Meet Precious Pam – 83 and still ‘on the clock’

Meet Precious Pam - 83 and still on the clock


Pamela Arthur, with the late Shirley, whom she cared for.


At 6 pm each evening, a posse of residents gather around the television in a Newcastle aged-care facility.

Other than the staff, Pamela Arthur is the only one who can operate the remote, so she takes charge.

The 83-year-old’s a sports buff herself, often staying up into the wee hours watching tennis and cricket; but in the lounge, she’s democratic.

The eight regulars vote on what to watch.

Often, it’s a medley of war songs on YouTube and Daniel O’Donnell’s the favourite.

As they sing and sway, Pamela makes Milo for supper.

She holds the hands of those who need that extra bit of comfort.

And she puts some of the residents to bed.

Pamela does this because the staff simply don’t have time.


Pamela was born in Mayfield in 1939, the year World War II began. Raised by a single mum for much of their lives, she and her three siblings suffered hardships.

After suddenly losing her father – a returned serviceman who fought in the New Guinea Campaign – at the tender age of 11, Pamela and her family were supported by Legacy, a non-profit dedicated to assisting families of those who served their country after their death.

Feeling indebted to the charity that provided the Arthur family so much, Pamela spent a quarter of a century volunteering with Legacy.

It was at the charity’s gymnasium in Mayfield that she and her younger brother Warren learned fencing, aged 15.

For over 20 years, Pamela was a fencer, and a good one at that. She represented NSW and went on to teach other children the sport at a gymnasium a stone’s throw away from her home in Mayfield.

For 80 years, 26 of which were on her own, Pamela lived at number 52; a weatherboard home that her parents built in 1936.

Pamela never married, nor had any children of her own.

“It didn’t work out,” she tells me.

Pamela farewelling her Mayfield home.

Instead, she poured her bounty of love into her colleagues.

Aged 17, Pamela began working as a typist at Stewarts and Lloyds, where she remained for 10 years.

The company then built the Recreation Club in Mayfield – now known as Wests – where Pamela went on to work as Duty Manager.

For 44 years she dedicated herself to the job at the Club, and it’s one of the things she’s most proud of.

Pamela Arthur with Tony Williams, then secretary manager of Club Phoenix. in 1981 at an evening to celebrate her 25th anniversary at the club.


Leaving her home in 2020 was not an easy decision, but it was the right one. After Pamela spent months in hospital suffering from diverticulitis and rheumatoid arthritis, the prospect of returning home without care was not an option.

“I knew that I wasn’t going to be well enough to care for myself and I wanted to remain independent and not have to depend on people to look after me and do the things for me that I wasn’t able to do,” she said.

“Never did I think when I went to hospital that I wouldn’t be going home.

“But that’s just life.”


Locked-down Pamela (pictured in the centre window) being visited by ‘scallywags’ on Christmas Day 2021.

On March 18, 2020, Pamela moved into an aged care facility in Lake Macquarie. The next day, Australia went into lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Since moving in, she has spent more than 100 days in lockdown.

“Fortunately, staying in our room in lockdown has prevented me from catching it,” she said.

Grateful for the company that she had during this period; she couldn’t help but notice a mass turnover of staff.

“Most of the original staff from when I arrived are no longer here,” she said.


The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in 2021 found that “Australia’s aged care system is understaffed, and the workforce underpaid and undertrained”.

The inquiry discovered that 47% of residents have concerns about staffing, including understaffing. Pamela believes it to be higher.

Pamela, who is incredibly quick-witted and fairly mobile, has always been passionate about helping others. Whether it was crocheting for the Country Women’s Association’s fundraisers, cooking for a friend whose husband had a stroke, or minding three scallywags on weekends for former-colleagues-turned-family, she is selfless.

Former aged-care nurse, Rhiannon Denniss, who left aged-care to work in a hospital, treasured working with “precious Pam” because of her generosity.

She tells me about the time a “cognitively impaired” resident became hysterically upset and disoriented. It was Pamela who recognised the staff lacked the time and resources to help the confused woman; and she took it upon herself to care for them, spending hours by their side.

“Most people would struggle to maintain interest for so long, but Pam saw the importance in validating this woman and her concerns, keeping her company while staff could not,” said Rhiannon.

“I was deeply grateful to Pam for being present for this woman in the way I wish I could have been.”

And this isn’t a stand-alone incident.

Aware of the crisis plaguing aged-care, Pamela is doing all she can to relieve the “worn out” staff. She folds serviettes for the dining room, plays three people’s bingo cards as well as her own, changes her linen, and cares for residents in what Denniss describes as a “nurturing and motherly” fashion.

“I just like helping people,” says Pamela, “I always have.”


When I dropped Pamela home after our interview, we were met with a chorus of hellos in the car park. It was changeover time, and the incoming staff were awaiting the results of their rapid antigen tests before clocking on. As we parked, Pamela was like the queen. The masked staff waved and blew kisses at us.

Rhiannon Denniss says it’s hard not to love Pamela.

“She is one of those people who enters a room, and it becomes brighter,” she said.

Daniel O’Donnell’s mellow tones continue to echo through the home, and a colourful painting hangs on the wall of Pamela’s spacious room.

In it stands a house.

Perfectly pruned roses frame the front, and a blue mailbox sits at the base of the driveway.

This was the house where Pamela spent 80 years of her life, and now it’s part of her new home.


A painting of Pamela’s former home by Newcastle artist Grace Murphy.