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Veteran ACO reflects on 52 years of community service

November 30, 2023 | in Community News

Thornton farmer Graeme Robb has called time on his outstanding ambulance career after more than five decades of making a difference to people’s lives.

Graeme has served the Eildon community as an Ambulance Community Officer (ACO), formerly known as Ambulance Officer, for 52 years and will be finishing up on 30 November 2023.

“I’ll also miss helping people and interacting with patients –
that’s what the job was all about.” — Graeme Robb

ACOs are first responders, employed by Ambulance Victoria on a casual basis to work on call and support qualified paramedics in rural and regional communities. Prior to the formation of Ambulance Victoria in 2008, ACOs worked on a volunteer basis.

He is one of the last serving members of the Alexandra District Ambulance Service, which was formed by the community in 1948 and serviced district of Alexandra, Eildon and Marysville, before it amalgamated with other state ambulance services to form Ambulance Victoria in 2009.

Graeme said local community members asked him if he would be interested in offering his time to join as an Ambulance Officer back in 1971.

“It gave me something to do off the farm and I developed really strong relationships with the people I was working with,” Graeme said.

“I was instantly rewarded by seeing the impact I was having when we would respond and help others.”

He said the organisation has made fantastic operational and technological advancements over time.

“When I started with the service, a doctor would come with us to a significant incident,” he said.

“We also didn’t have pagers for some time and would be alerted to an incident via landline telephone, so if I was out on the farm, I wouldn’t be able to take the call.

“Fortunately, we have come a long way and made meaningful improvements to our service.”

Being an Ambulance Officer in a regional area meant at times, first responders would have to be resourceful and make split second decisions to ensure the wellbeing of the patient.

Graeme reflected on an incident at the top of Mount Torbreck on a wet winter day, when a motorcyclist had taken a fall in rough terrain.

“We responded up the mountain, but the conditions made it inaccessible for the ambulance, so we switched into a VICSES 4WD vehicle and made our way further up towards the patient,” he said.

“It wasn’t long until the 4WD got bogged and I decided to throw the medical bags on my back, hop on a motorbike and ride the rest of the way.

“I treated the patient who had a broken collarbone and by that time the VICSES 4WD had caught up, so we used the vehicle to transport him down the mountain.”

Reflecting on what he will miss most about his ACO role, Graeme said it was the people that he met and interacted with in the job.

“I’ll miss working alongside so many great people in our community,” he said.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the clinical side of the role and continuing to learn every day.

“I’ll also miss helping people and interacting with patients – that’s what the job was all about.”