Cleanaway Transfer Station Operator Tony Levett is a Wiradjuri man whose origins lie in Wellington, NSW. Tony has made quite a name for himself within Cleanaway with his awe-inspiring Indigenous artwork.
With traditional lands that extend over roughly 60,000 square kilometres on the west of the Blue Mountains, the Wiradjuri people are the largest Aboriginal group in New South Wales.
It could be said that Tony had a rough start to life, “I was removed off my birth parents at the age of two and placed in an orphanage. My contact with my natural family is limited, to say the least.”
“I’ve also spent 17 years of my life behind bars and if I didn’t tell you that, you would never know.”
Tony became part of the Cleanaway family when the company acquired seven Sydney post-collections assets in late 2021. 95 expert operators behind these assets were also integrated into Cleanaway via the acquisition, with Tony being one of them.
“I’ve been an operator/docker at the Ryde Transfer Station since before the acquisition and have continued in that role ever since, including being the leading hand at the station.” he says.
According to Tony everything about his role is exciting.
“Every day is different. I like reaching new milestones such as weight goals on outgoing trailers. I also like knowing that I am a valued team member. I’ve never had a job before where I’ve felt as appreciated as I do here.”
“On top of that, the work pays well and it’s an essential service so once you’re in, your job will always be here.”
As soon as Tony clocks out of the Ryde Transfer Station, family becomes his focus.
“Life outside of work for me is my family, nothing more nothing less. After being made an orphan at a young age I value my family more than I can put into words,” he says.
“My 14-month-old daughter and two stepchildren, one of whom also works for Cleanaway, along with my loving partner are all I am about outside of work.”
“That and my art, of course.”
Tony’s Indigenous art pieces have built up quite a following in our Diversity & Inclusion group on Cleanaway’s Workplace platform which gives a voice to all of our employees from all over Australia.
His Workplace posts have been viewed thousands of times over. Needless to say he’s made more than a few fans along the way.
Recently, one of his artworks was installed in the reception area of our Wingfield, South Australia depot.
“Because I have limited contact with my natural family, my artwork is a way for me to connect with my culture. It’s a way to help me stay connected to my identity as a fair-skinned black man.”
As for inspiration, Tony says that he just sets himself a story and starts painting.
“They generally take shape by themselves with very little effort,” he adds.
When asked to pick a favourite piece, “There are far too many pieces for me to have a favourite as I’ve made and sold hundreds,” he says.
“But I do have a painting that was bought by the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs (OATSIA) so that one means a lot to me.”
In his spare time, Tony develops modules for life coaching and addiction therapy.
“My motto is ‘never give up’. I’ve had a very troubled past with addiction, incarceration and homelessness. But here I am, living my best life, working for the biggest waste company in the country as a leading hand.”
As an inclusive Australian company with a workforce consisting of people with diverse values, backgrounds, skills, experiences and needs, Cleanaway recognises its role and responsibilities in contributing to reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2023 is Be a Voice for Generations. We asked Tony for his reconciliation message to Australia and this is what he had to say:
“If I can go from where I was to where I am now, turn my life around and help others to find the best versions of themselves, anyone can do it,” says Tony.
“It’s about using the knowledge of your past to encourage and bring in a brighter future.”
Contact us to learn more about our diverse and expert workforce making a sustainable future possible together.