Milliejoy Ibarra, station officer at Pakenham, followed her mum into a career in the railways. She is known to many, up and down the line, having worked at Malvern, Caulfield and Pakenham over the last nine years. Pakenham station is set to become an elevated superstation, the centrepiece of a completely revamped town centre when four dangerous level crossings are removed by 2025.
I had just finished uni and I needed some work in the meantime, and my mum who was already in the railways encouraged me to put in for a job. “Just see how you go,” she said. I got a call back in a week and am now coming up to 10 years’ service. It was meant to be a temporary gig, but I love it!
What energizes you about your work?
I enjoy the people that I work with – that’s the number one thing. We’re like a family. Sometimes we spend more time together as staff than we do with our own families! So we make it fun, with little celebrations that we do internally for birthdays and sharing our lunch. That makes it more enjoyable.
What’s one thing that surprised you about your position here?
How we work as a team. My mum was on the railways, but always worked on her own. Here we are a whole group. There’s PSOs (personal safety officers), drivers, maintenance staff, cleaners, the drivers of course, and we know the V/Line conductors on the trains too.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Before we had PSOs, one of the most challenging things I’ve noticed for females was having to clear the last trains. We have to make sure no one is stuck and it can be hard to move people on, especially the sleepers. Now we can flag the PSOs when we need help, and working with an extra person is a great thing.
How do you deal with challenging situations, such as passengers who are upset or angry?
Some time back, I had an irate customer at the window. I went out and said: “Just calm down, you’re safe in here.” Now that we have PSOs, you’re not alone and it’s safer for both us as staff as well as the travelling public.
What’s the best experience you’ve had on the job?
I really like to help the community here. We’ve done food drives and toy drives and at one stage we had a veggie patch and donated the food we grew to the local soup kitchen.
What happens behind the scenes here every day that passengers take for granted?
It’s the little wins. It’s taken us nine years to get a baby change table, but we got it last year which makes a big difference for parents. Before I used to feel really bad and I would bring people in to the office.
What are the little things that happen every day that can make a big difference to the people we’re here to serve?
Now we have more myki readers on the platform which means there’s better access and a reduction in congestion. Toilets are a big thing here, so it’s important to keep them clean and stocked with toilet paper.