Nazik Ersaatci has been working as a personal care assistant at Princes Court Homes Hostel in Mildura for 13 years, and couldn’t be happier.
Originally from Türkiye, Naz was drawn to a career in caring because Türkish culture prioritises ‘looking after our elderly people in our own family, in the home,’ she says. ‘And I don’t have family in here, apart from my husband and my two kids. All my other family are in Türkiye.’
So when she came to Australia, she decided that working in aged care would satisfy her not just professionally but also personally – giving her a sense of extended family in addition to a fulfilling career.
‘I just love, love, love the residents. They are like my family,’ she says, ‘like my grandma and grandfather. That’s why I felt more drawn to aged care.’
By way of example, Naz mentions losing a resident recently, and when she went into his room not long after, the first thing his wife said to her was: ‘Your man is gone.’
‘Often, when I see them outside of the home, they come and give me a hug.’
It’s not just residents who end up as a de facto extended family, Naz says. She also forms deep connections with residents’ actual family members. ‘Often, when I see them outside of the home, they come and give me a hug,’ she says. ‘I also had one male resident last year, and he remembered me from when I had looked after his sister several years earlier.’
Lockdowns, as difficult as they were, did serve to strengthen this connection even further, given that Naz and her colleagues were temporarily the only people allowed at the bedside.
Naz was doing their shopping. She became their hairdresser. Their official photographer, to send photos to their family. To try to alleviate residents’ loneliness she lavished even more love and care on them than ever.
Of course, the drawback to all this is that it never gets easier when residents pass away. ‘It’s like losing a member of your own family,’ she says. But it’s part of the job: ‘The residents are only there for their last stage, but it’s never easy no matter how many times you go through it.’
Life as a Job Rep
In 2022, Naz stepped into the role of ANMF (Vic Branch) Job Rep for the facility. ‘We needed a strong person who could talk to management,’ she says, ‘and not shy off when trying to help the staff when they need it. And I am a loud person!’
The role was a natural fit given the depth of Naz’s experience and her welcoming personality, which meant her colleagues already came to her regularly for advice. ‘Most of the PCAs come and talk to me when they feel something’s not right. And I can follow up and I can push it more with management.’
She shares the role with one of the facility’s registered nurses, Kerryn Bailey, and together they make a great team. ‘Karen’s always beside me,’ Naz says. ‘As a team, we work really well together – especially when we’re advocating: we do not back off!’
‘Being a Job Rep enables you to learn and educate yourself about your rights and what you can get – and what management shouldn’t be doing.’
The role isn’t just about putting yourself in a conflicting member matter. Primarily, it’s about empowering herself and her colleagues to ensure the best possible environment for staff and residents.
‘The first time I went to a [Job Rep] meeting I learned lots of interesting things that I then went and told all my workplace friends and colleagues,’ she says. ‘So being a Job Rep enables you to learn and educate yourself about your rights and what you can get – and what management shouldn’t be doing.
‘Kay (the Branch’s organiser for the region) is awesome. I ring her all the time and ask her so many questions. She will tell me: “No, that’s not right. You can go and say so to your workplace.” I also don’t always understand everything about the EBA, but Kay finds the relevant part for me and explains it.’