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Goodbye and thank you Andrea

01 Jun 2017

Goodbye and thank you Andrea Image

By Shane Scanlan

It’s hard to imagine the Mission to Seafarers without Andrea Fleming, but she is leaving at the end of May after 10 years at the helm.

The heritage-listed building in Flinders St, Docklands, turns 100 this year and Andrea has ensured that the intriguing Spanish-mission-inspired structure has survived.

But it’s the pastoral aspects of the CEO role that she hopes are her legacy.

“The legacy is in the small moments that I’ve shared with some of the most humble and incredible people that I would not have otherwise met – seafarers,” she told Docklands News.

Andrea is a surprising, engaging and totally charming woman. She exudes an enthusiastic, almost child-like, persona. Of course, the actual person is far more complex than that.

Her major contribution to the mission has been her passion and rare ability to attract others to the cause. With an infectious smile and genuine warmth, potential donors sometimes found themselves incapable of saying no.

In a recent Maritime Art Show speech, one benefactor memorably admitted being bewildered about how he happened to find himself on stage, microphone in hand, awarding a valuable cash prize to a painter.

“Andrea could charm the pants off a lamp-post” was his brutally frank assessment.

Unconventional to a fault, no doubt she would have tested the limits of tolerance within the Anglican hierarchy more than once.

Docklands News has enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the mission. The building is one of our newspaper drop-off depots that make our distribution task simpler. In return, we have been privileged to bring news of the mission and its activities to our local readers.

Andrea has always been a generous hostess as well as being the life of the party. When publicly speaking off the cuff, her delivery is personal and conversational. It is always grounded, positive and earnest, but interspersed with infectious smiles and bubbly giggles.

Many Docklanders have volunteered at the mission, which has contributed a badly-needed dose of authenticity to our shiny, brand-new suburb. Its faded, weary walls are a restorative antidote to the sterile glass, metal and concrete that have encroached upon and dominated the mission.

“Docklands built up around us and, only when it closed in, did we have a say. We claimed and named Seafarers’ Rest. Or the naming of Seafarer’s Bridge. We were saying: while all this happening, let’s not forget from whence we came,” Ms Fleming said.

“Docklands does have an identity. It’s a maritime identity. That progress, in 10 years, is huge. I love Docklands. I love sitting out there on the water. I think I’ll always enjoy Docklands.”

In many ways, the mission has been the heart and soul of Docklands and Andrea has personified this.

“I shared the early heartaches of Docklands. In the early days in this community you either decided you would hang on – for better or for worse – or you were getting out,” she said.

“There are some beautiful stories about some people from the early days, who experienced it and who set the whole thing up for the next generation.

Through that hardship, something really beautiful began to blossom and the learning goes on.”

So what’s next? Having put so much on herself into the mission, it is an emotional time for her.

“Who is Andrea without the mission?” she asked with a trademark smile.

She’s putting on a brave face but is uncertain about the future.

“I’m really looking forward to it. I just don’t know what it is. And maybe that’s part of the excitement – not knowing.”

One thing is known. She will be sorely missed.

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