photoRhonda (right) with the WA Governor Malcolm McCusker and Mrs Tonya McCusker. It is the extra little things that make the difference. Receiving new clothes. Getting your favourite cake on your birthday. Having someone speak to you in your own language.

These are the things Rhonda Sawtell does for the elderly people living at the Frontier Services Ngamang Bawoona hostel in Derby, WA. And it is these extra little things that make her so special.

Rhonda was named Employee of the Year at the 2012 Aged and Community Services Western Australia (ACSWA) Awards in Perth last week. The annual Awards celebrate excellence across the non-profit aged and community care industry.

Former Director of Nursing, Meredith Barrett, who put forward the nomination, said Rhonda was well-loved among both the staff and residents at Ngamang Bawoona.

“Her work ethic is above and beyond and her compassion towards the residents is unquestionable,” she said.

Ngamang Bawoona has 17 residents, aged from 44 to 93 years of age, who come from the surrounding Kimberley communities such as Balgo, Beagle Bay, Yungngora and Looma. In some cases their family may live 500km away.

Rhonda began work with Frontier Services four years ago. Her duties include cooking, cleaning and assisting the residents with their daily living.

The award recognised Rhonda’s skills and training in cultural awareness, dementia, dietary requirements and renal therapy.

Specifically, Ms Barrett said it was the extra things Rhonda did for the residents which stood out.

“She may take residents to doctor appointments, ensure that their clothing is maintained and at times purchase new clothes for the residents. Rhonda will ensure that on a resident’s birthday their favourite cake is made and that everyone sings them Happy Birthday.”

“She has taken it upon herself to learn the basic Aboriginal dialect related to providing care, enabling her to assist those residents living with dementia who are losing the use of their English language skills.”

Rhonda encourages family members to bring in bush tucker for the residents which she then prepares for them.

“Her infectious laugh assists both staff and residents to smile on a regular basis. The joy she brings to those who are unable to return to their Country is priceless,” Ms Barrett said.

The winners of the 2012 ACSWA Excellence in Care Awards were announced on 8 June at a gala event attended by the Governor of Western Australia, Malcolm McCusker.

Rhonda is now in the running for the national awards to be announced at the Aged and Community Services Australia National Conference to be held on the Gold Coast in September.

Acknowledgement of Country

Frontier Services acknowledges the sovereign First Peoples on whose lands and waters we live, meet, and work.

We pay our respects to their Elders past and present and to all descendants of these Nations who have cared for this place since Creation.