The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN ( 15:52 ): I rise today to speak about the work of St John Ambulance and to pay tribute to their incredible efforts during the Sampson Flat bushfires at the beginning of this year. While the media was focused on the great work of our CFS brigades, St John was diligently working to support the CFS and South Australians impacted by the fires.
Having been active in Australia for over 130 years, St John has become one of the most well-respected and trusted organisations in the country. Today’s contemporary organisation is founded on a long and proud heritage which can be traced back to the days of the first crusades, when the Knights of St John (also known as Hospitallers) cared for the sick and injured pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem some 900 years ago. In the 19th century, a group of citizens revived the Order of St John in England, drawing inspiration from the example of these knights.
St John Ambulance was subsequently formed to put its humanitarian ideals into practice in the new industrial society, promoting the cause of first aid for the sick and wounded through volunteer effort, which was a novel concept at the time. The movement spread to Australia in 1883, and it has since developed into the organisation that we know today.
St John provides a vast range of services for the benefit of our community, including first aid for special events, first-aid training, health care and support services and, of recent importance, disaster relief. In South Australia alone St John is now fortunate to be supported by nearly 2,000 volunteer members as well as 79 paid staff and trainers. It is estimated that these volunteers have given nearly 196,000 hours of service, which in 2013-14 were valued in monetary terms at over $6 million.
As I said, St John members worked closely alongside other emergency services and support agencies to support the state during the bushfires. St John volunteers were a continuous presence at the CFS staging points throughout the bushfires, both at Sampson Flat and Tantanoola. It is estimated that St John volunteers committed over 4,500 hours during the fires by providing first aid and other health support services at CFS staging sites, as well as at other locations throughout the affected areas.
The volunteers assessed and treated many patients for trauma and minor medical issues, as well as providing eyewash and other health care for the many firefighters who were battling the blaze. St John volunteers were also in attendance at the Golden Grove evacuation centre, providing support and assistance to those unfortunate members of our community who were forced to evacuate from their homes. As well as having volunteers on site, St John also provided command, communication and logistical support services 24 hours a day, which provided essential support to those out in the field.
Throughout the Sampson Flat bushfires the St John communications team logged vehicle movements and messages. Between 6 pm on the day the Sampson Flat bushfire started until 11.59 pm on the day the fire was brought under control, the following statistics were generated:
28 St John vehicles made 110 trips, and that is not including return trips;
St John vehicles were used for 887 hours of travel and 469 hours stationed at various sites; and
272 members crewed the vehicles, with 2,614 volunteer hours used in, or with, the vehicles.
It is important to note that these statistics relate only to vehicle activity and not to member activity. However, they do offer an important insight into the extraordinary effort of the dedicated volunteers of St John, and their important contribution to fighting the devastating fires. Their extraordinary efforts did not even stop once the fires had been brought under control.
On 12 January St John, together with Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, launched an appeal to help South Australian communities recover from the bushfires. The appeal will focus on rebuilding community assets and services, as these disasters inevitably impact more widely than just on those unfortunate enough to suffer property damage. The aim of the appeal is to ensure people in the fire affected regions are able to quickly recover their normal lives. To this end, St John will involve community representatives on an advisory committee to decide the funding priorities.
Indeed, the work of St John members, not only during this disaster but every day of every year, is invaluable to the South Australian people. After spending many years volunteering for St John and sitting on its board, I have witnessed firsthand the exceptional work of its volunteers, often behind the scenes and going unnoticed or unappreciated.
I commend St John Ambulance and its dedicated members, both in South Australia and around the country, for their work and endless dedication in supporting the community through not only first-aid services but also education and social care. I acknowledge and thank each and every one of the volunteers who continuously give their time and energy to make a difference to the lives of others and our community. In particular, I acknowledge their enormous contribution during the Sampson Flat bushfires, and thank them for their selfless commitment to helping those most in need.See full session on Hansard