At 80 most people are relishing their retirement, but Warrnambool’s June Williams is bucking the trend.
Twenty years after she retired, Ms Williams has returned to work part-time as WRAD’s family reunification peer support worker – a job that has been created as part of a new government initiative.
Although adjusting to technology was initially a bit challenging, June said she was relishing her new role which supports parents who must meet court-issued conditions to seek alcohol and other drug treatment relating to their children’s family reunification order.
It has also meant trading her old-age pension for a salary.
“I feel energised,” she said.
The former nurse had retired when she was 60 and, while she kept busy, she never planned to return to the workforce.
A conversation earlier this year with WRAD director Geoff Soma changed all that and Ms Williams is now working two days per week as part of the new government-funded program
“I met Geoff in the supermarket and he asked me what I was doing. I’d just been to court to help an AA member who had been in trouble. I thought no more about and then about 10 days later he rang and said `do you want a job?’,” she said.
Initially taken aback by the suggestion, Ms WIlliams soon warmed to the idea.
The job is a good fit for Ms Williams who has been doing similar voluntary support work for many years through AA.
“I‘d help parents who’d had their kids taken away and who were in great distress, sit with them and give them a bit of hope,” she said.
“It’s not an easy job.”
Ms Williams has been through difficult times and, as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, was involved in the beginning of WRAD alongside former Warrnambool MP John McGrath.
It was a two-year fight to convince people that the WRAD facility was needed,” she said.
“I’m now 35 years sober and clean. AA saved my life” Ms Williams said.
She said she struggled with alcoholism for decades, drinking to take the emotional pain away.
“Absolutely no one was there for me, so I didn’t get sober for anyone else but me,” she said.
“That’s where it has to come from.
“I know that recovery is possible.”
Ms Williams said she was very passionate about The Lookout rehabilitation project planned for Warrnambool.
“I didn’t actually go to a rehab centre, I should have, but I did it the hard way,” she said.
Ms Williams said that her lived experience had helped her provide peer support for parents or carer of children who have been taken away.
"Anyone has lived experience, it all depends on how you use it," she said.
Her job is to be a bridge to services and such as parenting skills, money, housing and drug and alcohol services and to give them hope and support and develop communication skills.
“I’m a former nurse but I’m not a clinician, it’s a social model and I’m a peer support worker,” MS WIlliams said.
In her new role, she has built a network of services and informed relevant people about the role.
Ms Williams said the role was challenging but also rewarding, already pointing to “one big success” where two children have been reunited with their mother.
And at 80 she is certainly not contemplating retirement any time soon. “I’ve got work to do here,” she said.