As Parliamentary Leader of Family First NSW I speak on raising awareness for an organisation that is dedicated to the delivery of first aid services, the minimisation of injury, and the saving of lives. I am, of course, referring to the amazing services provided by St John Ambulance Australia. St John Ambulance Australia is a self-funding charitable organisation active in all States and Territories, dedicated to helping people in sickness, distress, suffering or danger. This organisation traces its history back to the crusades of the Templars of St John who cared for the sick and the ill and those who had been injured. St John is Australia’s leading provider of first aid training, first aid services at public events, and supplier of first aid kits and equipment. It runs ambulance services in Western Australia and Northern Territory and also provides a range of community services and youth development programs.
Over 3,100 first aid service volunteers provide almost 430,000 volunteer hours to the New South Wales community, and treat approximately 24,000 casualties annually. Many of these first aid service volunteers are on duty at large events such as the Big Day Out, New Years Eve celebrations, the Royal Easter Show and the City to Surf. They are present also at many local sporting, school and community events.
St John Ambulance NSW has 500 volunteers actively involved in early literacy and immunisation programs in the community and supports the ophthalmic clinic in Moree, which provides access to eye treatment in the more difficult-to-reach areas of the State. It is important for the vast majority of the population to know first aid, but as only 8 per cent hold a current first aid certificate, St John Ambulance Australia is launching a hard-hitting initiative to encourage people to learn first aid. The initiative is designed to encourage members of the general public to think about first aid and to challenge the theory that many people in the community believe it will never happen to them. I can assure them that it can, and it does.
In December 2009, 54-year-old Frank Funibaldi was competing in a swimming event at Auburn Aquatic Centre when he collapsed as a result of a sudden cardiac arrest. Metres away were Michael Valentin and James Spiller, both St John volunteers. They ran to Frank’s aid and, upon discovering that he showed no signs of life, applied cardiopulmonary resuscitation [CPR]. After a minute of CPR, they used a defibrillator donated by Auburn RSL to shock Frank’s heart into a normal rhythm. Frank was then revived and taken by paramedics to Westmead Hospital. Frank, recovering at home after being discharged from hospital, met the two volunteers who saved his life and thanked them. He said, “They brought me back. What more can I say? I can now spend Christmas with my family.”
This incident highlights not only the importance of St John volunteers to the community but also the importance of knowing first aid. St John Ambulance aims to have one person in every household fully trained in first aid. St John Ambulance is asking people to do a St John first aid course. It has a number of courses to choose from, including senior first aid, which can be completed as a one-day or a two-day course, and a four-hour CPR course that teaches people how to perform effective CPR. With the high number of young children involved in accidents around water during summer holidays, knowing what to do in such emergencies is critical to their outcome. I am pleased and proud that eight of my grandchildren are lifesavers and are competent and have been trained in a St John senior first aid course.
These comprehensive courses teach skills and train people to do what is needed in those critical moments before professional help arrives. I encourage members of the House to actively support the learning of lifesaving skills such as those offered by St John Ambulance Australia courses. These are the most valuable and important skills that one could learn. One never knows: the life that one saves might be a loved one, it might be one’s own or, more importantly, it might be mine.