When it comes to SECC Aged Care, Irene Trovato is a household name.
Irene is often the first person carers speak to when seeking services for their loved one.
As our much-loved Social Support Manager, she coordinates the many practical needs of older people in our community.
And this week is a special week.
Irene celebrates 20 years of service from behind the SECC desk.
So we took the opportunity to ask her about her career highlights, and some of the changes she’s seen in her two decades with SECC.
Irene was always drawn to caring professions. She wanted a role that would make a difference in the community.
And she’s certainly doing that with SECC.
Her career started in childcare, but aged care was calling her name as the years went on.
She had the opportunity to work on a multicultural access project which saw her refer a number of clients to SECC.
As she built relationships in the sector, an opportunity came for her to do casual work in respite and social support in SECC’s aged care division.
She joined SECC in 2003 because she could see SECC had a good name in the community.
“I knew a lot of the staff there, and they always made me feel welcome,” Irene says.
She loves her interactions with clients, and is known for her compassion, empathy and skill in managing a large caseload.
She is also a key connection point for local Greek-speaking community members.
Three years into her 20-year SECC journey, Irene was asked to apply for the position of Social Support Coordinator.
“It was a big step up and it was daunting taking on a management role,” Irene says.
“But I had a lot of support from the CEO at the time, David Atkins (CEO), and the Community Care Coordinator Anne Stegman. They believed in me and mentored me.”
In those days, SECC’s key focus was on disability and aged care, alongside multicultural programs and classes.
“It was a small-scale community centre back then,” she says.
“But SECC has grown considerably in recent years.”
Kate Melhopt joined SECC as CEO 13 years ago, and Irene values the mentoring and support she’s received under her leadership.
“I’m blessed to have worked under two people who are excellent leaders,” Irene says.
“For both David [Atkins] and Kate, it’s never been about ego. It’s always about helping the community. I’ve learnt a lot from both of them.”
Irene loves the people she works with, and she enjoys hearing clients’ stories.
“It gives me a lot of joy to make a difference in people’s lives,” she says.
A brief history
Irene has seen a diversity of cultural groups emerge in South East Sydney.
“When I started at SECC, the area was largely Greek, Italian and Spanish, but the demographics have changed to include more Asian, Arabic and Bengali families.”
She also saw SECC expand to include children’s services in the form of SMOOSH, a toy library, and a family support team.
Irene says SECC is “an amazing organisation”, largely due to Kate Melhopt’s leadership.
“Kate truly leads by example,” she says.
“She realises we have a life outside of work, and respects that.
“She is a compassionate CEO, but also leads with vision, purpose and decisiveness.
“As a result, everyone that works here is here for the right reasons.
“And because we’re in excellent hands, we’ve been able to support so many people over 45 years of operations.”
So what gets Irene up in the morning?
“Clients and colleagues, absolutely. I really do love my job. I love coming here, and I love the clients. I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.
“I see the difference SECC makes, and it honestly brings me to tears regularly. I know there’s value in what we do, and that gives me so much joy.”