An Aruma legend is retiring!

This Christmas Eve we'll be saying a sad farewell to Trisha, who’s retiring after almost four decades of service.

December 24, 2020 will be a day of mixed emotions for Aruma staff. It’ll be a day of excitement as we prepare for the holiday festivities, but also one of sadness and nostalgia as we say farewell to long-time employee, Trisha Downes, after almost four decades of service.

Trisha began at Aruma (then House with No Steps) in 1983 on a 14-week placement. Fast forward thirty-seven years and she’s now saying farewell, leaving a legacy behind after a highly influential career with Aruma.

Trisha says she’s currently in denial about her looming retirement date (us too!). I’m feeling so many mixed emotions, they are hard to describe!” she says. “But in my 37 years here, I really hope I’ve made some contribution to the lives of the wonderful people we support and provided input to develop and improve many of our systems and processes.

That you most certainly have, Trisha!

35+ years of friendship…

Trisha’s colleagues and close friends, Shirley and Donna, who joined our organisation in 1987, look back at the last 33 years of working with Trisha fondly. Donna says, We’ve known Trisha a lifetime. We’ve seen her daughter Kristy grow up – and we’re a bit like aunties to her now! We’re all like family.

Shirley agrees. We’ve had engagement parties, weddings, pregnancies, and births. We started off as work colleagues, but it’s grown to become friends and family.

So many memories of working with Trisha spring to Donna and Shirley’s minds – from hot ‘rabbit hutch’ offices, to Trisha’s amazing gala balls, to facing bushfires, floods and heavy storms together.

But what they treasure most is their daily chats. Because Trisha has known us for so long, we’re able to talk to her about anything and she gives great advice, says Donna.

35+ years of service…

It’s not only Trisha’s friendship that her Aruma family will miss, but also her dedication, passion and the impact she’s had in various roles in the organisation, including Project and Change Leader, Regional General Manager (RGM) of Hunter, and a General Manager in the Finance Team.

John Jensen, Executive General Manager Queensland, who worked closely with Trisha when she was RGM says, One of the key things that struck me about Trisha is that she knew everyone in her region. She knew all of the customers and the Supported Employees and took an interest in everybody.

She really lived the values of (what was back then) House with No Steps. And she’s continued to do that right through her journey. Trisha has help shaped who we are and where we’re going. The journey continues, but she was an integral part of taking us from a regional, siloed approach to a greater, united organisation.

Trisha played a significant role in building our footprint in the Hunter. She was involved in the re-auspice of five Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE’s) ensuring that many people with a disability were still able to work.

With the region focused primarily on supported employment, Trisha was also instrumental in expanding into support services. She led the tender for funding for a School Leaver program, our first ‘community services’ offering in the region. And it’s amazing to see that some of the young adults who started in this program in the mid ’90s are still working at Aruma today!

“Trisha lives Aruma’s BRAVE values every day and it is her amazing value of teamwork that shines through so strongly”

– Tiffany Roxburgh

More recently, Trisha’s experience contributed greatly to further growth with the successful transition of accommodation services across from State Governments in both NSW and Victoria, and she’s also been a key member of the Pandemic Response Team driving Aruma’s response to COVID-19 pandemic.

Trisha’s accomplishments are many but her greatest pleasure came from the support and guidance she’s provided to young people – be they staff or customers – and seeing them grow and develop. She’s also taken great pride in working with families and customers to navigate a complicated and daunting journey, helping them get the support they needed.

Trisha has always been driven by the Purpose of the organisation, which was cemented when she met the man that inspired it all, Lionel Watts, on her first day at work. His passion and drive have fuelled her commitment to the organisation for close to four decades.

Tiffany Roxburgh, Chief Financial Officer, who’s been Trisha’s manager since 2018 says, It has been a privilege working with Trisha over the last few years. Trisha lives Aruma’s BRAVE values every day and it is her amazing value of teamwork that shines through so strongly.

Trisha has capably contributed to numerous projects in the organisation and has always been happy to pick up and lead the curly ones too, such as demystifying NDIS transport requirements in the latest price guide!

Tiffany adds, Trisha is the living oracle of all things Aruma and is the ‘go-to’ person for many people across the organisation when they need guidance or have a question no one else can answer. You leave a strong legacy at Aruma Trisha and I want to say a massive thank you for everything you have achieved over the past 37 years!

What’s next for Trisha?

Trisha says while saying goodbye to her colleagues will be incredibly tough, she looks forward to long lunches with her hubby and friends and big sleep ins!

We love cruising and caravanning – the first on hold for a time to come due to current world events – but there will be trips here and there in our caravan, says Trisha. And my two gorgeous grandkids are excited to be getting Nanny more often for school pick-ups and holiday fun time!

Reflecting on her time at Aruma (and there were tears!) Trisha says, I feel extremely fortunate that all the changes and growth in our organisation has afforded all the opportunities of career development.

I will miss the many friends I have made over the years – especially my long-time working buddies Shirley and Donna! And most of all I will miss the bright happy faces of our customers – always having an ability to bring brightness to a hardest of days.

Trisha – from all of us at Aruma:

Congratulations on your retirement. May the years ahead be filled with joy and relaxation!! You have earned it.

Image: Trisha (middle) accepts an award for her years of service with CEO Andrew Richardson and CFO Tiffany Roxburgh