After losing his job in the events industry due to the pandemic, Francis Fogliani found rewarding work cleaning Melbourne’s waterways.

Francis standing in his orange uniform beside the Merri Creek.

It’s the little things that surprise Francis Fogliani day-to-day. The things people throw out, the gratitude of others when they see him at work, and the vast amount of waste that ends up in Melbourne waterways.

“There are definitely a few odd things. So far the team has found $135 in cash. We’ve found things like TVs, we found a microwave this morning, we find lots of syringes and so many shopping trolleys,” Francis said.

“There are also little dumped the things that are no use to them. We’ve found a few old licence plates as well.”

Francis is part of a small - but dedicated - team working its way along Darebin Creek as part of a Waterway Blitz by Melbourne Water.

His team began at the top of the creek in Epping and is working its way towards Northland Plaza in Preston, delivering the rubbish they retrieve from the banks and waterway to a 23-cubic metre skip at Preston Reservoir.

“We’ve emptied the skip five times so far, so that’s about 115 cubic metres of rubbish in two months from Darebin Creek,” he said.

“The biggest thing is plastic bottles, so many plastic bottles. Every kind of water bottle, soft drink bottle, sports drink bottle you can think of ends up in the waterway and gets caught up in natural debris, creating little dams.

“The Waterway Blitz program has filled a total of 12 skips across Melbourne as of early October.”

It’s a satisfying feeling for Francis, who joined the team in August after six months’ of unemployment, triggered when the pandemic cost him his job in the events industry.

“The last thing I worked on was the Formula One, which got cancelled, but as a casual I fell through the cracks and went through a very arduous ordeal before I eventually managed to get JobSeeker,” he said.

“A friend got a job with one of the councils through Working for Victoria so I signed up and found this job with Melbourne Water.”

He started work on a six-month contract in mid-August ending months of uncertainty.

“It enables me to pay my mortgage and catch up on a bit of savings from the past six months, but it’s also particularly good to get out and get a full day of sun and exercise,” he said.

While the amount of rubbish can be depressing, it is rewarding work.

“We’re finding some patches that have had years of build up and it’s good to clear that out of the water system. The idea is to get everything before it flows downstream.”

Positive feedback also helps.

Everyone in the team has had a positive interaction with members of the public; people going for a run or out walking their dog just thank us and say how nice it is to see people doing the job. It’s been a good opportunity to give something back to the community in a way that you can’t normally do when you have another job. That’s really nice.”

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