THE wreckage told the story of a single vehicle collision with the vehicle on its side and the driver trapped inside.
The light post had gone through the windscreen. Was the driver alive? Got his window down and got a reply from the single occupant. He was trapped but alive. I knew when to step back and let the professional volunteers do their work.
The ambos checked him out but couldn’t get to him as the vehicle was on its side. The unpaid volunteers then jumped in. The SES brought out the heavy cutting gear knowing that a life was at risk. The CFA stood back with their firefighting gear, to protect both the driver and also the lives of all the volunteers who put their own lives at risk to save others.
The roof was cut off. This vehicle was not going to be driven again. Under the guidance of the ambos, the combined group lifted the driver over the carnage of the destroyed vehicle. Into the ambulance, off to the Island Airport and then a quick flight to Melbourne in a helicopter.
In all there would have been more than 30 emergency staff involved in this rescue. Some were paid, but most were volunteers who give their time free at any time of the day or night.
What would happen if these volunteers didn’t show up? I’ll tell you: we would be stuffed. Our death rate would rise, as would our taxes. We could not afford to pay for full time staff to be in such close proximity to our towns. It is our volunteers within the community who look after the community.
Once the driver was clear, the management of the scene continued. There was the police investigation, the wash away by the CFA and then the retrieving of the wreckage by the local towy. The volunteers stayed on, assisting with traffic control so that I could continue with the investigation. At the end, the debrief. The driver was a local and known to some of the crew. The welfare issues were addressed and would continue.
Western Port Ward has a dozen of these Section 86 committees and they are responsible for the maintenance and promotion of community facilities such as halls and rec reserves. The committees consist purely of volunteers motivated by a love of their area, a sense of duty, or the fulfilment of working and socialising together. Usually it’s all three!
Section 86 committees aren’t the only organised groups of volunteers active in our area. There are foreshore committees, resident and ratepayer groups, art societies, cemetery trusts, community newspapers … I could try and list them all but there isn’t enough space.
And they all do good work. Mowing. Painting. Planning. Preserving history. The tasks are endless, the hours countless and the effort is priceless. We couldn’t run Bass Coast without them and we can’t thank them enough.
They play a huge role in maintain the live-ability of our neighbourhoods. In fact, I think there isn’t one spot in Bass Coast where you could stand and NOT see an example of the effort of volunteers. They’re at work all over the place, from the committee that looks after the Lang Lang foreshore to the Pound Creek CFA and up to the Bell Park Scout Camp that edges our shire.
A great example of the achievement of volunteers is Landcare. Their plantings grow bigger every day. Literally. We recently passed the 2018-19 council budget and that included our annual financial support for Landcare. Through astute management and harnessing the efforts of their volunteers, Landcare is able to deliver results valued at five times greater than council could deliver through paid employees for the same amount.
One thing that all these groups have in common is enthusiasm and passion. They are also, almost always, on the lookout for new members. Our Council community directory lists organisations that would like to hear from you if you wanted to commit a few spare hours. They’d be happy to welcome you to their next event or meeting.
To all of us, thank our volunteers. They are part of our community and they set out to protect us or our environment. They protect our history and our way of life. They are protecting our world for the future of our children. They do not do this for praise but purely stepping forward to address a need of the community.
In his other life, Cr Bruce Kent is a police officer based at San Remo.