Evanda is just twenty-two years old but has overcome obstacles and taken on responsibilities well beyond his years.
As the eldest sibling of 10, his family has always been the most important part of his life.
Now, after four years working as an apprentice painter with Mick Dempsey and the Demoss Painting team, he’s officially a tradesman.
It’s been no easy feat for the young man who, after his mother sadly passed away in 2018, was the only driver in the family and so delayed starting his career to help his dad.
Then, the COVID pandemic also disrupted his TAFE training, pushing back his sign-off date despite his competency being well up to standard to achieve his trade certificate.
Vanda, as he's known on site amongst the Demoss crew, says he’s proud to be setting a positive example for his younger family members.
“I knew I had to show a bit of initiative and show them what is possible when you chose the right path,” Vanda said.
“I’d like to think I’ve come a long way I suppose and this is probably the biggest accomplishment of my life so far," he said.
“I’ve known Mick since I was about ten, when I started playing footy under him as coach.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity he’s provided me and, working with him and the Demoss crew is awesome, they’re like the older brothers I’ve never had.
“It’s actually a bit strange having them try to boss me around,” he joked.
His actual boss and mentor Mick Dempsey has been in the painting industry for 35 years and says seeing Vanda achieve his apprenticeship in such challenging circumstances is inspiring.
“I actually find it hard to talk about without getting emotional,” Mick said.
“Vanda has done it really tough and to see what he’s achieved and what he’s doing now makes me really proud,” he said.
“We all have our own personal stories, and he has really risen above his challenges, and he has a bright future ahead.”
A mentor for life
It's little wonder Mick gets emotional about Vanda's journey. The humble (master) painter is also a respected member of the Townsville Rugby League community having played, captained and then coached at Souths for decades.
As Evanda's coach he recognised his talent immediately. When the youngster was selected in representative sides, Mick and his wife Kelly paid for Vanda to go away to the carnivals, but it was no free ride. It was a loan which was to be repaid through weekend painting labour work which Evanda HATED. He would even say he NEVER wanted to be a painter.
But Mick held firm on the terms of their agreement and in the end passed on something greater than how to execute the perfect tackle or achieve a perfect finish on a glancing wall - a life lesson in the value of responsibility.
MLH Managing Director Martin Locke said Mick and the Demoss crew were the best in business on site and off.
“Great tradesmen are hard to find but keeping a consistent crew of great people together long term is even more rare,” Martin said.
“Collectively Mick’s crew have been working with him for over 50 years, that is just unheard of in this day and age, so I’m sure Vanda has had the best possible mentors as a tradesman," he said.
“Our young people are the future of the construction industry but the key to their success is skilled tradesmen like Mick passing on their knowledge and work ethic to the next generation.
"Evanda showed great qualities on the footy field and as a big brother and might have made it regardless, we will never know..... but I truly believe the path he is on now is, in large part, thanks to the Dempsey Family, and Mick in particular, as a man of substance who was willing to pass on his trade and life secrets to a young man who never wanted to be painter."