Watching children grow and develop is what Robyn Paterson has enjoyed the most about her 17 years in children’s services in Robe.
Robyn spoke to the Leader about why she has decided to retire as Robe District Council director of children's services and what her future plans will be.
One of the most exciting things on her to-do list is “walking the Camino” in Spain with her brothers, adding that she thinks now is the appropriate time to do it.
The long-time director reflected on her career highlights in Robe, explaining that working to establish the service which meets the community needs in Child Care on Wheels (CCOWS) had been a proud achievement for her.
“There was no service here before I came and so it has been a pioneering experience really,” Robyn said. “The reason that I am in this profession is because I really enjoy seeing children grow and develop and so I’ve had that experience here for 17 years.”
Robyn said it has been extremely rewarding to see the children who started with her 17 years ago in Robe move onto adulthood and their next chapter of life, taking gap years, working overseas and undertaking apprenticeships.
“It is really rewarding to see their progress,” she said. “I hope that walking the Camino will give me some inspiration on where I am going to be going next.”
The retiring director said the first part of her retirement will be spent overseas, staying with friends in Paris before coming back to Australia, and deciding on her next phase of life while she is overseas.
“I’ve got no definite plans, I’m just looking forward to a different way of life and having a time that I can arrange where I don’t have to meet timelines and deadlines.”
Robyn’s roles before her director’s position in Robe have always been child orientated, and she believes that she will always be involved in education and with children in some form or other.
“Prior to this position, I had been working with children in other areas, so I’m likely to go back and do the previous positions where I have been a teacher, school principal, university lecturer, coordinator of a training course for nannies and special events coordinator at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
“I can’t see myself getting away from that really unless it is things like reading and quilting and art and craft pursuits.”
Robyn explained what she has seen change in her line of work, mentioning that it has become recognised that women need to be a part of the workforce and for that to happen, they need childcare.
“That wasn’t generally accepted when I first started this position 17 years ago,” she said. “I have found that the government’s awareness has developed of the need for the infrastructure for people in the rural and regional areas and child care being a part of (that).”
Child Care in Robe is expanding, with Robyn explaining that she believes CCOWS will continue to consolidate and possibly expand to other areas.
“We go to Beachport and Kangaroo Inn Area School now, and we have had enquiries from other areas as well so in the future we will be looking at the needs of the surrounding districts and possibly expanding to those districts,” she said. “It depends really on the availability of qualified staff.
“The need is there, we have a waiting list so we know that the need is going to continue as long as there are young people in the area and that is going to continue with ongoing employment opportunities.”
Finally, Robyn explained that one of the most challenging aspects of managing the service has been to initiate a system of operation that meets the unusual aspects of the “mobile” form of delivery, as CCOWS was the first service of this type in South Australia.
“We had to work out how to get equipment and all the daily needs to each site, to communicate necessary information, to transfer fees and documentation from sites to the office, as a team we manage this very well.”