Almost fourteen and a half years ago, I took up a very part time job at Diabetes Victoria.
The diabetes world was a little different back then and today, as I packed up my office and was farewelled by a group of amazing women I have been honoured to call my team, I reflected back over the years.
- I had been using a pump for about five months when I started working there. It was the first time that many people in the organisation had ever seen one and there were a lot of questions.
- The pump situation in Australia was a little different to today. If you wanted a pump, you had a choice of a Medtronic 507C or a Disetronic DTron.
- Smart pumps were not a thing yet!
- There was no DAFNE yet either.
- The few of us who were pumping had to self-fund the consumables to the tune of about $300 per month.
- It was in May 2004, after a lot of lobbying, that the Government announced that pump consumables would be listed on the NDSS, reducing their costs to about $30 per month. This was the first taste I ever had of political lobbying and advocacy and I loved it!
- Within my first three weeks of being in the job, about half a dozen different women called saying they wanted information about diabetes and pregnancy. We didn’t have anything, so together with some like-minded groups, we set about developing a resource that provided all the information women wanted in a format they liked. That was my first taste of realising how important it was to listen to the ‘consumer’ and it became the overarching philosophy of my work.
- No one was talking prevention of type 2 diabetes. And when that started, it started a discussion about a huge issue.
- No one was talking about diabetes and mental health – except those of us living with the condition. We knew that it was real; we knew that burnout was debilitating; we knew that our mental health directly correlated with our ability to manage our diabetes. Seeing the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes become a real thing has been a game changer for people with diabetes as it has opened the discussion in ways we could only have imagined!
- People with diabetes at diabetes conferences? Not really, but we have made some strides there! (Psssst….but not enough!)
- Social media? Not a thing back in 2001. Now, online support, which was fledgling to say the least back in 2001, is everywhere and accessible by many, many people.
What a change a (almost) decade and a half makes! The diabetes landscape is very different. I’m glad I get to still be a player in this space in my new national job.
But today, it’s about saying goodbye.
And with that, I want to acknowledge a group of women. These women:
To (in alphabetical order), Alice, Angela, Anika, Carolyn, Elise, Elizabeth, Jane, Kelly, Kim and Kristina: thank you for making my last day so lovely. But more so, thank you for being the people who ‘do’. Each and every day, you come into work and do things alongside – in partnership – with people affected by diabetes to improve their lives in some way. Your commitment to people living with diabetes is second to none, there is no other team like this one in Australia and the work that you do each and every day is, in fact, life changing. We hear that frequently.
I am so fortunate that I got to lead you in my clumsy and sometimes ranty way, and I thank you all for indulging me as you have. I wish you all the best and will be watching – very closely – all your future successes.