No place like home for Kate

Kate and Leonie smiling at the camera.

Department of Human Services Cootamundra Agent Kate Collingridge says serving the community she grew up in is a privilege.

“I have loved living in and growing up in such a tight-knit and friendly community,” Kate said of the NSW Riverina town.

“Cootamundra is a small country town that offers big opportunities.”

The department has around 350 Agents in rural and remote Australia, and they are predominantly staffed by women.

Kate and her colleagues Merrilyn Jackson and Leonie McDermott will be celebrating International Day of Rural Women on Sunday 15 October.

They serve a community that was rocked by the loss of 220 jobs when the town’s abattoir closed earlier this year.

“A substantial amount of women were among the workers,” Kate said.

“We supported them by verifying identity documents and helping them use the self-service computers to create online accounts, claim payments and search for work.”

Agents are not departmental staff, but play an important role connecting rural Australians with Centrelink services closer to home.

Kate and her team provide services for which Cootamundra residents would otherwise have to travel an hour to Wagga Wagga.

She said she relishes being able to help other rural women.

Agents often find rural women are the organisers for the whole family, including their parents, their partners and their children.

“We see women from all walks of life come through our Agency,” Kate said. 

“We deal with any issues they may be having or any questions they are unsure of when it comes to the Department.

“Having an approachable personality is an important quality as an Agent in a small rural town, as the people who come through our office are sometimes embarrassed or vulnerable.

“Along with performing our job sometimes you need to be a friendly face and have empathy for people’s situations ­– I really enjoy the relationships formed with some of the people who have been into the Agency.”

More information

Learn more about Department of Human Services Agents