COLLECTING MEMORIES: Pam Burley reflected on her 19-year career as a council community development officer with a tear in her eye, but now she's looking forward to new directions.
COLLECTING MEMORIES: Pam Burley reflected on her 19-year career as a council community development officer with a tear in her eye, but now she's looking forward to new directions. Marian Faa

Through flood and drought, Pam has been there

"HAVE you ever had the experience where everything just falls into place, and you know that you're exactly where you're meant to be?”

This was the question a guest speaker asked Pam Burley at a women's retreat last weekend, to which her heart responded with a resounding 'yes'.

After 19-year career in community development and youth work with Southern Downs Regional Council, Mrs Burley felt the timing was right to step out of the office building and into a new self-managed role.

But the transition didn't happened without sparing a few tears, as Mrs Burley reflected on the role she secured by the skin of her teeth.

After 17 years as a volunteer youth worker in the Warwick community, an official role presented itself to Mrs Burley as the importance of youth work in regional areas dawned on the government of the day.

"I submitted my application right on 5pm on the closing date,” she said. "I was literally slipping it into the slot at the last minute.”

But stepping in to the role was a breeze for Mrs Burley, who already had 17 years of experience as a volunteer youth worker.

"There was no dedicated youth worker back in those days, so I became like the volunteer youth worker and coordinated a program called Kids in Crisis.”

The program counselled families and set up alternative housing for youth who were having trouble in the home and needed some breathing space.

STEPPING STONES: Pam Burley said a weekend retreat with close friend Bette Bonney was the perfect was to transition from her 19-year career as a council community development officer.
STEPPING STONES: Pam Burley said a weekend retreat with close friend Bette Bonney was the perfect way to transition from her 19-year career as a council community development officer. Marian Faa

It wasn't always easy work, but it's something Mrs Burley was passionate about.

"I look back and think the naivety that I had,” she said.

"You know that saying 'some people step in where angels fear to tread'? That was me. I really put myself into some really risky situations but I never felt unsafe which was interesting.”

Nineteen years after her role was made official, it is difficult to find a person or sector of the community Mrs Burley hasn't helped.

From establishing the youth ambassadors program, to coordinating a huge public re-enactment of the March of the Dungarees for the ANZAC Centenary in 2015, she's seen the Southern Downs community through every season.

"I remember doing all this work on flood recovery after the 2011 floods, and once that was done we went straight over into drought relief,” she said.

"I invest myself so fully into what I do in my work,” she said.

But almost two decades later, Mrs Burley felt a calling to move on to new things and when an offer came up to join a cooperative of community development practitioners dedicated to grassroots projects, she knew the timing was right.

Campfire Co-op promised to provide Mrs Burley with all the support she needs to continue helping communities, with the freedom to pursue her own passions.

"It means I am working for myself, but also have the benefits of mates who have got my back,” she said.

But the excitement of her new move couldn't stop Mrs Burley from shedding a tear or two on her last day at the council.

"I've been very privileged to work in that role and have kind of been grieving for the last couple of months,” she said.

"Council cops a pretty hard time sometimes, but people need to remember there are good people who are work in there and I have built really good lasting friendships working there.”

And what better way to process, reflect and transition from one role to another than with a weekend women's retreat with close friend Bette Bonney?

"It was wonderful it was just what I needed,” she said.

"It was about coming away and leaving behind all your business which was a perfect a way to close for me.

"It was a gateway into the next phase of my life that was perfectly timed.”