Volunteer relief work builds confidence and skills


Tuesday 23 May 2017

A Charles Sturt University (CSU) lecturer and student have returned to work and study after being part of the first Australian disaster relief operation by Team Rubicon Australia in far north Queensland.

Ms Clare Sutton and Mr Andre Drozd from the paramedicine program in the School of Biomedical Sciences at CSU in Bathurst were among 40 volunteers deployed by the disaster response organisation in April as part of Operation Dunlop in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

Lecturer in paramedicine Ms Sutton and student Mr Drozd joined strike teams based at Proserpine RSL Club which were deployed daily across the disaster area to undertake a variety of work. This ranged from health and welfare checks, damage assessments, to clearing damaged property and coordinating water and food supplies.

In addition, they were both given the role as first aiders for their strike teams.

As a final-year Bachelor of Clinical Practice (Paramedic) student Mr Drozd decided to volunteer with Team Rubicon Australia after reading an expression of interest posted on Facebook.

"Reflecting on being part of Operation Dunlop, I would absolutely do it again and my advice to anyone who gets an opportunity to volunteer in an organisation like this is to just go for it," Mr Drozd said.

"The level of personal satisfaction I gained from the experience, including witnessing the genuine relief and gratitude of the Cycle Debbie victims, was worth it and I feel a sense of pride in the hard work and the number of lives we were able to positively impact.

"I also had the chance to improve my team skills as I worked alongside many current and ex-Australian Defence Forces personnel, and this is important as a student planning to be a paramedic."

The CSU student has been offered a job with the London Ambulance Service next year.

Ms Sutton completed Team Rubicon Australia's inaugural training in January and urges other CSU students to consider volunteering for the organisation.

"Volunteering for Team Rubicon Australia would be an invaluable experience for all Charles Sturt University students but especially those hoping to pursue careers in paramedicine, nursing and other allied health professions," she said.

"They'll get the opportunity to develop many transferrable skills. These include the ability to make rapid assessments in unfamiliar situations; triaging cases to prioritise workload; dealing with stressful situations; learning to adapt communication skills appropriately; managing health and safety in the workplace; working as part of a team; and leadership development.

"They'll also be exposed to many technical skills that may have been previously unfamiliar such as chainsaw work and damage assessments on properties. These skills can be used in a variety of workplaces.

"Volunteering also helps provide that extra edge when competing against others for employment upon graduation."

Ms Sutton said it was a privilege to be involved in helping the local community to manage the damage inflicted by the cyclone and to assist them to start moving forward with their lives.

"The community were so welcoming and seized every opportunity to help themselves as well as their fellow community members," she said.

"The 40-strong team included volunteers from all over Australia, as well as from New Zealand and America. Most had never met before but due to the shared desire to work hard and help others, they quickly formed a close bond and worked effectively as one unit.

"I wouldn't hesitate to volunteer for future deployments and would highly recommend the experience to my colleagues and students."

CSU offers its Bachelor of Clinical Practice (Paramedic) in Bathurst and Port Macquarie and through CSU online. Read more here.


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Media contact: Fiona Halloran , (02) 6933 2207

Media Note:

Ms Clare Sutton is a lecturer in paramedicine in the School of Biomedical Sciences at CSU in Bathurst. Mr Andre Drozd is a final-year Bachelor of Clinical Practice (Paramedic) student at CSU in Bathurst.

For more information, contact CSU Media.  

Team Rubicon Australia is part of a global disaster response organisations that unites veterans, first responders and civilians to provide rapid, short-term assistance to areas affected natural and other disasters. The Australian branch has only been established recently and Operation Dunlop in far north Queensland was its first deployment.

Photo: CSU student Andre Drozd (4th from right) and lecturer Clare Sutton (5th from right) in a Operation Dunlop strike team.