Volunteers steady in crisis

Kellie BalaamNarrogin Observer
St John Ambulance volunteer Courtney Saunders with her sons Jake, 7 and Reece, 5.
Camera IconSt John Ambulance volunteer Courtney Saunders with her sons Jake, 7 and Reece, 5. Credit: Picture: Kellie Balaam

National Volunteer Week is an annual celebration of the generous contribution of our nation’s volunteers.

With the community under pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of emergency services and community volunteers has come into sharper focus.

The theme for this year’s National Volunteer Week is Changing Communities, Changing Lives — and Narrogin St John Ambulance volunteer Courtney Saunders dedicates her time to doing just that.

Ms Saunders decided to join the crew at the Narrogin sub-centre in October.

“My mum was a volunteer when I was younger for 15 years, so my siblings and I grew up helping run first aid courses and help with training exercises,” Ms Saunders said.

“So it was just something I grew up watching her do and I always thought it was a pretty good idea.

“When I moved to Narrogin I didn’t think I’d have the time, but you kind of make time, and it’s very rewarding.”

With a level-one qualification, Ms Saunders spends a lot of hours volunteering for her community and asks for nothing in return.

As a mother of two young boys, the 32-year-old said she did not volunteer her time to get recognised.

“My boys understand it really well and they love the fact I do what I do,” she said. “I have a very good family and friends support network behind me.

“We log a lot of hours for our community. We don’t do it to be recognised; we do it because we have a passion for the job and want to help our community — and we love our town.”

Southern Wheatbelt community paramedic Hayden Johnstone with Narrogin St John Ambulance volunteers Andrea Waters, Jenni Brown, Dee Dartnell, Chloe Campbell, Amanda Howell and Courtney Saunders.
Camera IconSouthern Wheatbelt community paramedic Hayden Johnstone with Narrogin St John Ambulance volunteers Andrea Waters, Jenni Brown, Dee Dartnell, Chloe Campbell, Amanda Howell and Courtney Saunders. Credit: Kellie Balaam

Ms Saunders said her support network helped her through the tough moments of being a volunteer ambulance officer.

“I do find it very challenging to separate my emotions,” she said.

“I’ve done a few not-very-nice call-outs where the family’s there, and I find that part very emotionally challenging to deal with, but it’s a learning curve and I’m lucky enough I’ve got good mentors behind me.”

St John country operations manager Justin Fonte said one of the organisation’s strengths was its ability to harness a combination of career staff and volunteers, ensuring West Australians had access to leading ambulance and first aid services.

“Up to 80 per cent of our workforce is made up of volunteers, who are responsible for a substantial component of our regional services,” Mr Fonte said.

“The contribution of skills, care and time volunteers make to St John and their communities each and every year is priceless.

“I would like to add how incredibly proud (I am) of the ongoing dedication and high level of care our volunteers have maintained during COVID-19 pandemic.

“Their commitment has not wavered once.”

St John volunteers respond from 164 regional and remote centres across WA, from the Great Southern region to the Kimberley.

The Wheatbelt has 909 volunteers working across the region, with 46 registered at the Narrogin sub-centre.

Mr Fonte said the diversity in age and gender reflected the fact volunteering was something that appealed to a wide range of people.

“National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate not only our incredible St John volunteers, but all those people who volunteer their time in the WA community,” he said.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails