Farewell Deb White

Two people standing together. One is wearing glasses. The other wearing a face mask

Deb White worked at OC Connections and was a much respected member of staff. On her retirement, OCC day participant Aidan interviewed Deb on her time at OC Connections and what the future holds for her.

This interview is the result of a new program whereby we engage participants as champions of OC Connections. This program matches participant goals with potential opportunities in our Marketing and Communications team. You can read more about Aidan’s role in getting this pilot program up and running here.

I interviewed Deb White, Team Leader, on the 24th March, 2022. Deb said the role of Team Leader is to support and assist the staff on the floor and participants when required. She said “Our role is to set a good example for staff”.

Deb had been working at OC Connections for 14 years, starting when it was called the Oakleigh Centre. She started in the day service and then worked in accommodation. She also worked with rec-line disco, the holiday program and worked at OCCE.  She works permanent part-time, mostly 4 days a week.

Deb said she was looking for change at the time. Previously she had worked in aged care with people with dementia. She decided that she would like to work with people with disabilities and went for this position. She said “It must be good because it’s the longest job I have ever had”.

Deb had wanted to do this role for quite some time, so she was pleased that she was able to step in as Team Leader.  She was able to build rapport with participants and staff and get to know them all.

She said “The biggest joy has been getting to see everyone grow and achieve goals.  People who have come in from the start until today – seeing how they have developed. And working with such a friendly group of people.  Staff and participants are all like one big family. We work together to get through the tough times like COVID”.

Deb said the best thing she does at the centre is coming to work each day. “I like seeing each participant coming in smiling”.

Deb said “it is little things that are the highlights and make my day at OC Connections.  There was one participant who hadn’t spoken for many years and one day she turned around and said ‘Hi Debbie’ in a soft voice. I actually shed a tear that morning”.

“Another person who didn’t speak a lot, but with repetition and consistency (and building rapport), he will say ‘good morning Deb.’ There was a person who used to go out but not do anything, then they started to ask for chips at the market and go and get their own drink and pay themselves. It’s so nice to see the smile on people’s faces when they achieve their goals.

Deb is retiring and I interviewed her the day before her last day.  I asked Deb why she is leaving and she said “I don’t have one specific reason.  I think it is time for some young, fresh blood to come in.   I’d like to travel and my daughter and grandchildren moved to Queensland, and I miss them terribly. I’d like to spend more time with them”. 

Deb recently went to Queensland where her daughter and her family live.  She said “it was good to see the boys  (her grandsons) and spend time with them.  Four of them are under 7”.

Deb said her proudest achievement were her three children.

In her spare time Deb likes to relax and watch Netflix series.  She goes for walks and sees friends.  She likes to go out for dinners and see musicals. She also sings every week.

Deb said she will miss everything about OC Connections. The participants and the staff.  “I’m happy in a way, but have mixed emotions. I will miss the bonds that you form with people. We talk about musical theatre and my kids have been performers. You and I have chats about musicals, so I will miss having those talks with you.  My favourite musical is also The Sound of Music.  The memories will always be there, but I will miss seeing everyone.  The staff are very supportive. We all support each other the best we can and work together as a team”.

Deb added “I’ve really enjoyed my time as Team Leader. It’s been challenging at times, but I’m very grateful for OC Connections for the opportunity”.

Deb finished by saying “I will miss everyone very much, but I will hold the memories with me. I wish OC Connections, you (Aidan), and all the participants all the best in the future”.

We wish Deb well in her future endeavours and thank her for her contribution to the OC Connections’ community; and thank you to Aidan for his detailed interview. We look forward to more of his work.