25 years of service celebrated: Caroline Clarke Smith

18 June 2024
1 HERO PIC Caroline Clarke Smith Resize

Many Albany locals are familiar with Caroline, characterised by her big smile and her light-hearted humour, she first connected with MSWA when she moved to Albany 30 years ago.

Caroline vividly remembers her first time visit to Albany, awestruck by its lush greenery and the beautiful coastline of the region – a far cry from the red dirt desert landscape at Kalgoorlie, where she first stayed upon moving to Western Australia from regional New South Wales.

“Albany just looked like a dream vacation spot!” Caroline beamed.

Persuaded by the stunning seascape, Caroline relocated to Albany with her husband.

It was during this time that Caroline received her MS diagnosis and got in touch with her local outreach group, then known as the MS Society. It provided a valuable opportunity for her to connect with peers who shared similar neurological conditions.

“I got in touch with the local outreach, because I didn’t know anyone down here, and it was a good opportunity for me to meet people who experienced the same things I do. I’m still in contact with these people today!”

In 2009, when the Albany Outreach Coordinator position became available, Caroline thought she would fill it temporarily.

“I was offered the position on a part-time basis until they can find someone else to take on the role. One thing led to another, and I was there for 15 years!” Caroline chuckled.

“I should have told them I’m still waiting for you to find someone else to fill my role.”

Caroline participating in the MSWA Albany Swim

Reflecting on her journey, Caroline remembers her time fondly as the MSWA Outreach Coordinator, particularly enjoying interacting with Clients and seeing their faces light up when they achieved a new milestone or learned new skills.

But nothing quite compares to her memories of organising and participating in the MSWA Albany Swim every year. Besides reaching out to local businesses for sponsorships and prize donations, she has also participated in the eight-hour swimming relay every year since its inception in 2012.

“One year I was in the pool, and I had to pull two kids, one on a crocodile floatie and the other one using the kickboard, and I was pulling them both, doing laps up and down the pool. It was hilarious!”

Due to an MS flare-up, 2024 was the first time Caroline did not participate in the swim.

“I’m still a bit disappointed that I can’t participate in the swim anymore, but hey I did my time.”

Caroline witnessed firsthand the growth of MSWA from an outreach group to an organisation offering services to people living with neurological conditions and the direct impact it has made on Albany’s neurological community.

“Back then, I received a visit twice a year from the nursing and physio team,” she remembers.

“Services in Albany began to grow as more people move to Albany, and demand for these services continues to grow, with people actually putting their hand up and saying, ‘we really want this service’.”

“Overtime, the organisation became more streamlined and employed staff members, which upgraded the services from phone conversations to now being able to get services from the new Albany service centre.”

“It’s great, because people can tangibly see where all the funds raised have gone towards.”

Caroline at the new Albany service centre

Caroline highlights the importance of having services in regional WA, and the difference it makes to members of the tight knit community.

“It’s a long trip for us folks in Albany to go up to Perth and see a neurologist or to access any allied health service.”

“It makes a world of a difference to meet someone locally, who is in the know and can actually help you.”

Now in retirement, Caroline is focused on recovery after undergoing spinal fusion surgery. She is also excited for some much-needed rest and for the chance to take a step back and unwind, including catching up with friends for a cuppa.

Caroline has been a much-loved and key member of our team in Albany for decades, and her friendly smile will be missed now that she is hanging up her flippers and retiring. MSWA would like to express our sincerest appreciation to Caroline for her 25 years of dedicated service and wish her a swift recovery!