Farewell from Elfriede


After 8 years of very eventful and exciting employment at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, I have finally decided to retire from paid work 3 days a week and start a new, hopefully a quieter, part of my life in 2017. Note, I am saying ‘retire from paid work’, as I hope to continue working for OTARC in a voluntary capacity from time to time, as well as engage in other types of activities, that could be classified as ‘work’.

As many of you will remember, I started working at OTARC before its establishment in June 2008 and before we even had a name. I had recently retired from my lecturing position at Swinburne University when Cheryl Dissanayake informed me about the generous donation she had received from Olga Tennison and her plan to use this money to set up an autism research centre at La Trobe University. This exciting news immediately led me to revise my retirement plans and offer her my assistance. But I decided very early that I did not want to get involved in research projects, but saw myself more in a support role for Cheryl and the other OTARC researchers.

Thinking back, the first few months of OTARC’s existence were extremely busy coordinating activities leading up to the official launch of OTARC at the end of June 2008, especially since I was also occupied with organising my move to Italy, where my husband had taken a position for a few years. While in Italy, I continued to work long-distance with Cheryl on various projects, including the OTARC website, funding applications, and most importantly the application for funding of the Victorian Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre (ASELCC-Vic) at La Trobe, which was successful. I returned from Italy in 2010 to supervise the training of the staff at ASELCC-Vic for a few months, and have worked at OTARC in my support role ever since.

And it’s continued to be busy! My main tasks continued to be writing and updating content for the OTARC website, newsletters and annual reports, researching and writing for our Ask-A-Researcher service and other online information platforms, coordinating visits to OTARC and ASELCC-Vic, assisting with the organisation of OTARC events, keeping track of La Trobe guidelines and strategic plans, and so on. Listing tasks like that doesn’t seem much, but they did keep me busy three days each week. It is likely that some of these tasks will continue coming my way after I retire, at least until someone else has been found to take them on, and I’ll be happy to work for OTARC from home.

It has not been easy for me to make the decision to retire because I am very committed to OTARC and what it’s trying to achieve. It is due to the commitment of Cheryl and the other researchers and admin staff that we have achieved as much as we have. The work has been tremendous, and rewarding. But my decision to retire from OTARC was made easier when our new Manager, Doug Scobie, was recently appointed. After only a few weeks in the job, he has shown much skill and dedication in supporting Cheryl and the other staff. I can now leave with a clear conscience and peace of mind.

I will miss all of the fantastic people I have got to know during the years of my employment at OTARC, including both staff and visitors. But I hope I’ll meet many more exciting people in my new life, if I can put into practice the plans I have made. First of all, I am going to rest a while and read some of the novels that crowd my bookshelf at home. I doubt whether that’ll last for more than a couple of months though, and then it will be on to new challenges, which include spending more time with my husband (although he is still working flat-out) and my grand-daughter. I also have a long bucket list of travel plans, so I better get on with it.

So, it’s ‘good-bye’ to regular work, and ‘hello’ to a new life. Thank you to all who have made my employment at OTARC so enjoyable and rewarding, particularly Cheryl, but also Lisbeth Wilks, with whom I have shared an office for many years, and who is also retiring.

Elfriede Ihsen, PhD

Elfriede Ihsen, PhD

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