Are You Working on Christmas Day? You’re not Alone

While many of us tuck into a festive feast then settle in to watch the Christmas movie re-runs, there is an army of workers for whom December 25 is just business as usual.

From charity workers to taxi drivers, these are the men and women — and a hardworking little plane — that will keep the country running.

The surf lifesaver

Mix prawns, pudding, a few wines and then a trip to the beach and you may soon be in need of Doron Milner’s services.

Lifesaver Doron Milner sits in the surf lifesaving buggy at Bondi.

The Bondi surf lifesaver has taken the Christmas Day patrol shift for the past few years and said it’s always a busy time.

Last year he estimated they saved about 20 people on the day.

“It’s a lot of fun, there’s a lot of people … but it’s also serious at times because there are a lot of rescues when there’s big surf,” he said.

But it’s not all warning signs and whistles.

Each year, they put up a tree in the sand, and this year, Santa will be doing the rounds to take photos with tourists and get into the festive spirit.

Mr Milner’s family has even made a tradition of joining him on the day.

“They set up an umbrella, they love being on the beach,” he said.

“It has sort of become a Jewish tradition for us to spend Christmas on the beach with me patrolling. It’s fun times for all.”

The charity worker

Far from slowing down, the Matthew Talbot Hostel in Sydney becomes a hive of activity in the holiday season as they provide food and shelter to the city’s homeless.

Roger Williams has offered a helping hand for more than 10 years and knows the stress that comes with this time of year.

Charity worker Roger Williams stands in front of a shelf of full.

“It can be quite frantic. It’s also a period of some delicacy and difficulty for some of the guys,” he said.

“You’ll appreciate they feel their loneliness and their absence from family pretty acutely, so it can be a difficult period.”

Mr Williams said the hostel sees a surge in people for Christmas lunch, and not just from those in need.

“We always have a huge number of helpers with us for Christmas Day and lunch in particular,” he said.

“Anyone who wants to help is certainly welcome to come here and work with us … but the thing goes on all year round and it’s really all year round that we need help.”

The flying doctors

Santa might have a lot of ground to cover on Christmas Eve, but the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) gives him a good run for his money.

This Christmas, pilot Scott Taubman will be on call in Alice Springs, at a base that covers 1.25 million square kilometres of Australian Outback.

“We don’t stop, we’re 24/7 and people just don’t stop being sick because it’s holidays or Christmas,” he said.

Pilot Scott Taubman stands in front of a plane.

The RFDS has 24 bases around Australia and does more than 100 missions every day.

And while Mr Taubman might be many miles away from his family in Young, NSW, he isn’t too worried about missing the festivities.

“I’ll be here by myself in Alice, which will be a bit of a shock to the system, but it won’t be too bad,” he said.

“Family is only a phone call away and I’m surrounded by good people at work, and that makes a big difference.

“And when we open the doors, people are happy to see us and are grateful, and that’s a pretty good feeling when you see that.”

The taxi driver

If you’re dreading the drive to and from various family events this Christmas, spare a thought for Geoff Williamson.

The Sydney taxi driver spends 52 weeks a year on the road, but said business really ramped up in the silly season.

“It can be a bit chaotic with the volume of traffic that increases during the Christmas period,” he said.

“But it’s enjoyable because it has other benefits, and that is we get additional work.”

Geoff Williamson sits in the driver's seat of his taxi.

When the office parties get into full swing it can bring on all sorts of behaviour — and emotions — and Mr Williamson said he often finds himself in the role of counsellor.

“They might be a little bit rowdy and things like that, but generally speaking you think to yourself, ‘Well, they’ll probably be in and out of the car within about half an hour and they’ll be OK’,” he said.

And at least this wide variety of customers over the Christmas period offers him some company.

“It is hard, because it is nice to spend the days at home with the family,” he said.

“Fortunately I have a very understanding wife and she knows how much I do enjoy the job.”

The RSPCA worker

Step aside, Santa, there’s a new gift-giver in town.

When Sarah Scott walks into the Canberra RSPCA shelter this Christmas Day she will be loaded with all sorts of chew toys and treats for the animals who call it home.

Sarah Scott plays with a puppy at the RSPCA shelter in Canberra.

“We have carols blasting and things like that, so it’s still a really fun day and we get to give presents to all the animals,” Ms Scott said.

The shelter houses all sorts of critters and creatures, from dogs and cats to roosters, and Ms Scott said this time of year was one of the busiest.

“We get a bit of a reprieve over the colder months, but at the moment all the cats are breeding,” she said.

And while many animals are banking on a Christmas miracle and a new family, Ms Scott said they tried to fit them with homes that would be for life, not just the day.

“We try to find out as much as possible about these guys as we can so we can match them up with that perfect family that they’re going to be able to call their forever home,” she said.