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Searching for variety, challenge and real impact? How Karlene Jones found a proud past and an even better future at Port Authority of New South Wales...

After 26-plus years at Port Authority of New South Wales, Karlene Jones laughingly quips that she’s now “part of the furniture”. But to everyone else, she’s the face - and, indeed, the heart and soul - of our organisation. And if there’s one thing our modest Event Support Officer (and previously long-time Front Desk Receptionist) loves more than helping people, it’s Port Authority’s rich history and incredible impact on NSW.

A guiding light

Karlene Jones has a remarkable view from her seat at the front desk of our Walsh Bay corporate office. It’s not the Sydney Harbour Bridge (although there’s a view of that just around the corner). It’s a 160-year-old globe from the heritage-listed Hornby Lighthouse, the third-oldest lighthouse in New South Wales.

“The globe had been stored away, but Port Authority wanted to put it on display,” Karlene says. “It’s now showcased in our reception area, and it looks amazing! It’s a great example of the Port’s history and the work we do.”

The Hornby Lighthouse continues to tower over the cliffs at South Head in Watson’s Bay, enabling safe passage for ships into Sydney Harbour. And in a sense, this is what Karlene has done for many years, too.

At the time of our chat, she’s our bright, friendly and eager-to-help Front Desk Receptionist, who’s excited to begin her new role as our Event Support Officer (which she began in January 2023). Often the first point of contact for people at Port Authority, Karlene ensures a smooth, enjoyable experience for our stakeholders, cruise passengers and team members.

“It’s an exciting place to be. I love the variety of my role; every day is different. There’s the admin side, and I also get to help people, which I love. I answer a lot of interesting questions! People often call us instead of the cruise lines about their lost luggage, and I’ll help them. For me, the best thing is to find answers to people’s questions and make sure they leave with a smile.”

Empowered to try a new path

Since joining Port Authority in 1996, Karlene has experienced variety and challenge every day. She spent 11 years as a full-time Administration Officer with our engineering team before moving into the part-time position of Front Desk Receptionist in 2007.

This customer-facing role is vital to the continued success of Port Authority - and, importantly for Karlene, it’s one she could fit around her growing family.

“The Port Authority understands we have families and responsibilities outside of work. Being able to go part-time gave me the flexibility to be there for my two children, especially when they were little.”

Over the years, Karlene has gained incredible insight into each aspect of Port Authority. She has a breadth of understanding few team members have. And as she’s seized every opportunity to learn and grow, her experience with our events team opened the door to an exciting new career direction. 

“After COVID-19, I realised I needed a change. I’ve always loved the events side of what we do. When our passenger terminals at Circular Quay and White Bay aren’t in use by cruise ships, they can be hired for functions, events, photoshoots - even filming for movies. So, I became more involved in that area, and when I expressed my interest in a permanent position, Port Authority was really supportive. Now, I’m about to become Event Support Officer - which I’m so excited about!”

Achieving real impact that counts

Warm, approachable and purpose-driven, Karlene says she’s proud of her contribution at Port Authority. She knows that with each event, stakeholder and team member she supports, she’s helping us make a real impact on New South Wales’ communities, economy and our unique marine environment.

And she relishes being part of an organisation with such a rich maritime heritage.

“Every Thursday, I used to look for old photos of the wharves and places around the ports and display them next to new photos. People would look at them and say, ‘Oh wow, that’s really cool!’ It was fascinating to compare old with new. After a while, I ran out of photos! From my desk now, I can see an amazing display of photos taken by our workers and Port Officers from pilot boats and boarding boats around the harbour. They’re unique - they give people a glimpse of places they wouldn’t normally have the chance to see.”

Karlene looks forward to taking on new, interesting challenges at Port Authority alongside a team of driven, resourceful people who always have her back.

“I just love being here. I love the people I work with; they’re friendly and supportive. And I can’t wait to get stuck into my events role - hopefully, I will be doing that for many years to come!”