A rewarding and inspiring role: Pat Thomas House chief, Jill Robinson, steps down

Departing Pat Thomas House executive officer, Jill Robinson. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.
Departing Pat Thomas House executive officer, Jill Robinson. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.

Jill Robinson is a well-known name throughout Mandurah.

The chairperson of numerous organisations and a tireless advocate for victims of domestic violence in the Peel region, she has dedicated her entire life to helping others.

Now, Jill is stepping away from her many roles and commitments to take a well-deserved break.

But not before she sat down with the Mandurah Mail to reflect on an impressive career in the community sector and her love for lending a hand to those in need.

Where it all began

Jill started her career as a support worker and children's counsellor in the 1980s at the Albany Women's Refuge.

After eight years, she moved on to become the Commonwealth Carelink officer at Centrelink, all the while coordinating an out-of-school and vacation care program for school students.

As the world headed into the new millennium, Jill took on a chief executive officer role for an organisation in the disability sector, where she stayed for 13 years.

In that time, she increased the group's funding from around $100,000 to almost $4 million, before moving to Rockingham in 2013 to be closer to her parents.

I think it's really important to support those that are actually doing the work and providing that support to everybody.

Jill Robinson

Jill said she had always wanted to pursue a career helping those less fortunate.

"I've always had a passion for the community sector, for not-for-profit organisations, for working with people on the ground," she said.

"I think it's really important to support those that are actually doing the work and providing that support to everybody."

Pat Thomas House

After two years living in Rockingham, the executive officer position became available at Pat Thomas House - Mandurah's 24/7 crisis accommodation and support centre for victims of family violence.

Jill was approached to apply for the job but was not completely convinced it was the role for her.

She said she never intended to stay for much longer than a year but could not bring herself to leave such a supportive group of colleagues.

"The compassion of the staff makes this role so rewarding - they are so dedicated and have so much empathy, knowledge and skills," she said.

"But it's also the clients too - it's really hard for women going through domestic violence to make that change because they've been through all the controlling, the fear, the unknown.

"To take that hard step forward to change their circumstances, it takes so much courage and they inspire me so much.

"I love working with the clients and seeing the smiles on their faces when they leave our organisation because they know that their journey is going to be much safer and better."

Read more from the Mandurah Mail domestic violence series:

But it has not always been easy, with the constant need for more funding quickly becoming her "biggest frustration".

"Applying for funding and continually trying to prove your worth is hard, especially when there's no money there," she said.

"Increases don't happen as often as we would like and sometimes that small money doesn't make an impact on our services and then some services we have to cut.

"I know the government doesn't have a never-ending pool of money so we all end up competing against each other but we should all be working together."

Working collaboratively in Peel

Working together is something services in the Peel region are actually good at, Jill said.

Groups like the Peel Says No To Violence alliance and Peel Community Development work collaboratively with a variety of services and community leaders to address the local issues.

Jill described the experience of being the chairperson of both of those organisations as "really rewarding".

"I've been in different areas and I think Peel is very community-focused and services share a lot of information," she said.

"We're a bit smaller and a bit more isolated so we tend to support each other more and that has been a real benefit to all local services.

"Getting the kids involved in many of these [events] is also very important and inspiring."

Looking towards the future

Not only does Jill have big plans for her next personal adventure, she is also excited for the future of the Peel region - including seeing the second women's refuge come to fruition.

"The growth of Mandurah and the Peel region has tripled the incidences of domestic violence so that second refuge is absolutely necessary," she said.

"I won't be a part of that but I'm looking forward to seeing that in the future and it was good to be a part of advocating for that in the Peel region.

"I'd like to see a day when refuges are no longer needed but, until then, I'd like to see more money put into prevention and more support and money for the children.

"The children are the future and are going to make the difference so we need to invest our time and effort in them. Some of these young people are so passionate about making change so let's tap into that."

I'd like to see a day when refuges are no longer needed but, until then, I'd like to see more money put into prevention and more support and money for the children.

Jill Robinson

As for her personal aspirations, Jill is excited to have more free time "to work on things for myself".

"I'm going to take some time off then look at a new role - I'm keen to stay involved, just in a part-time position," she said.

"I'm just going to put my name out there and see what happens and where it takes me but I'm open to anything and any projects.

"I'm also going to do some corporate training for businesses on the different types and effects of domestic violence, what they can do to support it and basic training around disability awareness, an understanding of what it could be like and what the barriers are."

Jill Robinson will finish up in her role as Pat Thomas House executive officer on Friday, November 29 with Dawn Smith set to take over the position.