him. Dean tends to the grounds where some of his family members, including his grandmother and niece, are interred. Such close ties give him a unique perspective and a deep emotional connection to his work. He recalls fond memories shared with his grandmother and niece when he does the brush cutting around their memorial plaques.

Dean’s story is an example of SMCT’s commitment to strengthening the diversity and inclusion of our team members. Recruiting, supporting, and welcoming people of all abilities, ages, and backgrounds helps us build a dedicated and diverse workforce— a strong community where everyone, irrespective of their capabilities, is treated with respect, dignity, and equality.

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