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December 2021

Group of people in Qantas uniforms jpeg
Sandown Racecourse vaccination clinic team members – Chris Frawley, Wendy Davies, Arthur Karavangelis, Karen Granig, Kathleen Thorne, Bridget Kihara and Sam Jackson – about to return to their roles at Qantas.

From ground control to flying high

By mid-November, Qantas flight attendant Bridget Kihara was looking forward to getting back in the air – but she was going to miss working at the Sandown Racecourse COVID-19 vaccination centre.

‘I’ve loved this role,’ Ms Kihara said.

‘I really felt like I had a purpose and I was doing something important for the wider community.’

Ms Kihara reached out to Monash Health earlier this year while Qantas was not flying international routes.

‘Vaccination was the key to getting people flying again and I’m very passionate about it, so I thought I should practise what I preach.’

In a team with other Qantas employees as well as staff from industries such as retail and hospitality, Ms Kihara worked at both Sandown Racecourse and Dandenong vaccination centres and was blown away by the ‘super caring’ Monash Health team.

‘Helping them reassure people and getting so many over the line was very rewarding.

‘I particularly remember one teenager who was very afraid of needles.

‘Her mother was so worried.

‘In the end, we all worked together to set up an appointment, meet them at the gate and give the girl virtual reality glasses for distraction.

‘I talked to her about travel and Hawaii while I checked her in and then I handed her over to the concierge and the nurse who gave her the VR glasses and successfully vaccinated her.’

Ms Kihara said airline staff were accustomed to dealing with worried or anxious people.

‘It was great to convert that experience into a positive experience for the community.

‘Now that Qantas international flights are back, I’m returning to the sky.

‘But this has been a great example of the two organisations helping each other out.

‘I’m so pleased to have played a part.’

Nurse manager at the Sandown Racecourse vaccination centre, Gabrielle Bunton said the Qantas staff had been instrumental in the efficient running of the centres.

‘We’ve had amazing feedback from the public with people so impressed by how streamlined it’s been – from a happy greeting to a ‘have a nice day’ goodbye.

‘All their customer service, team-building and organisational skills have been so valuable.’

Ms Bunton said many of the younger casual staff were also benefitting from the experience and would be able to take their new skills to other roles.

The Qantas staff returned to their airline roles at the end of November.