News

Red Cross on the hunt for volunteers ahead of the fire season

By Liz Mellino

Betty D'Amore and Opal Collins are two of the many faces of Greater Shepparton's Red Cross volunteers.

From preparing the community for emergencies to offering assistance and recovery support after an event, the role of a Red Cross volunteer is broad and varied.

Ms D'Amore has been involved with the Red Cross for the past 11 years, working alongside the community in times of disaster.

While Ms Collins is one of the newer volunteers, having only joined the Red Cross in the past few months, the pair share a common goal — to ensure the community is prepared and assisted through tough times.

Ahead of this year's fire season, Ms D'Amore and Ms Collins are encouraging community members to consider applying for Red Cross volunteer positions within the community.

“There's a huge time pressure to get enough teams up and running because they're predicting a horrendous fire season and we need to have teams ready to go at short notice,” Ms D'Amore said.

“We're recruiting team members who are available to be rostered on for assistance if we have an emergency of any sort — it can be a major emergency where we might open a relief centre for days or something as minor as supporting someone who has been through a house fire.”

The Red Cross is recruiting team members ahead of summer to ensure enough resources are available if an emergency occurs.

Volunteers work locally to help prepare for emergencies, represent Red Cross and their community at Municipal Emergency Management meetings, help people during disasters and support communities through the healing process.

Ms D'Amore said the roles involved both response and proactive volunteers, with each covering different areas to ensure the community was prepared for an emergency before, during and after.

“One role of a team member is called the proactive role and that involves helping communities prepare for an emergency and that's a huge emphasis at the moment — preparedness is major,” she said.

“The other we call response — responding to an emergency ... you can be called on for two weeks right up to six months after an emergency to catch up with people who have been affected and see how they're going.

“A lot of the time they’re fine when the crisis is on and it's afterwards that they need that support.”

Red Cross team member Judi Hanlon said they hoped the positions would attract a diverse range of community members of different ages, genders and nationalities.

She said the roles also involved a lot of education, with volunteers continually refreshing their skills as well as educating the community about what they can do.

“Most people think of Red Cross as shaking a tin or raising money, they still have what they call the branches but this is a whole other side to Red Cross and what Red Cross can do,” she said.

“Shepparton is such a multicultural place, so it would be really good to have people from different nationalities come in and join the group.”

Ms D'Amore said it did not matter whether you could commit five days a week or only a handful of hours, she said the volunteer positions could be tailored around people's lives and their availabilities.

She encouraged all locals to consider applying for a position, saying she had gotten so much out of the role over the past 11 years.

“I love learning and it’s a way to learn about your community. I love working in a team and I love the fact I have skills that can be utilised with Red Cross,” she said.

To find out more about the local positions available visit www.redcross.org.au/volunteer or phone 1800 232 969.