It’s 4 am on a cold Thursday morning, and Richard Toomer is busy preparing the city streets for the life that starts at sunrise.
His day began an hour ago, and while most people have barely rolled over in bed, he’s driven to the Adelaide City Council’s depot on London Road, organised his schedule for the day, and made it back onto the city streets.
Richard is part of the Council’s Public Realm Street Cleansing team.
For city’s residents, they’re the men and women who help make the neighbourhood a clean, beautiful place to live.
Despite the early starts and hard work, he wouldn’t change a thing.
“I get to present a capital city in Australia to this standard, it’s an incredible opportunity to showcase Adelaide to anyone who comes in,” he says.
But it’s not often that Richard is noticed, and essentially, that’s what tells him he’s doing things right.
“You would know within a day if we weren’t doing our jobs – things don’t happen, streets get dirty, the bins are full, the roads flood, the graffiti would go out of control – it would just turn into mayhem,” he says.
“When people come in in the morning they see us standing around having a coffee, but we don’t all lean on shovels and brooms.”
“The problem is by the time they get there, we’ve already been working for four or five hours to get to that point.”
While the major redevelopments in Victoria Square and Rundle Mall are an obvious highlight of the work being done in the city, Richard is quick to point out that it is “business as usual” for his team, working in the public realm.
Every day the Street Cleansing team is responsible for sweeping almost 100 km of roads and footpaths, emptying more than 560 street bins and cleaning 40 public toilets - rain, hail or shine.
“Seven days a week, 365 days a year, it takes a lot of dedication and we put our lives on hold in many respects,” Richard says.
“A number of times I’ve worked through Christmas… gone to bed at 8 pm on a New Year’s Eve, heard the fire crackers and rolled back over, gone to sleep and been awake at 2 am.”
“The passion in the guys that work in those teams shows every day, so when you come into work it’s tidy, it’s clean, it smells nice – it’s how you would like to see it.”
It’s hard work, but don’t think that Richard doesn’t enjoy it.
As he drives through the city streets, he happily talks about the luxuries of his role that many people don’t get to enjoy.
“I like the people, I like the atmosphere, I like the fact that in summertime I finish at 9 am and I can go home and ride my bike, or go for a surf, or do the gardening,” he says.
“Unfortunately not everyone gets that sort of privilege.”
CREDIT: music courtesy of Keith Kennif, Helios - The Morning Room
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