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Coleraine ambulance branch celebrates 60 years

November 21, 2023 | in Community News

Ambulance Victoria’s (AV) Coleraine branch has today celebrated 60 years of saving lives.

Ambulance Community Officer (ACO) Kerrie Jones said that while the branch was established in 1963, the push for a dedicated ambulance branch started long before – in the 1930s.

“Back then Coleraine didn’t have a branch, and the only stretcher to transport people belonged to the Victorian Railways and was housed at the Coleraine Railway Station,” Kerrie said.

“There was an infamous incident where a patient with a serious leg fracture needed a stretcher, so volunteer J.G. Fitzgerald had to make one himself by using a household door strapped to the back of a ute.

“This makeshift stretcher and ambulance then transported the patient to Hamilton – 30 kilometres away.”

Jim Falla(Southern Grampians Paramedic Community Support Co-ordinator, Lorrae Clarke(Ambulance Community Officer), Tamara Pevitt(Ambulance Community Officer), Henk Van Wegan, Gwen Muir, Kerrie Jones (Ambulance Community Officer). Henk is the oldest surviving “volunteer driver” from early 1970’s-1990’s, Gwen is wife of Roy Muir who was one of the main volunteer drivers in the 1970′-1990’s.

J.G. Fitzgerald went on to successfully lobby the community to fundraise for an ambulance which was housed in a building on McLeod Street.

The community lobbied for a dedicated ambulance branch and Coleraine Ambulance branch was opened on 17 November 1963.

“When the branch first opened, it only had four or five volunteer drivers and basic medical equipment,” Kerrie said.

“Today, the branch is equipped with greater technological support, as well as a modern ambulance with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and other life support equipment.”

Coleraine branch is an ACO-only branch. ACOs are First Responders employed on a casual basis to work “on call” in rural and remote areas where the ambulance caseload is low, and the branch is not staffed by multiple paramedics on a full-time basis.

ACOs are trained to provide advanced first aid to support paramedics and can transport patients to hospital.

AV Barwon South West Regional Director, Jess McGowan said it was great for the community to celebrate six decades of the Coleraine branch.

“The branch is integral to the community and it’s fantastic to celebrate six decades of the branch providing emergency care,” she said.

“There are many people to thank for the incredible work at the Coleraine branch, and we thank the community for their continued support.”