This week was the anniversary of my first day working in Health in the south of Adelaide. I was employed as a social worker at the yet to be set up Aberfoyle Park Community Health Centre, and worked for Noarlunga Health Services.
It was a very different time then – there were no work computers at all, and Noarlunga Hospital didn’t exist. The Health Village was about 3 months old, Woodcroft and Seaford (those whole suburbs) didn’t exist – there were paddocks between Morphett Vale and Happy Valley, and where Seaford is now. Memos came in envelopes and the pigeon holes were very important as the inboxes of their day. To get hold of people you would ring them on a land line and they would either answer or not – no answering machines either. Sometimes people didn’t have a phone so you would write them letters. Photocopiers were definitely not high tech, and electric typewriters came with correcting ribbon, to save the admin person from having to retype absolutely everything when she (almost always she) made a mistake. I couldn’t type at all at that time, and didn’t learn until personal computers came in more than 10 years later.
Community Health was very strong and our service was employing people all over the place, starting services up and full of energy. Health promotion was a key part of the work, along with community work – very different to now. Health workers were expected to spend around 30 per cent of our time on counselling, 30 on group work and 30 on community development, with the rest for admin.
Aberfoyle Park Community Health Centre (APCHC) ran for 8 years, most of it in a building that we shared with the childcare centre, near the oval. It was an exciting time. There were 3 main staff members to start with – Muriel, a community health nurse; Margaret, the admin officer and me, and over the years more people came and some left. Muriel moved on and was replaced by Marian, and we had a few of different Speechies also over time – Catherine and Sharon among them, and other workers who did a bit of sessional stuff. We always had students, and there were many community members who were part of what we did there. I worked a lot with Romi who was coordinator at the Neighbourhood House which was on Sunnymeade Drive (it’s now been taken over by the Uniting Church), and is still a dear friend. I met Megan H there too – she was one of the students who did a placement at APCHC and then after she graduated she got a job with the health service and continues as a wonderful colleague and friend still. During that first placement she worked on a program with the unwieldy title of ‘Talking forms friendships and builds understanding’ – it was a program we did with one of the nursing homes. You would have thought we could come up with something catchier wouldn’t you!
I moved to Noarlunga to work in 1994 and have been based there ever since. It has been a wonderful place to work for the most part, with some fantastic colleagues, friends and community members. I loved the community work I was able to do, and the work with people around food, and community arts and personal growth work, group work, counselling, work with Aboriginal people and people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, among many other activities and projects. I have met some amazing people and feel so enriched by it all. It has been harder more recently, with the all changes to the health system, but even so, there are still wonderful people in the community and the workplace.
So, Monday 6 January 1986 was the start of many happy years of work and community activity for me. I have made some fantastic friends, done lots of work and had lots of fun along the way. It’s a big part of my life.