Corpus Christi College
Immaculate settings like this look effortless, but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to create the oases of green that support the goings on at Corpus Christi College in Perth.

KEEPING IT CALM

Imagine that you are the Property Manager at a high school and that daily, you and your team have to be ready to deal with an astonishingly broad set of requests. From the routine (sweeping paths), to the one-off (landscaping the new gym precinct), or even the last minute (setting up for a function), it’s all part of the role. Which wouldn’t suit everyone, simply because no day is the same; no day runs quite as expected. But Chris Carbone is obviously very happy and from the sounds of it, nothing seems to throw him. Perhaps it’s experience, or maybe his family back- ground...


Corpus Christi College was established back in the early 1980s in Bateman, roughly fifteen kilometres almost due south of Perth’s CBD. Thirteen hundred young people study there in a seven hectare setting dotted with the infrastructure you’d expect to find at a high school. It’s the domain of the students and it’s Chris’s team’s responsibility to keep it looking good and functioning smoothly.

When Chris describes what they tackle each day, it sounds fairly predictable, but then it quickly branches out into the unexpected. “We’d start each day picking up rubbish and emptying bins, sweeping clear the footpaths and the car parks and keeping an eye out for any damage that needs repair. Staff would have notified us that we need to set up for an event, so we’d do that, even just setting up a classroom to a different plan.” So far, so good, but now it gets more interesting...

“We then might clean the school buses and refuel them, liaise with the contract mowers, and get out into the garden beds to tend them and repair any damage to the reticulation system.”

To this point it’s all hands-on, covered by Chris and the team of three. But Chris also manages an army of sub contractors that are on site regularly – among them cleaners, electricians, plumbers and glaziers. “The toilets can back up, at any time or any other accidental damage to windows etc”. A lot of my time is spent organising contractors.”

And then the bar is raised still further because along with routine maintenance, the usual schedule of events and the unexpected, Chris is also part of the college’s project committee at a time when a series of major projects are underway. “We’ve just completed a gym and classroom complex (Chris and his team put in the landscaping) and will be constructing a 400 seat theatre in 2018. Following that we’ll begin the school’s swimming pool.”

How does Chris manage to be across such a broad scope of work? It probably comes down to experience. “I grew up in Mandurah and started with a horticultural traineeship working in a Serpentine fruit orchard for three or four years. It was full on – spraying weeds, spraying for fruit fly, mowing, picking and packing - they were long days.” Clearly Chris had a great work ethic because he quickly became leading hand. This was also the era where he met, married his wife and started his family.

The next four years of Chris’s career were spent working for the Shire at Wagin, starting on the grounds team then becoming leading hand. Here he trained as a Ranger. From Wagin he took up the role of Parks Ranger for the Shire of Mundaring, adding his skippers ticket to his qualifications in order to effectively handle the management and conservation of lake Leschenaultia (a former railway dam which holds more than 500 million litre of water). And then Chris was contracted to work for the Defence Department, looking after the management of the Department’s various grounds from as far north as Port Hedland, east to Kalgoorlie and south to Albany. “I enjoyed the travel, getting around and seeing different places.”

So when he arrived at Corpus Christi, he was clearly equipped with enough experience to deal with whatever happens at the school. Technically he works between the hours of 5:30am and 2:30pm - not that he sticks to those hours. “You have to prioritise to get things done and if it means working longer to get something sorted, you do. You make sure it’s done before you leave because it’s not going to go away.”

It’s a good method and it seems to keep everything ticking along without fuss. Maybe Chris gets this approach from home. He grew up in a household with two siblings and five foster siblings added into the mix, and he and his wife have created a similar set up within their family. Chris goes home after work to three of his own children, now 18, 17 and 15 as well as three foster children aged five, three and two years old. Surely that helps you keep your perspective and sense of calm.


Corpus Christi College