Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Mar-Apl 2013 Contents AAA: WAS YOUR CURRENT ROLE AS GENERAL
MANAGER OF THE DELTA SOCIETY PART OF A
GRAND CAREER PLAN?
HC: "I had never really heard of pet therapy before I came in to work here. It
was never really my focus. I didn't come in [just] because I was an animal lover --
really -- although I had owned a dog plenty of times. It was only by osmosis that
I acquired the skills needed to become general manager. And then, this job was
just something that felt right to do."
AAA: WHY ARE THE VOLUNTEER VISITS IN AGED
CARE SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?
HC: "Not having something normal from the home [environment], like a dog,
would be so disconnecting. It's so important that you have that interaction --
whether the person pats the dog or not -- just the fact that it is there, in the
facility, is amazing."
AAA: WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO STAY WORKING
IN YOUR CURRENT POSITION FOR DELTA?
HC: "I always think about the future as I have parents in the [older] age group. I
think about how they react to their own dogs and how it would feel if they didn't
have a dog. My mum will eventually be in aged care, so I think: 'Wow. If she didn't
have contact with an animal and there was no organisation that would organise
that, then it would be pretty dull in the nursing home'."
tell me about
that happen when
they visit an
aged care facility
that may have
before, it's just
hard not to want
to come into
gets out for a Delta visit or two to see the
volunteers -- with leash in hand -- in action.
Curran is joined by a team of three
other staff who together ensure the
positive benefits of the human-companion
animal relationship are realised at more
than 500 locations that Delta volunteers
visit across Australia, every year. From
hospitals and care facilities to prisons and
schools, Curran explains that the society's
'dog therapy' reaches far and wide.
"It's so rewarding. If I don't get up in
the morning and go to work, then those
volunteers can't visit as there's no one there
to do the work to ensure they can visit.
"The volunteers and their stories are
also just so amazing. I've sat at my desk
and cried a couple of times.
"When they tell me about [positive]
things that happen when they visit an
aged care facility that may have never
happened before, it's just amazing...It's
hard not to want to come into work."
Curran has moved into the top job
in 2010 and has been a Delta employee
formore than decade. With an unlikely
background in the education and banking
sectors, she took on the temporary
position of Delta's administration and
finance manager in 2002 and eventually
"The then-general manager, John
Cornwall, was an inspiration," she says.
"When he first came in and told me about
the organisation, I thought 'wow. This is
really interesting and a job I can get my
In 2007, her general manager retired.
"We had another general manager for
about 18 months. When he left, they
offered me the position. At the time when
John left, he said he was grooming me for
the position. But [I felt] it just wasn't time
for me to say yes."
The right time did come eventually
and, after saying yes, Curran says she has
"been happy ever since".
Like everything, Curran admits, her
job is not a total stroll in the dog
park. "Money is the biggest challenge
for us...We don't seem to fit into any
[government funding] category."
"The government is a big bad ogre out
there. But there's so much niceness in
what we do. Dog therapy would be a nice
thing for the government to be involved
with....If the government funded us, we'd
be able to visit more facilities."
Outside of winning government funding,
Curran says, it'd be a great achievement to
win the favour of a major sponsor and, as
general manager, she's inviting interest.
"Have a look at what our program
stands for, what we do and who we are.
We would love to have you out on a
visit to experience what these people
experience...Give me a call," she says.
The final job-related struggle, she says,
has to do with evidence-based research
and the organisation's biggest nay-sayers:
dog therapy disbelievers.
"It would be great to have funding to
research the benefits. A lot of people say
'this is how I felt after a visit'. Yet, there
is no evidence. We have the people to do
the research [and collect evidence] but no
Despite the minimal 'evidence-base'
supporting the work that Delta does across
the nation, Curran has hope that corporate
or government funding will be found.
Why? Because decision makers only need
to think back to their own childhood or
current pet, she says.
Thinking back, she concludes, they'll
be convinced of the benefits the pet
therapy arena and will promote it as a
legitimate form of therapy.
"The presence of an animal is very
powerful...If you've got a dog, you know
what the benefits are and what it gives
you. When you are feeling down and you
go home, it's not judgmental. It doesn't say
anything against you. It just listens." n
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