Before he turned 16, Greg Roberts left school in Ballarat and trained as a potter. A few years into his training in pottery he began practicing Tai-Chi, a form of martial arts embracing the mind, body and spirit. Greg grew to learn the art and practiced daily. A move to Barwon Heads from Ballarat prompted Greg to begin teaching Tai-Chi on the Bellarine Peninsula.
At this time, Greg also began looking into other career options. He trained in massage therapy and gained certification as a personal care attendant which saw him working closely with people in community health centres, aged care settings and disability services. In these roles, Greg noticed that people were drawn to him to talk about their issues and concerns. This prompted Greg to complete a Social Work degree at Deakin University. He felt drawn to the elements of reflective practice and counselling within this profession. During this time, he took on roles at both the Geelong Hospital and Bethany.
During a meeting at the Geelong Hospital Greg had a serendipitous moment when sitting in the cafeteria.
He began chatting to Leona Daniel, who had recently started managing the Barwon Paediatric Bereavement Program, now called HOPE Bereavement Care. Prior to this meeting, Greg and his partner had sadly had their own personal experience dealing with this service after the death of their daughter Madeleine. Madeleine was born at the Geelong Hospital but sadly died aged 25-days at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne from complications from a severe heart defect associated with Downs Syndrome.
This meeting with Leona planted the seed for the two of them to develop a Geelong ‘Bereaved Dad’s Support Group’ and eventually saw Greg take on an ongoing role as a bereavement counsellor. Greg states ‘I realised that working with grief, bereavement and trauma felt like a place that I needed to be. A place I needed to be putting my energy.’
Greg also worked closely with the Wesley Centre to develop a support group for people bereaved through suicide. Greg facilitated this group for many years and drew on his own personal experience of losing his 25-year-old brother to suicide when he was 11. He found that the group was able to ‘come together to fuel something that was rewarding and supportive.’
This group was integral in the development of ‘SPAN’ (Suicide Prevention Awareness Network) which holds an annual suicide awareness walk. This walk is a place for people who have experienced suicide to come together to feel connected. Greg states; ‘The walk is about remembering those we have lost to suicide, encouraging conversations and developing connections.’
Greg has a unique ability to intuitively bring people together and to develop connections that allow others to feel supported and connected during times of grief and trauma.
Greg has completed a PHD at Deakin University titled: ‘Into the Mystic: Bereaved parents, love and spontaneous creativity’. Greg now lives and works on the Mornington Peninsula.
Story and photo: Vic Downey.