Residents fight for rights of postie
A fired-up group of Illawarra residents are mounting a campaign to save their beloved postie, who they fear may be moved on because he takes the time to have a chat while delivering the mail.
Simon McGovern delivers mail on the picturesque Austinmer and Coledale route, and is well known for his human touch.
He has been known to hand-deliver condolence cards when he knows there has been a death in a family, rather than just leaving them in the letterbox.
Other times he makes an effort to save older residents the trip to the letterbox.
Mr McGovern's fans liken the locally born-and-bred postie to a character from the TV series Get Smart - an agent called Simon the Likeable - and they say he epitomises good, old customer service.
One of the residents standing up for the postie is Julia Bianco, who lost her daughter Yasmina in a train accident at Coledale in 2011.
She said the postie had played a vital role in her daily life in the weeks that followed the tragedy, with his friendly face giving her something to smile about as she sat on her balcony.
''I haven't forgotten,'' she said.
''Simon is an old-fashioned postie ... he interacts with the community.
''He does not simply stick letters in a box, but stops to say hello and have small talk with those who happen to be at their box or in the driveway or footpath.
''For many residents, this is a vital part of their day and Simon follows it up with a smile and a wave if he passes by.
''He knows all his customers and is able to assign incorrectly addressed letters to the right place.''
Around the corner on Cater Street, Stan Vardy, 87, isn't as mobile as he used to be, so Simon the Likeable gets off his bike and walks the mail up to his door.
And on Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Louise Beaton, 52, said Mr McGovern was ''just a delight''.
''He's really friendly,'' she said. ''One of the things I love about him is that he just cares about his job. It's the kind of service that people love.''
Mr McGovern, who is undergoing an internal disciplinary process, could not comment for this story.
An Australia Post spokeswoman said out of respect for privacy ''it isn't appropriate for us to comment on individual staff members''.
''We understand the important role our posties play in the community and we would like to assure the Coledale and Austinmer residents that we are committed to delivering their mail in a timely and efficient manner.''
The postie is being supported by his union - the CEPU - and its NSW postal and telecommunications branch president Peter Chaloner.
Mr Chaloner said the disciplinary matters which Mr McGovern faced were minor and ''petty'', and seemed to stem from the fact Mr McGovern was taking longer to complete his round - because he took the time to talk to people along the way.
Mr Chaloner said it was unfortunate the ''big stick approach'' was being used rather than trying to resolve any dispute. A decision may be made next week whether Mr McGovern will be moved to another area in the Illawarra.
But not if the residents can help it. A petition started by an Austinmer resident has more than 400 signatures and will be sent to Australia Post.
Ms Bianco said taking the time to communicate with customers should not be seen as a negative.
''We call that old-fashioned service and community service,'' she said.