In regional towns, services like St John Ambulance rely heavily for their existence on the selfless contribution of local volunteers.
St John Hedland’s Chris Burgess, who works at the Pilbara Ports Authority as a Security Supervisor, is one such volunteer.
The Perth-born 59-year-old originally studied Industrial Design at university, but after graduating, opted to become a policeman instead.
Chris was a Police Officer from 1984 until 2004 and spent the majority of those years in country Western Australia, where he experienced first-hand the immense value that volunteering brings to the community.
“As a Police Officer I worked in Carnarvon, Laverton, Mullewa, Dampier, Kalgoorlie and Dongara”. “I have also lived in Karratha and currently live in South Hedland,” Chris said
“Country policing was very different to city policing. I really enjoyed getting close to the community, working with the schools and kids, running Blue Light Discos and other events the way, you can in the country”. “In the regions all the volunteer organisations, the ambos, the firies all work closely together, and they have each other’s backs, they have to”.
“Living and working in the country, I saw how vital volunteers were,” Chris said. “I was a FESA volunteer in Laverton and Mullewa, and when I moved to the Pilbara in 2004 after a career change, I decided to volunteer with St John Ambulance.”
Chris received his six-year service recognition on the 31st December, 2019 and is approaching eight years of volunteering for the ambulance service on the 31 December, 2021.
“It’s a way that I can give back to the community,” he said.
“My time costs nothing but it’s worth so much to the community. St John couldn’t do what they do without volunteers, none of the service organisations could.”
In Hedland St John Ambulance volunteers work alongside career paramedics, and Chris couldn’t sing their praises any higher. “They are awesome but so are the volunteers who give so generously of their time.”
“The humanity that they show the people they work with is second to none,” he said.
“The career paramedics at the depot are amazing,” he said. “They are all females and they are all like little sisters to me, they are like family. We get other paramedics, male and females relieving occasionally which is a nice change and they all fit in so well at the depot”.
Chris said prospective volunteers start by having a look around the depot, they then get the opportunity to go on road as an observer to see whether the work is right for them. If it is right for them they then get enrolled into the training that is provided by St Johns.
Once the training is completed they start actual on road work with a paramedic or occasionally with another volunteer, especially for community events such as Speedway, Moto X, the Races and the Beef and Beer Festival to name a few.
“You get to work closely with the police, the fire services and the Royal Flying Doctor Service,” he said.
“Some days you’re sitting around waiting for a call out all shift, other days you’re flat out from the moment you walk in the door of the depot.”
Chris said St John Ambulance had a strong volunteer base, and new recruits were always welcome.
Prospective volunteers are encouraged to visit stjohn.org.au to find out how to get involved.