Paula May has helped hundreds, even thousands of families while working at Bendigo Community Health Services.
Mrs May will mark 40 years as a family support worker at BCHS on Saturday.
The place feels like home after that long, like it's another family.
Mrs May has helped generations of families achieve their goals in her time. She's even seen the grandchildren of people she helped when she began.
But Mrs May is 77 - although she doesn't feel it - and has decided that Christmas will be time to retire.
Seeing the people she's helped has been an encouragement along the way. Mrs May can remember bumping into a lady in IGA who she helped years ago. The woman's life had been successful, her child had grown up, and got a job.
Mrs May's work might feel like a family, but sometimes her family feel like they're at her work.
She said its because the role is just her niche in life.
"I often say, 'I was born to do this job'. I think because it's part of my nature, it's me," Mrs May said.
"My husband once said to me, 'Stop doing that stuff on me', and I said, 'Take my job away, what would I be like?', and he said, 'Yeah, the same'."
It wasn't just personality that fitted Mrs May for the family support role. She grew up in a single parent family, having difficulties, with probably not quite enough money, she said.
That experience has given her insight into the lives of those with whom she works.
"All of those valuable lessons, it was almost like a privilege to go through those lessons so that you could just quietly support people," Mrs May said.
"Because you're not telling them what to do, you're supporting them and helping to work towards their goals, and maybe offering them suggestions."
Mrs May began work in a factory, which was "wonderful", she said. It meant she had a part time job when she first began at BCHS.
"I got this job at 1979, I walked up the halls and I thought, 'You know what girl, you've made it'," Mrs May said.
"Coming from somewhere you've suffered poverty ... was helpful, then I went back to school, to TAFE, where I got my qualifications, then I've kicked on since then."
The job has changed a lot since 1979. There were four family support workers, each working 10 hours a week then. It was life experience that got her the job, no qualifications required. Now there's 11 family support workers, most working full time.
Families have changed too. A lot of the people Mrs May works with are complex families who've moved away from their family of origin, so they may not have a lot of support.
It's work that comes with reward, big-scale and small-scale. Just recently a child she worked with got an award at assembly for being responsible, it was a "Yes!" moment, she said.
"You can cover anywhere from parenting, from people moving to Bendigo that are new to the area, they need support with mental health, schooling, children and parenting," Mrs May said.
"You're supporting them, and doing advocacy at schools and other places, getting them off to see the pediatrician, and just generally encouraging them to be really resilient.
"I've got a few families at the moment who are going ahead in leaps and bounds with their parenting, and just being firm and kind with their discipline."
I often say, 'I was born to do this job'. I think because it's part of my nature, it's me.Paula May
Team Manager at BCHS Liz Wright-McCleary said Mrs May would be missed.
"In this sort of work that we do, we work with people who've experienced trauma on a daily basis, and it's really confronting work, and often there's a high turnover of staff. But Paula ... demonstrates the passion of someone who's very new to the field, yet she's got this wisdom of 40 years," she said.
"That goes to her resilience, and her empathy and her belief in people, that she's able to continue to do this work and have such a positive attitude about it.
"The families pick up on that, families pick up on belief in them, and that's why she's had so much success."
Mrs May said her positivity and her patience were two keys to success supporting families. She said it was job that had taught her a lot about herself, most of all that it's important to like yourself.
"If you can look in the mirror and smile at yourself, then you're going to be okay, and you're not going to take it out on your child," Mrs May said.
And, it can be the little things that make a real difference for parents and children, she said.
"Just have fun with your kids, enjoy them, delight in what they do. And be consistent with your discipline, it's very hard nowadays," Mrs May said.
"Just set some good routines, but you don't need to spend a lot of money, you can have fun."
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