Donna Douglas retires after 42 years as an employment services worker in Lake Macquarie

RETIREMENT: Donna Douglas on her last day at work this morning in Toronto. She's spent 42 years in employment services. Picture: David Stewart
RETIREMENT: Donna Douglas on her last day at work this morning in Toronto. She's spent 42 years in employment services. Picture: David Stewart

TORONTO employment services worker Donna Douglas knows that for many people, being unemployed is exactly where they want to stay.

“Unemployment is a very safe place to be,” Mrs Douglas said.

“It becomes a lifestyle, and people adjust to that lifestyle.”

For 42 years, her role has been to push people out of their comfort zone, and into training; to quieten the pessimist in their heads, and to help the confident optimist inside to find its voice and; ultimately, find them paid work.

In that time she has helped thousands of often disadvantaged clients to make that life-changing transition.

Mrs Douglas, of Belmont, will retire from Workskil Australia’s Toronto office this afternoon.

She has spent the last 3½ years working there.

“I started with the old CES (Commonwealth Employment Service) in 1977 at Charlestown,” Mrs Douglas said.

“I started on a temporary six-week placement in a receptionist role, but the more time I was there, the more I realised that I was making a difference to people’s lives and improving their prospects,” she said.

SATISFACTION: Donna Douglas said she felt immense joy every time that she helped a client to find work over the past 42 years. She's planning to travel with her husband Henry in retirement. Picture: David Stewart

SATISFACTION: Donna Douglas said she felt immense joy every time that she helped a client to find work over the past 42 years. She's planning to travel with her husband Henry in retirement. Picture: David Stewart

It was a feeling that she never tired of.

“I’m a compulsive helper,” she confessed.

“And in this type of work you see so many people who aren’t in great situations. But it’s just the best feeling knowing that you’re working with someone so that they can be better off.”

Mrs Douglas said she had become known for doing “the happy dance” in the office with clients who found work. Some clients never forget her.

“It’s nice to be just walking down the street with my family and I’ll bump into a [former] client and they’ll come over and give me a big hug and say hi,” she said.

Just the other day she received a thank-you card from the mother of a disabled man whom she first helped to find work at a fast-food restaurant 26 years ago. The young man is still working there, and loving it.

In 2008, Mrs Douglas won the National Employment Association’s job consultant of the year award for her work with hundreds of African refugees.

One of her support letters for the award said: “Donna is a true advocate for her disadvantaged customers, acting with compassion, patience, perseverance and a sense of social justice.”

Mrs Douglas said she looked forward to travelling with husband Henry in her retirement.

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