Irene Harris and her children, who have all worked at the refinery, Christine, Gail, Glenn and Wayne (front).
Warren Harris, seated bottom right, and his crew at the Geelong Refinery.
IT’S about 65 years since Warren and Irene Harris left the country Victorian town of Minyip looking to find work, create a home and start a family in Geelong.
Warren, who had turned his hand to driving buses and taxis, landed a job at the refinery in about 1960, starting a family connection that now spans three generations.
All four of the couple’s children - Wayne, Christine, Gail and Glenn - have worked at the refinery, with Glenn’s son Kyle, an operator, also following in his grandfather’s footsteps.
“The refinery has supported our family all the way through our lives,” Glenn says.
“Dad brought us all up while working at the refinery. My brother Wayne brought up three kids while working at the refinery.”
Glenn remembers the sense of community and camaraderie shared by the friends of families of his father’s colleagues with Christmas celebrations at the Shell Club, where Warren had been one of the early members.
“It was good to have someone in the family who worked at the refinery,” Glenn says. “It was the place in Geelong where everybody would have liked to work because it was well paid and because it was going places.”
Glenn says technology and highly advanced control operations have taken over much of the manual operations of his father’s day.
Warren retired in 1990 with the former head operator’s name still on a board in one of the old Distillation buildings.
The two Harris sisters only worked for a short time at the fly strip plant but elder brother Wayne was there for a decade in an IT career that included working on the refinery’s first computers.
Glenn’s path to the refinery took longer, working for 27 years at Alcoa where he was maintenance superintendent when the Pt Henry smelter closed in 2014.
A stint in Saudi Arabia was followed by another job back in Geelong before he secured a job with Viva Energy contractor UGL and he is now the Area South Maintenance Co-ordinator at the refinery.
“I am very lucky to be re-employed I guess,” Glenn says. “I was thinking (when Alcoa closed), who was going to employ me at my age?”
Both he and son Kyle have been working at the refinery for about four years.
While Warren and Wayne are no longer with us, Mum Irene is well into her 80s and still lives in Corio where she and Warren invested their hopes and dreams for a better future all those years ago.