Changing lives for the better

Headshot of Shannon Smith
Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
Volunteers Rishenda Goodwin from St John Ambulance, Dave Waldron from Albany Sea Rescue, Scott Larking from the Albany SES, and Melanie Bell from the Albany Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service.
Camera IconVolunteers Rishenda Goodwin from St John Ambulance, Dave Waldron from Albany Sea Rescue, Scott Larking from the Albany SES, and Melanie Bell from the Albany Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

National Volunteer Week serves as a reminder to show gratitude to those who serve our community without asking for anything in return. Whether they are in the emergency services or some other sector of the community, they give up their time to make the Great Southern a better place. The theme for this year’s National Volunteer Week is Changing Communities. Changing Lives. Shannon Smith speaks to five men and women who do just that.

Emergency service volunteers are often asked to drop everything to help others in danger.

Albany’sScott Larking is one of these people.

Mr Larking has been a volunteer with the Albany State Emergency Service for three years, serving as the communications officer and assistant manager.

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He makes sure that everyone knows their role at each call-out, whether it is a rescue on a walk trail, a gruelling search or helping residents with storm damage.

Some days, he said he could walk away from a job and cry — but it was all worth it to help out his community.

“It is very hard work and it is both mentally and physically exhausting,” he said.

“I had been working for 30-odd years and felt like giving back to the community. It can be really sporadic and there are never two calls that are the same.”

He said his team and his wife were extremely supportive and it comforted him knowing they were all there for him if he wanted to chat.

“If there is an awkward situation, we rally around everyone and make sure everyone is coping well,” he said.

“We are all looking out for each other all the time.”

Melanie Bell has been a firefighter and secretary with Albany Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service for the past seven years.

Her husband Shane is the captain of the brigade and she said the crew had become a family to them and their daughter, Hannah.

“I love that it is a real family feel, no one judges and makes you feel bad if you can’t do something,” she said.

“I am not a big person but everyone has a role and no one is left out if your abilities make it harder.

“It is an extension of our family pretty much.”

Like Mr Larking, she said some jobs could be confronting.

“The hardest thing for me is to see things with children, having my own children,” she said.

“If you see something that makes you really stressed or you aren’t comfortable with you have the option to have a break, and there are mental health support services available too.”

While some volunteers are trained to rescue people from fire, others do their best work on the water.

Dave Waldron is a radio officer at the Albany Sea Rescue.

When he retired from full-time work 18 months ago, he signed up straight away. “I just think it is a great community-based operation,” Mr Waldron said.

“It is an important safety operation and I am a boater who has gone out on the water regularly over the past 20 years.

“We are lucky that we have volunteers who keep a radio watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

St John Ambulance volunteer Rishenda Goodwin said her time with SJA had been “a gift”.

“I can’t believe the amount of satisfaction I get from doing it,” she said.

“You can’t underestimate the value of doing something that you are not paid to do and you choose to do.

“I cannot imagine a time in my life now where I didn’t do it.

“Albany is a small town ... it brings up a few extra emotions when you know someone, but we are trained well in dealing with that.”

Emergency services personnel save lives every week in Australia, but in so many sectors of the community — from sport to education — other volunteers enrich lives.

As of this week, Eric Corrigan has been sharing Albany’s military history at the Albany Heritage Park for 30 years.

Now aged 90, he started doing three or fours shifts per week, but his volunteering soon became a seven-day commitment as he fell in love with the role.

Eric Corrigan
Camera IconEric Corrigan Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

Over that time he has helped shape the experiences of thousands of visitors to the park.

He said he had many cherished memories, including when he would recreate a scene in the underground magazine and surprise his tour group by setting off a party popper.

“I would wait until it was completely silent and a little bit eerie then I’d pull the party popper,” he said.

“It was always the highlight of my tour and added an element of surprise which the visitors enjoyed afterwards — and of course we made sure there were no existing medical conditions.”

Mr Corrigan’s milestone will be marked with a small ceremony at the Princess Royal Fortress.

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