After 35 years enriching the lives of returned veterans, a Mountain Creek woman is retiring from a long and successful career.
Wendy Latham joined the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Brisbane in 1985, spending more than three decades working across a variety of roles.
“Back in 1985 to join the public service you had to sit a test,” she says.
“I sat the test and was put on a waiting list and eventually my name came to the top.
“I started on the 8th of October 1985 as a file room assistant in the Brisbane office of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.”
Mrs Latham transferred to the Hobart office in 1986 to be closer to family, working in the personnel section paying staff wages, then a pension role paying veteran pensions for nine years before moving into a community support role.
“That was probably one of the more memorable highlights of my career,” she says.
“I got to meet Alec Campbell who was our last World War I Gallipoli veteran. Alec was 102 when he passed away.
“Part of my role was commemoration and looking after our special World War I veterans.”
In 2007 Mrs Latham moved to the Sunshine Coast, landing a manger role at the Maroochydore office.
“I’ve been involved in outreach activities – we take our services up as far as Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Tin Can Bay.
“I’ve been involved with a lot of the ex-service organisations around here – the RSLs and Legacy.
“I’ve been involved in training Services Australia staff – I’ve been their go-to person to provide training.”
Mrs Latham tells My Weekly Preview she has loved “going the extra mile” for veterans and their families during her career. “I’ve been dedicated to my job and I’ve loved my job – the whole 35 years. It’s really been a privilege to look after our veteran community.”
“Being able to help the veterans with little things they may be confused about like helping them fill in forms – they are just so appreciative.
“Most of the veterans in Australia and their families and war widows are very appreciate of what Veterans’ Affairs does.”
Mrs Latham admits much has changed in those three decades, from the technology used to the services offered, particularly in relation to mental health. “Our services are quite different today to when I stared.
“We didn’t have computers, we didn’t have mobile phones. Our World War I and II veterans used to come into the office wearing their suits.
“Over the years technology increased, we did things more efficiently.
“These days most of our contemporary veterans, who are still serving and who recently served, want to do things online, by SMS or on the phone.
“Our Vietnam veterans are in their mid- to late seventies now; some of them are quite tech savvy but they still want that face-to-face contact.
“We provide a lot more services these days to our contemporary veterans. Our big focus is on mental health and they’ve got access to counselling.”
After her years of dedication, Mrs Latham is looking forward to an active retirement enjoying the outdoors.
“I’m going to dust off my golf clubs and play some golf.
“I’m going to join a bushwalking club and I’m going to do volunteer driving for Bloomhill Cancer Care and – COVID permitting – my husband and I will do some travel around outback Queensland and other parts of Australia.”