Moving back to her hometown was not on Julie Gowan's to-do list when she came to check on her flood-damaged Whanganui property in June last year.

"When I came back to sort the house out, I realised how much I enjoyed being here and the position of area manager with IHC Idea Services became available so here I am," she said.

Prior to moving home Ms Gowan was enjoying her work with Enrich, which provides disability support services in the Waikato, where she had been for two and a half years.

Although she misses the things that a larger city offers like night life and crowds, she is very pleased with her work situation.


"I'm loving it and I am working with a great senior management team so it is good to be back."

The Whanganui branch employs about 160 staff, including some contractors, and supports 152 clients in residential, vocational and day services.

"When I told a friend that I was doing this job, they said that people with intellectual disabilities didn't seem to be much in evidence these days and I think that's a sign of how well integrated they have become.

"If they belong to a camera club, it will be the same one that you or I might belong to rather than going to special clubs."

Ms Gowan's former career was in Corrections and she worked at Kaitoke Prison for a number of years before heading off to see the world and do aid work in Nairobi, Kenya.

"My plan was to stop off briefly in New Zealand before heading to Thailand but I stepped off the plane and was offered the job with Enrich.

"I didn't really want to do it at first but when I checked my bank balance, I decided I had better accept the offer."

Ms Gowan said the transition from Corrections to disability support was not so difficult because there were people in the prison system who needed support to do things that many of us take for granted.

"A highlight of my career with Corrections was working down in Christchurch after the February 2011 earthquake.

"The prisons were not badly damaged and the big kitchens were great for preparing large amounts of food to send out to the community."

With other Corrections staff from around New Zealand, Ms Gowan donated some of her own annual leave to Christchurch prison staff to enable them to attend to their homes and families.

"It was good to be able to do something practical rather than just watching from a distance and feeling sorry for people."

Back in her own Wanganui East home now, Ms Gowan is celebrating the advantages. Just one, for example, is hearing an address in her home town and knowing where to find it without having to resort to Google.