Presentation of National Emergency Medals, St John Ambulance SA

It’s my great pleasure to be with you this evening to present the National Emergency Medal to members of St John.

I am sure that Noel Hender spoke for many when he shared the insights of his experience during the Bushfire response.

In November last year, the Governor-General declared the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires a nationally significant emergency, thereby qualifying many firefighters and volunteers for the National Emergency Medal.

Doing so paved the way for a heartfelt tribute by the nation to those who gave of themselves at a time of great need.

Australia is a hot and dry country, and bushfires are a part of life.

However, these bushfires were unlike anything we had seen before.

From a holiday cottage near McLaren Flat, I watched and checked my CFS app, as fires threatened Yorketown and Edithburgh, and as they consumed large sections of the Adelaide Hills, destroying homes and livelihoods.

All those places hold memories from my childhood and young adult life in South Australia.

With my own home in Canberra shrouded in smoke from the New South Wales fires, I watched again, horrified like many Australians, as Kangaroo Island experienced the worst fires in its history.

I am told it is two years to the day that lightning strikes ignited the first Kangaroo Island fires.

It is a truism that the worst of times can bring out the best in people, and this was certainly evident during this very challenging time for our country.

Volunteer firefighters fought courageously alongside their professional peers, taking time off from their paid jobs to fight for local communities under threat.

Behind them were organisations such as St John who readily answered the call to provide first aid and support affected communities.

I know that many volunteers went above and beyond.

Because you care.

The statistics tell of the amazing commitment St John’s volunteers made to the South Australian bushfires response: 141 volunteers provided more than 9,330 hours of first aid, with 45 members eligible to receive the National Emergency Medal. (35 medal winners in attendance)

St John First Response Teams provided CFS members with eye washes, treatment for burns, exhaustion and dehydration at Staging Posts.

And I am sure that during this vital first aid, a reassuring word and kind smile did much to bolster spirits.

You willingly endured long shifts, and on Kangaroo Island the volunteers had to evacuate to Kingscote from Parndana as the fire intensified.

To all the volunteers, on behalf of all South Australians, I thank you for your commitment. Your contribution to the bushfires response was courageous and appreciated.

To the medal winners, I know you will wear the award with pride.

Because you have made South Australia proud.

Her Excellency the Honourable Frances Adamson AC

Governor of South Australia