Meet Andy Grafen, who is quite literally part of the furniture at Hillarys Boat Harbour. He has been here for an amazing 31 years, more than any other person and he has seen it all. As our harbour’s Facilities Manager, he has witnessed the days when punters would launch themselves from very high places protected by nothing but cardboard (Master’s Choc Milk Regatta), seen the evolution of fireworks go from cracker night to fully blown light shows and he’s been under the water, on the water and in the works for almost the entire life of Hillarys. We asked him a few questions.
When did you start work at hillarys?
I started working here in 1990, two years after Hillarys Boat Harbour was launched – before mobile phones and computers were around. Apart from my former boss (who just recently retired) I’m the longest serving staff member at the Harbour. I’ve nearly caught up with him though!
We worked six days a week back then, but now I have weekends off which is nice.
How did you start working at hillarys?
It was a bit of a fluke really. I was over from Canberra visiting my brother who lived in the Hillarys area. I was a greenkeeper at the time and had broken my leg in a car accident – so I was here on holidays recovering from my injury.
I saw a sign for the Hillarys Boat Show so went down to check it out. Then, whilst I was here, I thought I’d see if I could get some casual work and called into the Management Office. They said they didn’t have anything, but 2 hours later they called me back to do a bit of maintenance work. I’ve been here ever since.
What does your job involve?
Essentially, I look after the structural maintenance and cleaning of Hillarys Boardwalk – both above and below the water. Overall, it covers about 5000 square metres of paving and timber. But half of the building sits above the water, so we look after the submerged pylons as well.
Unlike a shopping centre, the building space is mostly outdoors and exposed to the elements. Plus, Hillarys is open virtually 24/7 so there’s always plenty to do to keep it maintained.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I still love coming here every day. I can’t imagine not coming down the freeway, turning left at Hepburn Avenue and heading into work at Hillarys. It’s a very special place. You never get bored with it. Every day at Hillarys is a new experience.
It’s also a great job for keeping healthy – out in the fresh air, keeping active. A few people have asked if I’d like to hand over my job to them. But I love it. I’m extremely grateful for my job and I’ll work here until I can’t work anymore.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF HILLARYS?
I start my day between 4 and 5am, making sure everything is clean and ready before people start arriving at 6am. I love that time of the day here – looking at the coast, up to Scarborough, watching the sunrise. Its so quiet and peaceful.
Although during COVID lockdown last year, I was the only person working here as an essential worker. It was too quiet then. Its great to have everyone back.
WHAT’S BEEN ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR TIME WORKING AT HILLARYS?
I’ve enjoyed those big events – like the Master’s Regatta. People use to save their choc milk cartons all year to build their rafts and race them on the water. It was great fun.
The fireworks are great too – its good seeing families and lots of people having fun down here.