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Rain, hail or shine

Flourish 06 Jan 2017

Home Care Worker Doreen Clift is older than some of her clients, but her passion for helping shows no sign of slowing

Is Doreen Clift Australia’s longest-serving Home Care Worker?

At 89, when most people are well into retirement, Doreen has celebrated a career milestone – 43 years as a Home Care Worker. She has no plans to hand in the vacuum cleaner, mop or broom any time soon.

“That’s the funny part about it. I’ve just turned 89 and I still love it,” Doreen says.

Doreen works for Australian Unity’s St George branch in Sydney, but began her home care career more than four decades ago with St George Home Care.

“I love the people, I love the work. I love being busy. I’m not a person who can just sit around.”

“I do the vacuuming, clean the shower and mop the kitchen floor. A lot of people think I just go to people’s houses to talk, but there’s a lot more to it than that.”

Inner Sydney – Rockdale, Mortdale, Penshurst and Hurstville – is Doreen’s cleaning territory. Basically, anywhere she can get to by bus.

Rain, hail or shine, nothing stops this hard worker. These days it’s part-time, usually three days a week, and two jobs a day.

Doreen never learned to drive. She didn’t need to when she moved to the southern suburb of Blakehurst 53 years ago.

Shopkeepers know her, bus drivers know her – she calls them all by name. Doreen’s clients are like friends to her.

“Mostly they are very grateful (for the help). Often they feel more comfortable telling me something than they do telling their own family. Some clients I have had for over 10 years,” she says.

“I had one lady for 15 years – she lived to 103. You get attached to them.

“Another lady was blind. When I finished at her house one day, she said: ‘Thank you Doreen, you’ve done a lovely job’.

“And I said: ‘How do you know, you can’t see’. She replied: ‘No but I can feel’.”

Linda Tarrant, Doreen’s Australian Unity Branch Manager, says Doreen “knows how to strike a balance between friendliness and professionalism”.

Donna Harrison, another Australian Unity Branch Manager, says Doreen is “an absolute superstar”.

“She’s an inspiration to office staff, other care workers, to everyone she meets. She is out and about in all weather. If she’s got a secret it’s that she enjoys making other people happy.

“A lot of her clients are younger than she is and some feel embarrassed, but Doreen puts them right at ease.”

When she left school Doreen worked for the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for 15 years, typing up the birth notices.

She married and took up home care when her daughter was 14. “I liked it from the start,” she says.

Doreen thinks she got her gregarious nature from her close-knit family, who always had people dropping in for a cup of tea and a chat.

“The kettle was always on. Someone would leave and the next person would arrive.

“I can talk to most people,” Doreen says.

“I’ll keep going because I like it and I think I am doing a pretty good job.”

words Maria Triaca

images Chris Elfes (Elfes Images)

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