Things were a bit different in 1990. The clothes were baggier. People wore multi-coloured woollen jumpers unironically and Bob Hawke was PM. House prices were cheap and international phone calls were expensive. But Ambulance Victoria didn’t mind the cost and put out an international call with a difference – asking paramedics around the world to come to Australia and work for what was then known as the Metropolitan Ambulance Service.
Three of the men who answered that call are still working at Ambulance Victoria today, and are celebrating the 30th anniversary of taking a chance to serve a whole new community.
When David Millican arrived with his wife and two children from England, he knew he wanted to stay, but kept quiet because his wife believed it was only going to be a two-year gig. He needn’t have worried. ‘When two years came around, she wasn’t even interested in going back,’ he says.
David is still with AV as a Senior Team Manager. For him, retraining as a Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance paramedic (MICA) and working at AV was just the same as working back home in England.
So too for Nick Thresher and his family, saying ‘I knew from the first day I wanted to be here and for 12 months my wife wanted to go home, then it changed’. As an instructor with London Ambulance Service during industrial action, the lure of Australia was too strong to ignore.
Even though ‘the job was the same’, Nick immediately noticed some key differences. AV was ‘far more academic and the UK was far more practical,’ he says. ‘In the UK, paramedics weren’t seen as professionals, [but] you were seen as part of the full health care system in Australia. It was very stimulating and new to me.’
For Canadian Brad Sanders, whose wife is Australian, the differences were more dramatic. ‘Working in Canada as a paramedic I dealt with pretty standard cases, nothing too intense,’ he says, ‘but when I came to Australia I was faced with much more intense work and I had to learn fast. It was definitely an upskill for my skillset coming to Australia.’
Despite having to retrain to meet Australian levels of practice, David says, ‘The most challenging thing for me was not so much the work styles. It was getting used to the Aussie climate. I wore shorts all winter!’ There were also some logistics to get used to. ‘Driving lights and sirens on the ‘wrong’ side of the road was an experience.’
Over thirty years, all three men have thrived and put down roots in their communities. David became a MICA paramedic, and Brad is a MICA and also worked with the Air Ambulance. Nick shares his considerable skills as a driving instructor at AV and hasn’t regretted the move: ‘Oz has given my family so much and now I have an Aussie grand-daughter!’, he says.
Now that call to serve is going the other way, according to Nick.
“A lot of newly graduated paramedics are heading to London these days,” he says, “London Ambulance is always looking for new recruits from AV … because AV is such a well-respected ambulance service.”