Sue Allen has outlasted switchboards and typewriters in her 50-year Australian Public Service career, but still remembers the exact date her life changed forever.
On December 7, 1961, 15-year-old Sue walked into a public service exam and made such an impression, she was asked if she could start in a job that afternoon.
“A lot’s changed since then,” Sue laughed.
“I started as a typist, but there were no computers back then. It was all paperwork and there were a couple of typewriters.
“There were only very limited payments back then, so it was completely different.”
Sue is being recognised by the Department of Human Services for 50 years of consecutive service, after following her job around to Dubbo, Lithgow and back to Wagga Wagga.
She took a brief break from the public service in 1965 when she got married and started a family. Back then, women weren’t allowed to work if they were pregnant or had children.
A call from her boss a year later changed her life and Sue has been a smiling face at departmental service centres in regional New South Wales since 1966.
That call was supposed to keep her in the job for just six weeks to cover for a co-worker who broke his leg.
Fast-forward to 2016 and Sue has notched her half-century and jokes she stopped counting the years long ago after falling in love with her job.
When Sue started at the department, then called the Department of Social Security, there were only a handful payments to process: the age pension, the invalid pension, unemployment benefit, special benefit and sickness allowance.
“There have been lots of things that I’ve learnt over the time and an important lesson is – change is always around the corner,” Sue said.
“Technology is totally different now to what it was and that’s changed things for the better.”
Sue was one of a number of staff recognised as part of the department’s Pinnacle Award winners in September.
She has been on the frontline greeting people for most of her career and is well known in the community.
The good news is that she has no plans to slow down and has even watched her daughters join the public service during her working life.
“Some people ask me why I’m still working,” Sue said.
“Well, I enjoy coming to work every day. It’s as simple as that. The people you work with make it enjoyable.
“People move on and come and go to do other things. But I love the friendships that I’ve formed.
“I got married, I’ve had two kids and both of them have worked in the department.
“Seeing me working in the department is all they’d ever seen so they followed my example!”
Sue doesn’t have any regrets, but if she had her time again, she’d make sure to do one thing.
“I look back now and I wish I had written down the names of every person I worked with over the years. I’d have a book full.”
Read about other Pinnacle Award winners.