“We have sort of grown together. Every time they learnt something new, being able to shave themselves or just a new skill they have been able to do, you are just so proud of them. You have to tell everyone,” she says.
The 67-year-old says it has “been like a little family”.
“The four boys know all our friends, our family, and we have taken them to family functions,” she says. “I always call them my boys because I’ve worked with them for so long.”
Ms Frazer with Carl, Jonathan, Guy and John on their way to the Special Olympics in Wodonga.
Ms Frazer was aged 35 in 1988 when she moved with her husband from Melbourne to Mansfield for a change of scenery.
She went to the offices of Mansfield Autism Statewide Service, which started 50 years ago to support families living with autism, and met founder Joan Curtis. After a week’s trial she was offered a job.
About the same time, four young men – one of them Ms Curtis’ son – were moving into a share house. Ms Frazer and her family moved in with them. She has continued to provide live-in support to the men on a rotational basis throughout her career.
Having the same carers for such a long time has been important.
“Autistic people are really not very good with change and the continuity is a real bonus,” says Ms Frazer. “We have had continuous staff that have been there for a long time. That, I’m sure, has helped.”
The men have a daily work program that includes lawn mowing and car washing, and do activities such as art classes before exhibiting their work in town.
“When I came to Mansfield, it was a smaller town than it is now, and everyone knew them and in a way they looked out for them as well,” says Ms Frazer.
“It was really nice. The community have been very good to the boys.”
Ms Frazer plans to spend more time with her husband in retirement.Credit:Eddie Jim
The men are all accomplished skiers and love bushwalking, camping and riding their bikes along the rail trail.
After a rewarding three decades, Ms Frazer says it’s time to retire.
“As much as I am so fond of those boys and they are an extension of my family, I couldn’t keep up with things,” she says. “It was time to move on and spend time with my husband.”
She will, of course, stay in touch, visiting the men in town every six weeks for morning tea.
She highly recommends such a career.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” she says. “There is such a shortage of disability workers, and it’s a job that we do need people to do.
“Without the disability workers, they aren’t able to run a lot of things that would help the clients. The quality of life is no less than they all deserve, and they are entitled to have that quality of life.”
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Simone is a crime reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Age, and before that for The Australian in Melbourne.