Phyllis is making a difference on Thursday Island

Tucked away in the Torres Strait, the Department of Human Services Thursday Island Service Centre is unique in many ways. For a start, it is run by staff members who are all Torres Strait Islanders and can communicate with individuals in their first non-English languages.

Thursday Island Service Centre Manager, Phyllis Tamwoy, is proud of her community and proud of her staff.

Download Transcript: Phyllis Tamwoy Profile (DOCX, 13KB)
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“All of our team are Indigenous, and there is at least one person in the office connected to every single Island in the Torres Strait,” says Phyllis.

“Growing up on Thursday Island, it’s a small community surrounded by the sea, and we know everyone. Our community looks up to us as role models, being public servants.

“It’s important for people on Thursday Island to receive the same services as they would get in the city. If someone walks into a service centre in Cairns, they receive the same service as they would here on Thursday Island.”

One of the many advantages of knowing the community and having relationships with community leaders is being able to identify what support they need.

“People don’t tend to go out of their way to ask for things,” Phyllis said.

“Being an Islander, you know when someone needs assistance. They won’t always tell you, you need to be able to look for the non-verbal cues.”

Phyllis cites the progress her team have made getting individuals on board with digital services as one of many examples where staff are making a difference to the lives of people in Thursday Island.

“A lot of people now come in and use digital services because we were able to talk to them about the advantages of this service in our own languages,” Phyllis said.

“For me that’s Torres Strait Creole (Youmpla tok) and Kalaw Kawaw Ya.

“I tell my staff we must not assume people cannot use digital services, we must offer it to them and talk them through it so they can then use it on their own.”

Having managed the service centre for over four years, Phyllis is well-versed in what it takes to be a good manager, including the importance of knowing your staff, supporting them through change and knowing your community and what cultural obligations are in place.

“I love my job because I know that a lot of our people have been disadvantaged in the past and I think it’s important when you know yourself as an Islander, that you can provide that service to your own people,” Phyllis said.

“Even though we’re a small service centre, we make a difference for our department. We’re making a difference in the community.”