Leo began working with Man With A Van in 2010, and is now The Man’s most experienced mover, having notched up more than 3000 relocations.
When he signed on, the company had just a handful of vehicles and a small pool of staff.
It’s now bulked up significantly — 150 movers and more than 30 vehicles — one of which is his tribute truck, Viralata.
He’s a well-loved member of staff who loves to tell a story, share a laugh and stir the pot. He migrated to Australia from his native Brazil in 2002.
Leo’s is also a Capoeira teacher, running classes three days a week at The Space Arts & Dance Centre in Prahran.
We caught up with Leo to ask him about his experience in Australia, how he balances his work as a mover with his Capoeira teaching, and how he got his nickname.
When did you first come to Australia?
I’ve been here for 17 years. In 2002, I’d met an Australian girl in London, where I was travelling after leaving Brazil, and she invited me to visit. I then moved over in 2003.
What did you know about Australia before making the move?
I’m sorry to say it, but not much. I’d never planned to come to this side of the earth. Though I did know a lot of the good punk rock from here — ACDC, Midnight Oil, Hoodoo Gurus. And I knew the Great Barrier Reef.
Do you miss Brazil?
In reality, I now don’t think about Brazil.
Brazil has been very good to me, as my country, but Australia’s my house and my home. I decided to be here.
I can tell you, at the end, I would send my ashes to Brazil. If you ask why, it’s because of this connection to the land, because of my heritage and my family.
As for my son, he is Australian. A Filipino mother and a Brazilian father, but he is Australian.
How did you start working at Man With A Van?
I started at MWAV in mid 2010 after talking with Matt Windsor (MWAV general manager, who Leo knew through Capoeira classes).
He said, "Do you mind lifting furniture?" and I said, "No, it’s easy.”
“I came in one afternoon, started working the next day. In those days we had no exams, no induction, nothing like that.”
(This is in stark contrast to the removals boot camp MWAV now runs, with driving, strength and endurance tests, coupled with a full induction and training program for all staff).
You must be in good shape to have done such a physical job for such a long time.
I don’t feel like I’m 40. But I’m a human being, I’m normal — I used to have a rock n roll band in Brazil, I like to party. But I have always had discipline on the side as well. Martial arts gave me that discipline, to always respect my limits.
You’re a Capoeira teacher - how do you make that fit in with your job as a mover?
The Space Dancing School is where I teach Capoeira. Since 2004, I’ve been teaching over there — I have my own students, I’m teaching over there three days a week.
It’s a good balance, because I travel a lot. I book classes to the school terms. Every year, like in many businesses, I have a lot of Capoeira clients in the Summer, but in winter, classes drop.
Working for Man With A Van is good, because I can also have flexibility, as it’s casual, I can come and go a bit as I need — it’s a good balance. It’s also one of the best ways to discover Melbourne — we go everywhere. We have people from all over the world, a very multi-cultural place to work.
I like to learn a lot of Aussie slang, Aussie English, which can be very funny. Like, when people say, “reckon” (bursts out laughing) — I know now it means “I suppose”.
As the mover at Man With A Van who has completed the most jobs, what have you learned about the role?
I say to new movers: we’re here to do a good job, provide a good service, don’t damage any furniture, and look after the integrity of our bodies.
Attention and communication are important with your teammate. Help each other, don’t try to prove yourself by doing heavy things by yourself — I believe this is the reason I never get injuries.
The respect that the guys have for me, I know I have respect from this company, which I really appreciate. Sometimes I feel like the grandfather to MWAV, as I’m the oldest.
How did you get your nickname, Viralata, and what does it mean?
Viralata means street dog, or mongrel. I got that because I’m a surfer, and when I started Capoeira I was 17 years old, I used to go straight from the beach to the gym.
I started to get dreadlocks. My instructor started saying to me, ‘You look like a street kid’. Well, that was the 90s — everyone had dreadlocks in the 90s. I said “I’m gonna keep it.” He started calling me Viralata. I didn’t like the nickname at the beginning, but now I do. You don’t choose nicknames, you go along.
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