Region asked to pay tribute during National Volunteer Week as we say thanks to volunteers

Headshot of Kellie Balaam
Kellie BalaamAlbany Advertiser
Denmark SJA volunteer Ebony Thompson.
Camera IconDenmark SJA volunteer Ebony Thompson. Credit: Supplied

Volunteers are the backbone of many organisations, and without them some of our most important emergency services would not function.This week is National Volunteer Week, and never has it been more fitting to pay tribute to volunteers than after a year of drought, bushfires and a global pandemic.

Kellie Balaam spoke to St John Ambulance about how crucial volunteers are to the organisation — and why they need more people to step up.

Working with St John Ambulance for at least 14 years, Denmark community paramedic David Rae knows volunteers are the lifeblood of the organisation.

“I think generally there is a lack of awareness that there are so many volunteers,” he said.

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“It does surprise me members of the community often assume that people are getting paid to do what they are doing.

“There’s such a vast area to cover it’s not possible to put paid staff across every town across WA, so they are essential to the service and their communities.”

There are 386 volunteers registered with SJA in the Great Southern, but Mr Rae said the organisation was always looking for new recruits.

“We need a spread of people,” he said.

“The reality is calls come in at all hours of the day so we need retired people that have that availability during the day as well as younger people who might be interested getting into the health field, exploring career opportunities and getting experience.

“Volunteering provides a great sense of satisfaction — it’s good for your mental health, that sense of giving back to community.

“I know for a lot of volunteers who I work with, that’s why they do it, giving and helping back.”

St John Ambulance community paramedic David Rae .
Camera IconSt John Ambulance community paramedic David Rae . Credit: Vicki Clark Picture: West Regional

Mr Rae’s comments ring true for Denmark teenager Ebony Thompson, who is following in her great-uncle’s footsteps by giving up her time to help save lives.

More than 70 years ago, Tom Hamilton was one of the Denmark sub-branch’s original volunteers.

Now his great-niece is building on his legacy.

The 19-year-old, one of Denmark’s youngest recruits, has been motivated to volunteer to help pursue her passion for becoming a paramedic.

She is working part-time at the local pharmacy and studying health science at Curtin University with the hope of being accepted into paramedicine.

Bringing her enthusiasm and calm manner to the sub-centre, she is often called on to help people with minor first aid issues.

“The training is fun and I have learnt a lot,” Ms Thompson said.

Mr Rae said some people were apprehensive about the idea of being an “ambo” and attending accidents.

“I think there’s maybe some fear around not exactly knowing what we do,” he said.

“The perception is all jobs that volunteers go to are really distressing, but reality is a lot isn’t and it’s about routine.

“We need help but it’s not always confronting work.”

For people interested in volunteering in their community, Mr Rae encouraged them to get in touch.

“You don’t need to commit to 20 years of volunteering. If you get started and it’s not for you that’s OK, we don’t tie people down, but people are surprised by how much they get out of it,” he said.

For the remaining three days of National Volunteer Week, Mr Rae asked people to go out of their way to show appreciation for volunteers.

“If you see someone in uniform and you know they volunteer, just say ‘thank you’,” he said.

“A lot of the time volunteers don’t do it for recognition but it’s always nice when someone says thanks for doing what they do.”

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