Acknowledging 46 years of service

News story
After almost five decades John Drew will retire on 19 July.
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Collage of photo of Department of Communities staff member John Drew

When John Drew successfully passed his public service entrance exam in 1977, he never imagined he was about to embark on a career at the Department of Communities (Communities) that would span almost five decades.

Fresh out of high school, the 18-year-old worked in an administrative role for what was then known as Community Welfare, located on St Georges Terrace in Perth.

He progressed to work as a bench clerk at the Perth Children's Court and then into child protection, working in frontline and leadership roles across 13 regional offices.

After 46 years of service, John will retire from Communities on Friday 19 July to spend time with his family, travel and support his beloved Fremantle Dockers.

Although it has been almost 50 years, John said he still remembered loading-up his HR Holden and driving to Laverton to take up his first role in child protection in 1982.

"The work was hands on - working with hospitals and community health. There were wins along the way and I took great satisfaction out of that," John said.

His posting in Laverton marked the beginning of his career in the regions which took him to towns including Carnarvon, Derby, Karratha and Northam, working as a District Administrator, Business Manager and an Assist Mentor.

In these towns John developed lasting friendships with his colleagues, joined local sporting clubs, enjoyed countless camping and fishing adventures, and even became a Shire Councillor in Laverton.

He described the Kimberley as "one of the most unique places in WA" and where he formed some of his fondest memories.

His impending retirement has prompted him to pause and reflect on his time at Communities.

"It staggers me how I can still remember names and families," he said.

A baby from Laverton who he helped still stands out in his mind all these decades later.

As he moves closer towards his final day, John said the biggest and most impactful change he had seen at Communities was the introduction of the client management system, Assist and its predecessor which was known as Client Community Services System.

"The technology has changed for the better, the information available to us now and the accessibility of that information is the biggest game changer. Now with the systems we have in place we are better prepared and it's safer for staff. When I started all those years ago, we only had one computer and that was for typing letters," John said.

John said he felt bittersweet as his final day approached however, he was looking forward to travelling in Europe and Western Australia, gardening and spending more time with his children.

"It's been wonderful. Nearly everything I've done in my adult life - got married, had kids - it's all happened here during my time at Communities. I'll be happy to walk out the door when the final day comes, but at the same time I'll be sad to walk out the door. I would always call this a good place to work," John said.

Regional Executive Director Great Southern and Wheatbelt, Julie McKenzie said that John's knowledge and experience had been invaluable to the Wheatbelt region.

"John is well known for his unique down to earth approach to situations. He has been an important contributor to the leadership team and a source of wisdom to me. John is unique and irreplaceable, and will be greatly missed," she said.

The Department of Communities is always looking for dedicated individuals to join our team. Find out more on our careers page.