Tina Philip has been honoured for her legacy of resilience and hope after a passionate career in mental health on the Far South Coast.
The warmth and drive that inspired her former colleagues to nominate her for the prestigious Order of Australia Medal were palpable as Ms Philip announced her achievement to family and friends at her Lilli Pilli home on June 12.
After 40 years in the mental health sector, Ms Philip retired in 2015, but has not lost any of her desire to empower others.
She said the purpose of mental health workers was to “do ourselves out of a job”.
The praise of delighted supporters who had unwittingly gathered for the announcement on Monday morning showed her legacy still resonated.
Health professionals who arrived for what they thought was a going away party spoke of how Ms Philip changed the lives of clients and shaped their own careers.
Drug and alcohol worker Graham Garland praised her “absolute dedication to clients” and said she was a “pioneer” of client-focused mental health, now accepted as best practice.
“She would fight hard for the rights of clients in meetings, and fight hard for their families, make sure the families were involved and the GP was involved,” he said.
“She just naturally modelled what modern-day services are, and that was 30 years ago. These days all services are doing that.”
Her mantra was always ‘we’re here for the clients’- Barb Fetherston
Gail Legg valued Ms Philip as a mentor: “She was just so involved, and so passionate and so extraordinary in sharing her knowledge and her expertise.”
Moruya GP Peter James said Ms Philip’s team had been the “best mental health support in NSW”.
Ms Philip was emphatic that the role of mental health workers was to build relationships.
“The majority of clients were happy to see me,” she said.
“Good working relationships between all the key organisations make a big difference. There needs to be a can-do attitude. There’s a lot of talk about early intervention, but we need to help kids be more resilient.”
Former colleague Barb Fetherston praised Ms Philip’s resilience, attributing her staying power in such a challenging sector to her warmth and optimism.
“She’s the kind of person who goes out of her way to make people feel good about themselves,” Ms Fetherston said.
“She’s just such a positive person. She was a good advocate for her clients and had a really good rapport with people. Her mantra was always ‘we’re here for the clients’. She really did love her job.”
A perfect example of that optimism was Ms Philip’s advice on healing mental illness.
“You have to accept the diagnosis, receive the treatment, but also have some hope that things are going to get better,” she said.
“Even if you’re going through a really tough time, things are going to improve.”