Two of WRAD’s longest serving staff members are retiring, including one who has been with the organisation since its inception.

Office manager Dawn Bermingham and operations manager Daryl Fitzgibbon have both announced they are retiring this year.

Ms Bermingham is WRAD’s longest serving employee and has been with the organisation since it started in 1986.

She never expected to spend so long with one organisation, but she’s glad she did.

“After taking time off to have children, I was working in a short-term role in the office at Corrections Services and was encouraged to apply or the receptionist position at WRAD,” she said.

When WRAD started at 325 Timor Street, it had a full-time coordinator, Carmel Crowe, counsellor Anne Parkes and Ms Bermingham as receptionist, a role that evolved into finance and office management.

“It has been a great opportunity to work with a lot of people on the committee of management and staff who helped me to grow into my role over the years,” she said.

Ms Bermingham said she continued to enjoy seeing the difference WRAD makes to people’s lives.

“WRAD gives people an opportunity to look at how they can heal,” she said. “The core service is delivery to clients and the clinical team, administration and medical staff have worked effectively together to provide this service to the community.” She now hopes the Lookout Rehabilitation Centre can add to those services. “The Lookout can only complement a whole lot of health services in the area,” she said.

Ms Bermingham said she had no set plans for retirement. “I’ve worked full-time for so long that I think I’ll find it strange at the beginning, but there’s a time in life to think about doing other things.”

“I will miss the people at WRAD past and present and they have all influenced my career.”

Mr Fitzgibbon has worked in health for about 45 years, starting as a company medic in the Army and later completing nursing training at a cancer hospice in Melbourne and psychiatric nursing training at Mont Park and working in the psychiatric prison.

He moved back to his original home in Port Fairy to raise a family and took the last gazetted job at Brierly Hospital before moving into community psychiatric services and becoming qualified in dual diagnosis.

In 1999 Mr Fitzgibbon started at WRAD in supported accommodation and later moved into clinical management and operations management roles.

“As clinical manager, I tried to make sure WRAD had a level of respect within the community and was always professional in its procedures and processes,” he said.

More recently he ensured the Great South Coast Consortium developed strong relationships to provide alcohol and drug services across the region.

“We had to build a level of goodwill to ensure a smooth transition and make sure the service remained focussed on the local region.,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Mr Fitzgibbon said he had entered the health profession to care for people and was leaving with the same mission.

“I’ve always had a caring nature and we have to make sure the fundamentals of health stay the same. My practice was to never erode anyone’s dignity.”

Now 65, Mr Fitzgibbon will officially retire in October but will be on long-service leave from next month. He hopes to do volunteer welfare and advocacy work with the RSL and at the cancer centre while continuing to take a keen interest in the progression of WRAD.

“WRAD has always had a really good ear for local community need. WRAD recognises the need to diversify and I think the Lookout is essential, something our community really needs,” he said.

“One of the main impediments for people not entering rehab is that they have to travel out of the area. You’re better off knowing your family is only a short distance away and being with people from around your district.