On the 27th of March Westcare celebrated the retirement of John Avent after 31 years of service.
Family, friends, staff and volunteers joined John in celebrating his retirement as well as the hard work invested throughout his career.
Speakers including Child Commissioner Bernie Geary, Deb Tsorbaris from Centre for Excellence in Child & Family Welfare and Glenys Bristow reflected on John’s work in improving services for vulnerable young people.
Divisional Program Secretary, Major Jenny Begent also presented John with a Certificate of Retirement for his years of service in The Salvation Army’s Melbourne Central Division.
John began working with young people in the 1970s in Residential Care. He was then appointed as General Manager at Westcare on the 4th of January 1984.
For John, being a part of the growth and journey of Westcare has been his career highlight.
“The growth of Westcare into a competent and skilled provider of Out of Home Care programs that work together in a purposeful way [is my career highlight]. We aren't the biggest OoH care provider in Victoria but we have been able to exert a significant influence on the sector, particularly regarding therapeutic care, through our training partnerships.”
During his time as General Manager, he reflected on the value of developing a working culture that is people- focused.
“Long ago I realised I didn't have to come up with all the answers and that my ideas weren't always the best ones to adopt, I hope I've been effective in supporting people to be creative and contribute. Looking after staff well being is the first task to ensuring great service delivery.”
“We've set out to create an environment where people feel valued and safe.”
Westcare’s General Manager Peter Mulholland reflected on John’s contribution with warmth and respect, detailing:
“John's most significant contribution to Westcare has been his inspirational leadership that has cultivated a culture of respect, trust, honesty, commitment and safety. Culture must be built from the ground up and John has been an instrumental leader in creating, living and breathing that same culture.”
Senior Manager for Home Based Care, Chris Jones, further emphasised the value of John’s leadership during his time at Westcare.
“He is an amazing leader who sets an incredible example for others and I have learnt so much from him. He has a unique blend of authority, passion, warmth, compassion, genuine concern for others and humour. He makes it his business to know every staff member, carer and child/young person. Whilst he was comfortable with General Manager business he was equally comfortable being a youth worker or taking on any task that needed to be done. He is incredibly grounded.”
Chris has been working with John at Westcare since 1999. Her favourite part of working with John, she notes was:
“His stories! On a serious note it has been an absolute pleasure and privilege to work with John. I have valued his advice, support and friendship and I have enjoyed all those stories!”
Staff at Westcare acknowledges the work and footprint John will leave after leaving Westcare.
For Peter Mulholland,
“John's greatest legacy was his leadership. If you look at successful businesses around the world, the great leaders of those businesses have valued people first. I rate John in this category of great leaders.”
Chris added that a supportive environment and a strong focus on people was one of John's greatest achievements.
"John has built and leaves behind a very strong organisation and an organisational culture that respects, values and cares for children, young people, staff and carers."
John looks forward to spending his retirement by travelling, spending time with his family and enjoying music.