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Saturday, 11th January, 2020

The Broken Hill St John’s team with assistant commissioner Trude Salat. PICTURE: Supplied The Broken Hill St John’s team with assistant commissioner Trude Salat. PICTURE: Supplied

By Emily McInerney

A team of Broken Hill St John’s ambulance volunteers has returned home after providing support during the devastating NSW bushfires.

In the true spirit of Australian volunteers, over 400 St John Ambulance volunteers have been deployed to support affected communities since the start of the bushfire season.

Broken Hill volunteers were among those to provide support.

Working closely with NSW Health and NSW Ambulance, St John Ambulance is providing critical medical, first aid and mental health care to those who are injured or in distress.

St John Ambulance said they’re able to help reduce the demand on paramedics and keep local hospitals for emergency situations only.

Broken Hill Division Superintendent Ian Harvey said he was proud of the job that his team did while on the ground.

“I am proud of my team, Corporal Brian Edwards, Division Officer Paul MacKinder and member Jae Edwards,” Supt. Harvey said.

“We have done some travel over the past few days and not really known where we might be from one day to the next.

“Everything I have asked them to do, they have done.”

Supt. Harvey said he and the team first travelled to Wagga Wagga where they assisted at an evacuation centre.

“We dealt with anything that came through the door, there was a mixture of issues,” he said.

“There were a lot of distressed people, as you can imagine.

“There were a lot of displaced people.”

Mr Harvey said they were able to help people access the appropriate services as well as conduct health checks.

“We were able to determine if people had underlying issues; if people appeared confused or lethargic, they may have been having a diabetic episode.

“We also helped people get access to medication; if they had left or forgotten their scripts.”

Mr Harvey said after two days, they were told to pack up and head towards Canberra.

“We were to proceed to the airport, where we would get on an RFDS plane.

“We were told to take as much as possible but to keep in minimal.

“We were going to assist at the Merimbula evacuation centre.”

Once boarding the RFDS plane, they took off but were unable to land due to conditions.

“We stayed overnight in Canberra before driving to Merimbula.

“Once at the Sapphire Club evacuation centre we provided support to local GPs and emergency doctors already on the ground.

“There were a large amount of elderly people that were displaced.

“We helped by triaging the patients to save the doctors some time.

“Being in Merimbula was quite confronting. I’m proud of the work our team did.”

Mr Harvey said the team may have to go again, and some of the team had already spent some time in SA around New Year’s when the fires started at Cuddle Creek.

“I also need to thank our employers; Community Restorative Centre, Southern Cross Care and Maari Ma Aboriginal Health for their ongoing support. 

“If it wasn’t for our employers allowing us to go, we wouldn’t be able to support those communities.

“I am very proud to be part of St John Ambulance assisting people in need during this deployment.”

Mr Harvey said being on the ground you could feel the devastation that people were experiencing.

He said there was a lot of travelling involved.

“We drove from Broken Hill to get to a lot of the places,” he said.

He also said that the hard working firefighters were backed by a number of different services and organisations with volunteers.

“Even though they weren’t on the frontline there were a lot of services and support being provided by volunteers.

“There are a lot of volunteers out there and a lot are not getting paid.”

Mr Harvey said St John’s always had room for more volunteers.

“We’re always looking for volunteers, full training is provided; you just have to pass a working with children and police check.

“There are no ongoing fees to join the adult division.”

* To sign up visit the website www.stjohnnsw.com.au

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