In Australia, the national average tenure in a job is around three and a half years.
So it is a cause for much celebration that Paula Sharp, the Victorian Coordinator of the Seasons for Growth program, recently racked up 20 years of working at CatholicCare!
Where it all began
Paula has always had a love for teaching. She started out as a teacher, and became involved in a school program which supported children who were experiencing significant loss or grief.
These children were often from migrant or refugee backgrounds, who were dealing with the difficult changes and grief associated with moving to Australia. Some were also dealing with the loss of loved ones overseas.
The program also supported children suffering from a bereavement or whose parents had separated or divorced. There was little support for these children at the time, but it was recognised that they too underwent significant change and grief through the process of family separation.
Paula ran small support groups for these children at the school, and she had a passion for giving them an opportunity to acknowledge their pain and be supported by each other in their groups.
Above: Paula Sharp at her 20th anniversary celebration, CatholicCare.
Offering further support
In 1997 while on maternity leave with her second child, Paula was asked if she would be interested in training in, and becoming a trainer in the new Seasons program which was to replace a program called Rainbows being used in schools. This was when Paula discovered CatholicCare’s Seasons program which, much like the program at her school, supported children through grief but also trained adults (called Companions) to deliver the Seasons program for grieving children.
Paula landed a casual role at CatholicCare delivering the Seasons training to adults and she continued with this as she also taught part-time at her school.
As time went on, Paula took maternity leave from her teaching roles for her third child but continued working at CatholicCare. She later took on a contract role as an administration officer for the Seasons program, and that then led to an ongoing part-time role at CatholicCare.
Paula has since become the Victorian Coordinator of the program, and has also spent some time delivering CatholicCare’s pre-marriage education programs for couples.
‘Training is something I do well; it’s my gift,’ says Paula. ‘And I’m incredibly grateful for it’.
Working through a challenge
In 2015 CatholicCare partnered with Good Grief to deliver a similar program called Seasons for Growth, which would replace the Seasons program.
As the Coordinator of the Seasons program, Paula managed all aspects of the transition which included new training for all current Companions and major collaboration with schools. The transition of the current Companions was made possible in part because of the relationship CatholicCare, through Paula, had established with these Companions.
‘It was a massive transition and a difficult process, so it was such a big achievement when we did it,’ said Paula.
This has been one of Paula’s most significant achievements in her role at CatholicCare, and a grand one at that!
A woman in leadership
During her time at CatholicCare Paula has developed strong relationships with people from all different backgrounds and organisations, and she also notes that she has learnt a great deal of knowledge.
‘It was a big learning curve coming from a school environment and going into a welfare / social-services environment, but teachers are generally very multi-skilled so we adapt quickly,’ says Paula.
‘There has been much personal growth - I’ve learnt to embrace change, and this is something I’d tell to young women too. Change is a part of life, we need to adapt to change and keep evolving as a person. This is where growth happens.’
Encouragement for young women
Paula is the mother of three girls, and admits to sometimes taking for granted the positive example she has on her children from being in a leadership role.
‘It’s been incredibly rewarding to be a coordinator,’ says Paula. ‘And as a mother, it’s so rewarding to see my children achieving and succeeding in their life too’.
As a final word for young, aspiring women, Paula leaves us with this:
‘Follow what you’re passionate about - what you find challenging and rewarding. Stick to it, work hard and you’ll find success!’