“We love helping people,” says veteran NRMA roadside mechanic Enzo Leto. “That’s what we do on the road every day. Our attitude at the NRMA is: ‘We can’t help but help.’”
Enzo, who has worked as a roadside mechanic in Western Sydney for more than a decade, is one of several NRMA staff who recently visited Walgett in drought-afflicted regional NSW to lend the farmers there a helping hand. The visits are part of the Outback Links program, run by the Uniting Church, which connects skilled volunteers with people in remote Australia who are doing it tough. Since 2014, NRMA staff have volunteered on more than 40 farms in Walgett and nearby Lightning Ridge.
Enzo made his first Outback Links visit in 2017. “We went out to this farm out the back of Walgett and it was a really big eye-opener,” he recalls. “As you’re driving out there, you could just see how dry and grey the whole area is, and then it starts hitting you, with a little bit of emotion, to think: these guys are really suffering out here.”
Enzo and his colleagues spent time carrying out mechanical repairs and servicing the farm’s small-terrain vehicles and four-wheel drives. “Once all the work was finished, we actually helped on the farm as well, moving sheep from one paddock to another,” he says.
Since then, Enzo has returned to Walgett twice, once as part of Outback Links and once under his own steam. “After the first one, I just couldn’t keep my hand down,” he says. “It was just great to be part of it. I can’t wait until next year – once the program kicks off again – to be able to head back out there.”
Enzo came to work for the NRMA after successfully running his own mechanical workshop. He says the desire to work hard and help others is in his blood. “My parents did foster an attitude of being able to help others where possible,” he says. “They were both immigrants and when they came out here, they really had to work hard.”
Outbank Links has taught him that sometimes the best way to help is just to make yourself available to a person in need. “Most of the farmers out there are pretty mechanically minded and are very good as handymen,” he explains, “so when we go out there we try to give them a little bit of advice but not to tell them how to do their job, because they’ve been doing it for years. They know what they’re doing.”
He adds: “Sometimes it’s not about actually fixing anything; sometimes it’s just sitting down with a cup of tea and having a chat. When you’re out there, it’s just about being there for them.”
Enzo says the response from the rural Australians he met was heart-warming. “Once they got to know you, they accepted you as part of their family out there,” he says. “I’ve kept in contact with quite a few of them.”
He’ll be encouraging his colleagues to take part in the program in the months and years ahead. “One of the biggest things I’ve learnt is that everybody needs a hand,” he says. “Let’s keep this program going: it’s a great help to the farmers out there and the people in need.”