AESM Vol 19, Issue 3 2020

The latest Australian Emergency Services Magazine. The latest in news from the emergency services sector and emergency management. Regular columns from Associate Professor Erin Cotter-Smith, Dr Michael Eburn and Paramedic Tammie Bullard. A look at bushfire season for this year, the dangers for police in the line of duty, uncovering exposure to natural hazards from the BNHCRC and a look at artist Daniel Sundahl and The Code 9 Foundation. In the Spotlight with Darin Sullivan and the latest travel adventure to Cairns in Emergency Breaks.

The latest Australian Emergency Services Magazine. The latest in news from the emergency services sector and emergency management. Regular columns from Associate Professor Erin Cotter-Smith, Dr Michael Eburn and Paramedic Tammie Bullard. A look at bushfire season for this year, the dangers for police in the line of duty, uncovering exposure to natural hazards from the BNHCRC and a look at artist Daniel Sundahl and The Code 9 Foundation. In the Spotlight with Darin Sullivan and the latest travel adventure to Cairns in Emergency Breaks.


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VOL 19: Isssue 3, 2020

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Disasters expose

gaps in social

media use

Social media can

provide invaluable

and time-critical

information to both

emergency services and

communities at risk.









A collection of deep,

personal artworks

that showcase the

brutal, difficult and

messy beauty and

incredible mateship

that is the life of an

emergency service





Exposure To

Natural Hazards

A closer look at The

Australian Exposure

Information Platform

(AEIP) by the BNHCRC


12 Months Since The

Last Bushfire Season


Should we expect to see

the same bushfire season

that we did last year? A

look at why that is unlikely

to happen.



The Dangers Facing

Australian Police In

The Line Of Duty

The horrific deaths of four

Victorian police officers

during seemingly routine

traffic duties have brought

the dangers of policing

into sharp relief.


No Emergency

Service Leave For


Dr Michael Eburn discusses

the law around granting

special leave during

emergencies for students

who choose to volunteer in

the SES



• Editor’s Note


• Recent Events

ESTA launches ECAN Program

An expert team to lead new Fire & Rescue Service

WA Surf Lifesaving Bravery Awards

Emergency Services Blood Challenge

• Emergency Law with Dr Michael Eburn

• Let’s Talk Mental Health with A/Prof Erin Cotter- Smith

• The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Paramedic

• In the Spotlight - Darin Sullivan

• Emergency Breaks - Cairns, Far North Queensland












Stay connected and up

to date on all the latest

emergency services news

on the website PLUS have

access to the magazine via

our dedicated App on both

Apple IOS and Google

Android platforms


Associate Professor Erin Cotter-Smith

Course Coordinator of the School of

Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan

University. Research Consultant at The

Code 9 Foundation. Well-Being Team Co-

Lead, The Australian Red Cross.


Dr Michael Eburn - PHD, Barrister

and leading expert in law relating to

emergency management & emergency




Tammie Bullard is a paramedic and

sessional lecturer based in Western

Australia. Author of The Good, The Bad

& The Ugly Paramedic


Editorial Content


Advertising Enquiries


Distribution Enquiries



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Each edition features a

profile on a person, team,

partnership, squad or unit

to showcase their unique

contribution to the Emergency

Services industry.

Explore local surrounds, or

new places that are only a

short plane trip or drive away,

so you can maximise every

minute of those days when

your name doesn’t appear

next to a call sign on the roster

Scan Me

to download the AESM App




We’re always there to help.

Let’s make sure we help each other and ask R U OK?





Welcome to the latest edition of the Australian

Emergency Services Magazine.

It is through difficult times that we all band together.

Whether it be within our own family, the workplace or

our community. Over this last six months we have all

witnessed this coming together to help each other to

the other side.

From all the team at the Australian Emergency Services

Magazine we would like to take this opportunity to

thank our contributors and our readers for your

continued support. We are all under a higher degree

of uncertainty and stress so finding the time to provide

articles and share your wealth of knowledge is very

much appreciated.

There is a great article in this edition about the artist

Daniel Sundahl and The Code 9 Foundation. Daniel has

put together his latest book, “Portraits of an Emergency;

Chapter 3”. The Australian sales of this book go

towards the incredible work that the Code 9 Foundation

does to support first responders and 000 operators

who live with PTSD. All the information about how to

purchase this book can be found in the article. So if

you can, let’s come together to support such a great


Hopefully a sense of normality isnt too far away for

everyone as restrictions start to lift. Let’s stay vigilant

and keep our community safe.

Bianca Peterson

Editor in Chief



The Australian Emergency Services Magazine

is a community educational resource

publication and does not promote itself

as a charity or fund raising institution, nor

solicit on behalf of charities and is no way

financially supported by or associated with

any government or similar institution.

Distribution of the publication is Bi-Monthly

and is circulated via a database of interested

parties, including business, subscribers,

advertisers, volunteer emergency

organistations, and council libraries. A

print and digital magazine is distributed to a

targeted database in each State & Territory.

Every effort is made to ensure that material

presented in the Australian Emergency

Services Magazine was correct at the time of

printing and is published in good faith, no

responsibility or liability will be accepted by

Boothbook Media.

The views and opinions expressed are

not necessarily those of Boothbook

Media and its employees. The content of

any advertising or promotional material

contained within the Australian Emergency

Services Magazine is not necessarily an

endorsement by Boothbook Media.

Published by Boothbook Media

ABN:72 605 987 031




We are always looking for new

and relevant content that

our readers will enjoy. If you

would like to be featured in

the magazine there are many

options. You may have a story

you would like to share, or

perhaps be featured in our “In

the Spotlight” regular column.

Please submit all articles or

expressions of interest to the

Editor for consideration at:



Articles should be no more than

1000 words and be relevant

to the content within the

Australian Emergency Services


www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 4





Necessity is the mother of invention, and two ESTA

team members have conceived and delivered an

innovative program that decreases call-taker workload

and gives callers access to up-to-date advice on the


Despite Telstra introducing a Recorded Voice

Announcement directing people to the national

Covid-19 help line, ambulance call-takers are still

receiving calls seeking advice about the virus.

Quality Improvement Manager Stephen Burgess had

an idea to address this and enlisted the ingenuity of

Technical Specialist Trevor Ives to turn the idea into


The result is a program called Emergency Caller

Automatic Notification (ECAN), which was

launched successfully last month.

When the caller requires advice on COVID-19, the

program creates a new message and forwards that

advice to the caller via SMS. It directs people to the

coronavirus helpline and the Department of Health

and Human Services website.

The service is designed for mobiles, but it can also

send pre-recorded messages to callers on landlines.

However, ECAN’s potential is not confined to

ambulance-related activity. Features that can be

enabled in the future include:

• text to voice messaging to landlines

• delivery of pre-recorded messages in LOTE

• post-dispatch instructions for scene safety, first

aid and evidence preservation

• total fire ban or storm notifications

• overwhelming service demand notifications.






The Victorian Government has

announced a team of highly

experienced fire and rescue sector

executives to support inaugural Fire

Rescue Commissioner Ken Block in

leading Victoria’s new service – Fire

Rescue Victoria (FRV) – from 1 July.

The newly appointed Deputy

Commissioners bring together

experienced senior firefighters from

the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB)

and Country Fire Authority (CFA) and

fire agencies from other jurisdictions,

and together with Commissioner Block,

will provide FRV with the executive

leadership, capability and experience


Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM)

recipient Kenneth Brown will join FRV

as Deputy Commissioner in the Office

of the Fire Rescue Commissioner. Mr

Brown brings to the role significant

experience in the fire and rescue

sector and is currently MFB Acting

Deputy Chief Officer, Operational


Michelle Young AFSM has been

appointed Deputy Commissioner of

Fire Safety, where she will manage

safety, fire investigation, alarm

assessment and community resilience.

Ms Young brings significant experience

as a firefighter with the Queensland

Fire and Emergency Services since

1995, where she is currently Assistant


David Bruce AFSM will bring the

impressive leadership experience

gained in his current position as Acting

CEO and Chief Officer of MFB to the

position as Deputy Commissioner,

North-West Operations.

Gavin Freeman AFSM will be Deputy

Commissioner for South-East

Operations, utilising his extensive

experience with the Tasmania Fire

Service and CFA, where he currently

works as Deputy Chief Officer.

Mr Freeman undertook the position

of Victorian State Response Controller

during the 2019-20 bushfire season.

Brendan Angwin brings expert

experience to FRV in the role of

Deputy Commissioner for Operational


Martin Braid AFSM will bring more

than 30 years’ experience to the

role of FRV Deputy Commissioner of

Strategy, where he will lead operational

communications, IT, policy and


The appointments were made

following a competitive recruitment

process led by an independent

executive recruitment agency. With

applications open Australia wide,

recruitment involved two rounds

of interviews conducted with

Commissioner Block and senior

executives from across government

and the emergency sector.

All appointees will begin in their

new roles on 1 July, upon the

commencement of FRV as a new

agency to bring together career

firefighters and staff from CFA and

MFB to lead fire and rescue services

Melbourne and major regional centres.

www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 6





Royal Life Saving Bravey Award recipients 2019

Each year Royal Life Saving WA’s

Bravery Awards acknowledge

dozens of Western Australians

who have saved the lives of others,

sometimes while risking their own life.

Nominations for this year’s awards

are currently open ahead of the

annual awards event which will be

held in mid-October.

The Bravery Awards are designed

to recognise and acknowledge the

efforts of people in our community

who have taken extraordinary action

to save, or attempt to save, another

person’s life.

Previous recipients have included

both children and adults, who have

performed acts of bravery including

in-water rescues, providing CPR

or first aid or otherwise putting

themselves in harm’s way to assist

another person.

Royal Life Saving WA CEO Peter

Leaversuch says the awards are

an important way to encourage

community members to learn

lifesaving skills. “Our annual Bravery

Awards are an opportunity to

showcase the efforts of members of

our community who have displayed

exceptional courage, empathy

and initiative by applying lifesaving

skills in emergency situations. The

Awards are a reminder of how

vitally important it is to learn how to

respond in an emergency.”

One of the recipients in 2019 was

Daniel Crook, who performed CPR

for 13 minutes on his friend, Michael,

who suddenly collapsed at home.

Paramedics credited Daniel for

saving Michael’s life, and Royal Life

Saving WA presented him with a

Gold Medallion Bravery Award for his


This is just one example of heroism

demonstrated by everyday lifesavers

all over our state, and we’re

encouraging Western Australians

who know of someone who deserves

recognition for an act of bravery to

nominate them today.

Individuals can be nominated

for brave acts that occur in any

environment and those who have

demonstrated use of qualifications

such as resuscitation awards, senior

first aid, bronze medallion or pool

lifeguard. Every action is courageous,

as is the person behind the action. So

why not become a part of something


Nominations can be made by anyone

who has information about the

incident simply by completing our

online form at www.royallifesavingwa.


Nominations close on Monday 31st

August 2020.




volunteer firefighter who was once

A in desperate need of donor blood

has called on her fellow CFA members

across Victoria to get involved and

donate if they are able to.

The Challenge, held annually by

the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

Service, runs from 1 June to 31 August,

and encourages emergency service

workers to join their team and donate,

competing to win the challenge and

more importantly, save lives.

Kylie Vernados is a Firefighter at

Bolinda & Monegeetta CFA and

required three units of red blood cells

after severe anaemia impacted her

quality of life.

“It was my only option for treatment,”

Kylie said.

“Prior to having the blood transfusion, I

was really fatigued, low energy, getting

short of breath when I was doing very

little strenuous activity, irregular heart

rates… it was stopping me from doing a

lot of things that I really wanted to do.

“It’s made a big, big difference.”

Kylie said while not everyone is able to

donate blood; it’s a great way to help

others if you can.

“I’d really encourage everyone who can

donate to get out there and do it,” she


“There are a lot of people like myself

who can’t donate, and we’re so grateful

for those who can.

“You just never know when you or

someone you love may need blood

products, so if you can do it – please





You can get a spot on the podium in

one of four categories:

• Most donations

• Most new donors

• Most plasma donations

• Highest year-on-year growth


Lifeblood Teams brings people

together to save lives – they’re made

up of people, like you, who care about

what’s happening in the world.

Together, they’re transforming the lives

of thousands of Australians.

Kylie Vernados - Firefighter at Bolinda & Monegeetta CFA

1, 2, 3, GIVE!

• Register a blood donor account if

you don’t already have one – you

can register online.

• Join your Lifeblood Team –

just follow the step-by-step

instructions on how to join a


• Book a time to give life. Every

donation you make automatically

goes towards your team’s tally

and the overall drive total!

That’s it. You can check in on the front

runners throughout the challenge and

see how you measure up.



It’s set to be a big one.

Just give blood or plasma between 1

June – 31 August to get involved.

As usual, competition will be fierce, with

Lifeblood Teams across the country

warming up to save the most lives.

Even though things are a bit different

right now, Australians still need your

blood and plasma donations.

www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 8












June 15th, 2020


Today’s correspondent is a



Leading expert in Law

relating to Emergency

Management & Emergency


… university student in [New South Wales]…, and I’m currently in the

process of joining the local SES unit. However, I had a concern about my

university commitments conflicting with this volunteering. As I’m sure

you know, when a student is unable to attend a class or assessment due

to extenuating circumstances, they can apply for consideration towards

their grade or a deferred assessment. The problem is that my university’s

‘Academic Consideration Policy’ does not account for emergency

service workers/volunteers (it mentions everything from military service,

to work commitments, religious holidays and beyond, but there is no

mention of emergency responders). Wanting to reassure myself before

becoming a volunteer, I attempted to deal with this by talking to staff at

the university to see if a volunteer would actually qualify for consideration.

Eventually I was given the rather unconvincing answer of ‘we don’t

really know; it would probably come down to the separate judgement of

each subject coordinator’. Having met most of my subject coordinators,

my consideration being left to their judgement with no guidance from

formal policies is a little alarming. Suppose there is a large flood I have

to attend during an exam time, or something similar?

Follow Michael Eburn

Facebook- facebook.com/


Twitter - @EburnM

For his latest articles on

Emergency Law go to:


Getting to the heart of my question;

is a university obligated by law to

make allowances for students that are

involved in emergency volunteering?

I have searched briefly through some

legislation myself and found protections

in the Fair Work Act for employees that

volunteer during emergencies, but I

can’t find any mention of students.

The short answer, and pretty much

the long answer too, is ‘no, a university

is not obligated by law to make

allowances for students that are

involved in emergency volunteering’.

After that sort of opening statement, I

would usually go onto explore ‘the law’

but given there is no legal obligation

of that sort, there is no law to cite. As

my correspondent has noted there are

protections for employees but not for


But I’ll wander out of my ‘lane’ for a

minute. As a university academic I am

aware that all universities have a special

consideration/deferred assessment

policy. Special consideration has

always confused me; I’m never sure

what to do with it. A student submits

work, you assess it, how can you then

give a higher mark on the basis that

they may have produced a different

result in different circumstances. The

transcript does not say ‘Distinction

(well not really but it might have been)’.

But there were circumstances were a

student did have say Distinction results

throughout the semester except for

the one affected assessment task and

their final result was one mark off a

Distinction so you would rely on the

‘special circumstances’ to push them

over. I’m sure most academics would

by sympathetic particularly as they live

in the same community and will be

aware of local floods or significant ones

requiring out of area assistance.

Deferred assessment is always

problematic. Students putting off

their exams from say November to

the ‘special exam period’ in January or

February never really do themselves

any favours.

With my academic hat on, I’d be

confident to say ‘I’m sure your teachers

will give whatever lee way they can, but

their options are limited and if results

are important, put your best foot


Putting on a different hat, this time as

someone who’s been involved, one

way or another, with the volunteer

emergency services since I was 13 and

during my university studies, I don’t

think you will find any service, or any

unit controller, that doesn’t say ‘put

your family, job and studies first’.

The question ‘Suppose there is a

large flood I have to attend during

an exam time, or something similar?’

demonstrates a misunderstanding of

the concept of volunteering. If there

is a large flood, or something similar,

a volunteer does not ‘have’ to attend,

they attend if they can. And one of the

factors that determines whether they

can is other commitments such as

exams. University students may not be

able to respond during exam time but

may have more availability than others

during the summer break (if that still

exists and the university hasn’t moved

to Trimesters). And units located near

universities that draw on students know

that and should accommodate that.

I would urge my correspondent to

discuss the matter with his or her local

unit leader. I’m sure any of them would

say ‘if you can’t come due to exams,

that’s fine’.

Photo: Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA.


As I said, the last two observations are

outside my proper scope of reporting

on the law. The legal answer is ‘a

university is not obligated by law to

make allowances for students that are

involved in emergency volunteering’.

This article originally appeared on the

blog Australian Emergency Law (https://

emergencylaw.wordpress.com/) and is reproduced

with the permission of the author.

As a blog post it represents the author’s opinion

based on the law at the time it was written. The

blog, or this article, is not legal advice and cannot be

relied upon to determine any person’s legal position.

How the law applies to any specific situation or

event depends on all the circumstances.

If you need to determine legal rights and obligations

with respect to any event that has happened, or

some action that is proposed, you must consult

a lawyer for advice based on the particular

circumstances. Trade unions, professional

indemnity insurers and community legal centres can

all be a source for initial legal advice.

www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 10






Australia has borne the brunt

of several major disasters in

recent years, including drought,

bushfires, floods and cyclones. The

increasing use of social media is

changing how we prepare for and

respond to these disasters. Not only

emergency services but also their

social media are now much-soughtafter

sources of disaster information

and warnings.

We studied Australian emergency

services’ social media use in times

of disaster. Social media can

provide invaluable and time-critical

information to both emergency

services and communities at risk. But

we also found problems.



The 2019-20 Australian bushfires

affected 80% of the population

directly or indirectly. Social media

were widely used to spread

awareness of the bushfire disaster

and to raise funds – albeit sometimes

controversially – to help people in


The escalating use and importance of

social media in disaster management

raises an important question:

How effective are social media

pages of Australian state emergency

management organisations in

meeting community expectations and


To answer this question, QUT’s

Urban Studies Lab investigated the

community engagement approaches

of social media pages maintained

by various Australian emergency

services. We placed Facebook and

www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 12

Twitter pages of New South Wales State Emergency

Services (NSW-SES), Victoria State Emergency Services

(VIC-SES) and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services

(QLD-FES) under the microscope.

Our study made four key findings.

First, emergency services’ social media pages are intended


• disseminate warnings

• provide an alternative communication channel

• receive rescue and recovery requests

• collect information about the public’s experiences

• raise disaster awareness

• build collective intelligence

• encourage volunteerism

• express gratitude to emergency service staff and


• raise funds for those in need.

Examples of emergency services’ social media posts are

shown below.

Second, Facebook pages of emergency services attract

more community attention than Twitter pages. Services

need to make their Twitter pages more attractive

as, unlike Facebook, Twitter allows streamlined data

download for social media analytics. A widely used Twitter

page of emergency service means more data for analysis

and potentially more accurate policies and actions.

Third, Australia lacks a legal framework for the use of

social media in emergency service operations. Developing

these frameworks will help organisations maximise its

use, especially in the case of financial matters such as


Fourth, the credibility of public-generated information

can sometimes be questionable. Authorities need to be

able to respond rapidly to such information to avoid the

spread of misinformation or “fake news” on social media.


Our research highlighted that emergency services could

use social media more effectively. We do not see these

services analysing social media data to inform their

activities before, during and after disasters.



In another study on the use of social media analytics for

disaster management, we developed a novel approach

to show how emergency services can identify disasteraffected

areas using real-time social media data. For that

study, we collected Twitter data with location information

on the 2010-11 Queensland floods. We were able to

identify disaster severity by analysing the emotional or

sentiment values of tweets.

This work generated the disaster severity map show

below. The map is over 90% accurate to actual figures

in the report of the Queensland Floods Commission of


Another concern is difficulty in receiving social media

messages from severely affected areas. For instance, the

disaster might have brought down internet or 4G/5G

coverage, or people might have been evacuated from

areas at risk. This might lead to limited social media posts

from the actual disaster zone, with increasing numbers of

posts from the places people are relocated.

In such a scenario, alternative social media analytics are

on offer. We can use content analysis and sentiment

analysis to determine the disaster location and impact.


Social media and its applications are generating new and

innovative ways to manage disasters and reduce their

impacts. These include:



The first highly voiced concern about social media use in

disaster management is the digital divide. While the issue

of underrepresented people and communities remains

important, the use of technology is spreading widely.

There were 3.4 billion social media users worldwide in

2019, and the growth in numbers is accelerating.

Besides, many Australian cities and towns are investing in

smart city strategies and infrastructures. These localities

provide free public Wi-Fi connections. And almost 90% of

Australians now own a smart phone.

The second concern is information accuracy or “fake

news” on social media. Evidently, sharing false information

and rumours compromises the information social media

provides. Social media images and videos tagged with

location information can provide more reliable, eyewitness


increasing community trust in emergency services by

social media profiling

crowd-sourcing the collection and sharing of disaster


creating awareness by incorporating gamification

applications in social media

using social media data to detect disaster intensity and

hotspot locations

running real-time data analytics.

In sum, social media could become a mainstream

information provider for disaster management. The need

is likely to become more pressing as human-induced

climate change increases the severity and frequency of


Today, as we confront the COVID-19 pandemic, social

media analytics are helping to ease its impacts. Artificial

intelligence (AI) technologies are greatly reducing

processing time for social media analytics. We believe the

next-generation AI will enable us to undertake real-time

social media analytics more accurately.

Tan Yigitcanlar

Associate Professor of

Urban Studies and Planning,

Queensland University of Technology

Nayomi Kankanamge

PhD Candidate,

School of Built Environment,

Queensland University of Technology

Ashantha Goonetilleke


Queensland University of Technology

This article was first published on

“The Conversation

www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 14

Lets Talk Mental


with Associate Professor

Erin Cotter-Smith



Even before the COVID-19

coronavirus pandemic diverted our

attention away from the bushfires

that devastated much of Australia

in early 2020, our infrastructure for

protecting mental health and wellbeing

– especially for our emergency

service personnel – was fragmented,

overburdened, and underperforming.

Now, coronavirus has put even more

stress on that broken system.

In Australia, mental health and

substance use disorders were

estimated to be responsible for

12% of the total burden of disease

in 2015, placing it fourth as a broad

disease group after cancer (18%),

cardiovascular diseases (14%) and

musculoskeletal conditions (13%).

In terms of the non-fatal burden of

disease, which is a measure of the

number of years of ’healthy life lost’

due to living with a disability, mental

health and substance use disorders

was the second largest contributor

in Australia behind musculoskeletal


While all population groups are

affected, this crisis is especially difficult

for those on the frontline of the


Research shows our first responders

are more likely to be diagnosed with

a mental health condition than the

overall Australian population. They are

more than twice as likely to think about

suicide, and three times as likely to

have a suicide plan.

This paints a grim picture of the wellbeing

of a population who dedicate

their professional lives to helping

others and highlights the need for

mental health support programs

to ‘reach in’ rather than expecting

emergency service personnel in crisis

to ‘reach out’.



We know the virus is having a deadly

impact on the human body, with

nearly seven million cases and around

400,000 deaths globally as of early June


But its impact on mental health may be

deadly too.

Some recent projections suggest that

deaths stemming from mental health

issues could rival the number of deaths

directly due to the virus. One study

estimates that anywhere from 27,644

to 154,037 additional deaths may occur

in the United States due to the impact

of the pandemic on mental health,

driving up the number of suicides and

drug overdoses.



While Australia has been widely

praised for its success in flattening the

disease curve, we now need to focus

our attention on flattening the ‘other

curve’ – the mental health impact of the

COVID-19 pandemic.

But how do we flatten the mental

health curve?

There is a comprehensive evidencebase

supporting traditional approaches

for treating and preventing anxiety,

depression and suicide. But many of

these are inadequate for the task at

hand and may be difficult to access

in person with physical distancing

restrictions and concerns regarding

community transmission of the virus.

For people trying to access treatment,

the doors of many community mentalhealth

centers are closed. For those

with both mental health conditions and

COVID-19, including a large number

who are homeless, no care is available,

and they are at risk of exposing others.



Further complicating matters is the

interruption to vital support networks

of friends and family that comes with

social distancing and enforced public

health restrictions. These networks

and social bonds would ordinarily

allow people to cope with crisis. Now

they are – if not damaged – perhaps

completely severed.



It is clear, that in response to the

pandemic, the way that we delivery

mental healthcare must change.

As a priority, mental health needs

to be accessible to all Australians


Traditional “in-person” approaches

– like individual or group face-toface

sessions with a mental health

professional – are currently not

a viable option for many in the

population. And with the everescalating

number of people

needing mental health support,

face-to-face approaches may

never meet the current


Telehealth sessions are

part of the answer.

However, they are not

the total solution.

Methods for nontraditional


healthcare delivery

must be explored in

order to meet the

rest of the growing

demand during and

after the COVID-19


This doesn’t

require us to



the wheel,

but asks us

to better utilise

some of the existing

resources that are

already available.

For example,

freely available

online courses

on mindfulness

and podcasts from

organisations that

support health and well-being,

including these from The Code 9

Foundation, Beyond Blue, and the

Black Dog Institute, are important

supplementary tools that people can

use as part of an overall approach to

protecting mental health.



One important lesson that has been

re-emphasised by COVID-19 is the

need to be more proactive when

it comes to protecting the mental

health and well-being of Australians.

Reactive approaches that fail to

promote mental health at the

population level and where initiatives

tend to focus exclusively on the

individuals who reach out and seek

treatment are destined to continue

under-serving the broader population

in need.

And there is good evidence that

many proactive, population-based

approaches improve mental health

– things like engaging in physical

Associate Professor

Erin Cotter-Smith

PhD, MPH, MClinEpi

Course Coordinator

Edith Cowan University

Research Consultant

The Code 9 Foundation

activity, getting enough

sleep, and making time for

self-care. Many of these

things are still easy to

achieve during the

pandemic – and are

mostly free!




And while

experts are

hopeful that a

vaccine against

the SARS-

CoV-2 virus will

be available

sooner rather

than later,

a vaccine will

not solve all of

the problems

associated with the


COVID-19 has revealed

the inadequacies of the

old mental health paradigm

– shining a spotlight on the

changes that are needed now.

In fact, many may argue that

these changes are, in fact, long







The horrific deaths of four Victorian police officers during

seemingly routine traffic duties have brought the dangers of

policing into sharp relief.

There are many threats to officers while they carry out their

duties, some more extreme than others. In a declaration about

the seriousness and risk of spitting, and just how common it

is, states and territories have introduced additional laws (aside

from common assault) to deal with people deliberately spitting,

sneezing and coughing on police and other essential services


So, exactly how are our officers sustaining injuries and other

medical conditions, and how often are officers dying in the line of


The National Police Memorial honour roll commemorates

Australian police officers who have been killed or died while

on duty in recognition of their contribution to the Australian

community. An examination of these fatalities from the past two

decades provides some revealing insights.

There were 51 officer fatalities in Australia between 2000 and

2019, an average of two to three a year. Until the recent deaths in

Victoria, there has not been so many deaths in Australia in a single

year since the deaths of five officers

in 2005. However, those fatalities

were all separate incidents. Sadly, in

2001, four officers died in the same

plane crash.

Officer fatalities have three main

causes: accidents, assaults and

health-related incidents. Similar

to the recent Victorian fatalities,

Australian police officers mostly died

due to accidents (65% of all police

fatalities), with road accidents being

the leading cause.

These deaths tend to occur during

seemingly low-risk activities such as

general duties patrols. Most of these

accidents involve motor vehicles

(55%), while 21% involve motorcycles.

However, as previously mentioned,

there have been plane crashes

(21%) and there was one accidental


It is notable that the number of

overall officer fatalities decreased

substantially after 2007. Before

2008, there was an average of 4.5

police deaths per year. But from

2008 onwards, the average fell to

1.25 deaths per year. This decrease

is mostly due to the decrease in

accidents, which dropped from an

average of 3.25 per year to just 0.58

per year.

So what changed? This decrease

might be explained by technological

advances and changes to practices.

For example, the Australian Design

Rules changed motor vehicle safety

standards to increase the safety of

airbags in 2006.

Also, police forces adopted more

helicopters into their fleets. The use

of helicopters for police pursuits may

reduce the necessity for officers to

engage in high-risk vehicle pursuits,

and therefore decrease the number

of accidents.

Finally, an inquest into the death

of Senior Constable Peter Wilson

led to changes to roadside policing

practices, which may also have

contributed to the decrease in


However, officers face not only

accidents, but also assaults and

homicides – not typically faced in

most other occupations. In the past

two decades, there were 14 assaults

on police. While these were almost

always shootings (11 of the 14 cases),

in one incident the driver of a stolen

vehicle purposefully swerved to hit an


Furthermore, the stressful and

physical nature of policing can lead to

health-related fatalities. While mental

health fatalities, such as suicide, are

not included in the data, physical

health-related incidents are included.

Over the past 20 years, four officers

have died due to health-related

matters while on duty. Three of these

cases involved a cardiovascular event

such as a heart attack during training.

In the fourth case an officer died

from a respiratory illness.




This last fatality highlights current

concerns during these coronavirus

times. While the cause of this officer’s

death is unknown, there are strong

concerns for the safety of our officers

who we rely upon in times of crisis

and to protect our community.

Indeed, a recent study of significant

events in Queensland found almost

half (44%) of the officers involved in

these events reported sustaining an

injury. These mostly involved officers

being spat on or bitten (36% of

injuries reported). This is concerning

because of the risk of viral infections

(all these officers required testing for

infection) and work-related anxiety.

The study argues these types of

attacks are indicative of opportunistic

assaults; that is, the offender takes

advantage of the situation and

attacks an officer. Furthermore, being

spat on is often viewed as insulting

and disgusting, which may cause

negative reactions from police and


These figures only include the

physical dangers of policing and do

not include the mental toll on our

officers. Tragic recent events have

highlighted the high-risk nature

of policing and the need to better

understand the dangers involved in

order to protect our officers from

harm so they can protect us during

times of crisis.


Kelly Hine

Lecturer in Criminology,

Australian National University

This article was first published on

“The Conversation”


is an Occupational

Therapy practice supporting

the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne.

We are dedicated to helping our clients

0400 121 513

accomplish their goals in living with a disability


because everyone deserves a chance to create. 5 Foulds Ct, Montrose Vic 3765

www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 20

Finding Peace





Words: Brooke Turnbull

Daniel Sundahl has spent his life doing a variety

of different things that eventually led him to

becoming an artist.

Working as both a paramedic and a fire fighter

in Canada, he knows all too well the weight that

emergency service workers wear every day. It is that

knowledge that allows him to create the artworks

that he does. Realistic, hyper photographic pieces

that stick with the viewer long after you’ve stopped

looking at them.

“Burden” was the first Dan Sundahl piece I saw

when researching this article, and it struck me as

so important. I paused on the image and fully took

in the meaning behind the artwork of the Canadian

Mounty, his head hung low, his hands clasped as if

in prayer, the dark engulfing him. The worry of all

emergency service personnel etched into every facet

of the piece, the burden they bear for all of us every


However, it’s not just the effects of what emergency

workers see every day that burdens them. When

describing the piece, Daniel succinctly delivers the

message of “Burden” and how relevant it is for police

services around the world, right now

“This isn’t about being rewarded for

what we do, it’s about realising the

burden and pressure we’re under

to be perfect 100% of the time. I

guess when lives matter nothing

less than 100% can be tolerated but

not everything is a life and death


While in isolation over the Covid-19

situation, Daniel formulated the

idea of the Covid-19 selfie project.

The piece is a collection of hundreds

of selfies Daniel has painted of

the many hospital and emergency

service workers who have been on

the frontline while the pandemic

crisis has been unfolding. It’s

dedicated to those workers who

have contracted the virus as a direct

result of treating patients.

The piece is obviously close to

Daniel’s heart, and while many of us

have been negatively impacted by

the Coronavirus pandemic, many of

these frontline emergency workers

have lost their lives. It’s a thought

that bears remembering and one

that Daniel is championing with this


“Many emergency workers have

lost their lives fighting this virus

and I hope one day they will be

remembered and honoured for

their sacrifice in some way. Part of

the reason I created the Covid-19

Selfie project is that I hope this

will be a historical document that

will remind people of this time in

emergency services history. I’m

worried the sacrifices that have

been made may be forgotten.”

Because of this, Daniel offers a free

download of this piece so these

brave men and women can be

remembered for their outstanding,

unflappable and persistent work for

our continued health.

When exploring the current state

of events that have impacted not

just hospital services but the police

services, we touch on the messages

of vitriol that many police officers

have experienced over the last few

months for the terrible actions of

a few. He has clear ideas about

how we should be moving forward

with the important issues that the

current events have raised,

“The vast majority of police operate

within their protocols and I think

it terrible that all police are being

grouped together and being held

accountable. Of course, I feel the

officers that have used unnecessary

force and intimidation should be

reprimanded and in the cases

where people have been killed

those officers should be in jail, if

found guilty. The idea of defunding

the police is very dangerous in my

opinion. Diverting money to training

may be a better solution.”

It’s an important conversation to

be recognised and the constant

pressure of both outside and

internal review for all emergency

service workers impacts mental

health like nothing else.

Daniel’s passion, along with his own

struggles with mental health, has

steered him to a partnership with

The Code 9 Foundation, one that he

is extremely proud of.

The Code 9 Foundation hosted

Daniel’s trip to Australia in 2019 and

gave him the opportunity to speak

to many of his Australian peers

about Post Traumatic Growth that

included his own mental health

journey of recovery and resiliency.

He speaks articulately about how

his art has assisted him in his

recovery. When asked if his art is a

catharsis, he likens the experience

to an uninvited organic monster,

“Each image is based on an

experience or emotion I’ve had

from being a full-time firefighter

and paramedic. When I create an

art piece I purge that monster from

my mind and capture it into a one

dimensional image. The process

takes about a week and while I work

on the image I try to recreate what I

felt instead of what I saw. The process

is very emotional and cathartic for


It makes the viewing of the images

that much more powerful. Going

back for several more looks at his

work on his website they take on

a new meaning knowing that each

image is so personal, raw and

something that actually happened to

a human being.

It’s something that people who

don’t have personal experience

being in the emergency services

can sometimes find impossible to

understand. This is where the good

work that The Code 9 Foundation

does really comes into play.

The Foundation understands that

it’s hard to talk to family members

or friends that aren’t in the job,

that don’t walk the beat, that don’t

risk their lives fighting fires, or

facing monsters, both physical and

metaphorical, daily. They offer a safe

space for individuals who do deal

with these issues to speak freely and

without judgement.


In addition, The Code 9 Foundation

offers services for partners and family

members to assist in understanding

the mental health struggles that

come from the pressures of a job

many of us couldn’t imagine doing

every day of our lives. Something

that these everyday heroes just deal

with, with no complaint.

It’s no wonder Daniel Sundahl is so

proud to be working with The Code

9 Foundation and helping to support

their mental health initiatives. Not

only do they offer peer support for

members and their partners, but

raising money for Assistance Dogs

Australia (along with the sponsorship

of their first Assistance Dog, Codey),

is a project at the heart of Code 9.

You can follow Codey’s journey on


The Code 9 Foundation have also

formulated specific webinars that are

targeted at first responders and their

psychological wellbeing, as well as

mental health first aid courses that

assist emergency service workers

with how to identify and be aware of

their symptoms.

The Code 9 Foundation website is a

plethora of information for members

and first responders looking for help.

Daniel has partnered with The Code

9 Foundation through the sale of his

latest book in Australia. This is Dan’s

third book, “Portraits of Emergency

- Chapter 3”. A collection of deep,

personal artworks that showcase the

brutal, difficult and messy beauty and

incredible mateship that is the life of

an emergency service worker.

The proceeds of this book will go

towards all the incredible work

that the Code 9 Foundation does

to ensure their members and first

responders are looked after, after

they’ve finished looking after us.

Daniel is rightfully proud of this

collection and the message is, like the

book itself, a deeply personal look at

his experiences and his passion for

sharing it with other first responders

who can relate with the struggle,

“I think one of the reasons the book is

helpful is that it shows that we’re not

alone in the experiences or emotions

we have in emergency services. For

me, when I was going through my

recovery, knowing that I wasn’t crazy,

that the way I felt was more normal

than abnormal, really helped me

reset my perspectives which was

instrumental in my recovery.”

To support both The Code 9

Foundation and Daniel Sundahl,

you can purchase Daniel Sundahl’s

third book “Portraits of Emergency

- Chapter 3” by sending an email to

info@code9ptsd.org.au with your

name, order quantity and address.

The Cost is $90 per unit which

includes postage and handling. This

can be paid via a paypal account. The

Code 9 Foundation will provide you

with a link.

You can also view all of Daniel’s

powerful images on his website www.


Should you wish to support the Code

9 Foundation’s initiatives for mental

health services for first responders or

if you are feeling personally impacted

by mental health issues, you can

visit their website at https://www.


www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 24



As Australian communities recover from one natural

hazard and prepare for the next one, there are important

questions to ask about which areas are most exposed to

possible loss of life, landscape and property.



The Australian Exposure Information Platform helps government, industry and research agencies understand what is exposed in an area, to inform better decisions before, during

and after emergencies. Credit: Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC

We need to understand which of our

people, buildings, business, public

facilities, infrastructure, agricultural

areas and natural landscapes are

exposed to any natural hazard, as

well as human-induced disasters

and structural failures. A clearer

understanding of this exposure is a

highly valuable starting point for any

sector that is required to prepare for

and respond to hazards, both in the

response and warnings phase, but

also in mitigation.

The Australian Exposure Information

Platform (AEIP) is an online platform

that provides an accessible snapshot

of all assets within a specified area, in

the form of a customised ‘exposure


It was designed through a partnership

between the Bushfire and Natural

Hazards CRC, Geoscience Australia,

University of Melbourne, University

of Canberra and emergency

management organisations.

on demand at any scale,” Rose told


Lead CRC researcher, Mark Dunford

from Geoscience Australia, says that

these exposure reports provide a

new, quick way of accessing important

information that can be used for

mitigation and operational decision

making for any hazard at any time

within any specified area. This is

essential information that helps

improve safety, save lives and reduce

damage to property and natural

landscapes, and can be used not only

by emergency management, but also

researchers, town planners or anyone

else who’s interested.

“For the first time, everyone has direct

24/7 access to nationally consistent

exposure information anywhere in

Australia, through a user-driven, ondemand

interface,” he said. “They can

readily utilise exposure information

as a key piece of intel for critical preplanning,

or on-the-fly scenario event


The reports created by the AEIP

draw on a wealth of data sources

out of the National Exposure

Information System (NEXIS) database,

including local, state, federal and

industry data; ABS demographics;

environmental exposure data from

the Department of Agriculture, Water

Chief of Division at Geoscience

Australia, Alison Rose, explained

the significance of the platform to

the Royal Commission into National

Natural Disaster Arrangements in

early June.

“The AEIP is an all-hazards capability,

which provides exposure reports



and the Environment; and agriculture,

business, building and institution data.

The AEIP is already being widely used

across Australia, including during

our most recent devastating natural


“During the 2019/20 bushfire period,

14,400 reports were generated.

On an average monthly basis, we

have around 400 reports that are

generated, and we currently have

244 users across 58 different entities

that use the tool,” Rose told the Royal


Half of these entities are emergency

management agencies, with local

government authorities and electricity

providers among a group of regular


Anyone wanting to access the AEIP

and its exposure reports can do so

through the free online platform

– aeip.ga.gov.au – or can integrate

the platform into their own existing

applications using an Application

Programming Interface, or API. This

means that users can create regular

reports without having to leave their

own system, which is what the New

South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW

RFS) has been doing for months.

Dr Stuart Matthews, principal project

officer at NSW RFS, describes the

value of being able to integrate the

AEIP into their internal fire simulator.

“The ability to integrate AEIP …

provides an excellent triage capability

to support decision makers in

times of rapidly changing events as

experienced in the unprecedented

bushfire season of 2019/20,” Dr

Matthews said.

The AEIP has already proven to be

invaluable in a crisis, when demand

for critical information is extremely

high. By speeding up the automatic

delivery of vital exposure information,

its nationally consistent and easily

accessible format ensures that

information and decision making can

be calculated and coordinated across

Australia. Explore it at aeip.ga.gov.au.

End-user areas of interest (more than 14,000) for December 2019 to March 2020. This map shows that exposure reports were generated for both small and large areas, covering all

states and territories. Dark-blue areas show multiple AEIP queries, correlating with extreme weather events e.g. 2019/20 bushfires. Credit: Australian Exposure Information Platform

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www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 28

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly


Tammie Bullard is a paramedic and sessional lecturer based

in Western Australia. Author of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Paramedic - A pain free approach to best patient care and




One of the things often overlooked in

training is the precepting of students

and interns. There is no more crucial

a time for a new paramedic than their

first foray into ambulance life. Without

a specific emphasis on this skill, it

can be easy to forget its importance.

How we introduce new staff members

to the prehospital world can make

all the difference. Not only to their

experience in the workplace but in

their general attitude, clinical practice,

should we become their patients in

the future.

On the job learning is vital in

healthcare settings, particularly

in paramedicine with its unique

challenges of autonomy and frontline

pressure. It enables new staff to

enhance academic knowledge

through hands-on experience and

develop recently acquired skills

in the safety of competent clinical

supervision. Overall, they finally get

to consolidate training by putting it

into practice in real-life situations.

With the guidance of an effective

preceptor, this venture into each

new paramedic’s role can provide

the perfect opportunity to increase

confidence and job satisfaction.

During such a pivotal period, how a

preceptor interacts with the student

and guides them into paramedicine

may make or break their future

career. The aim of instilling excellent

clinical practice behaviours and

professionalism to last a lifetime

is clearly crucial, so what are the

challenges in delivering to such a high


• Terminology: Confusion around

terminology has been longstanding,

with a combination of mentor,

preceptor, facilitator, role model,

guide, supervisor and assessor

referenced over time.

• Approach: Attempts to view every

preceptor and every preceptee

in the same light have created

difficulties in ascertaining a

consistently replicable approach.

• Standardisation: Minimal industry

standards have existed in terms of

what the precepting role entails.

• Tools: Communication skills and

feedback were most often based

on individual perception, risking

confusion, damage to confidence

and development of poor habits.

• Workload: Additional workload

and increased stress with minimal

support or financial remuneration

have drained and overwhelmed

preceptors in the past.

Lack of clarity in each of these areas

causes stress, overwhelm and personal

conflict, subsequently reducing

willingness to address issues arising

in on-road clinical and professional

practice. Ultimately, this leads to a

more “tick and flick” approach to skills

logs. Research and reflection have

highlighted areas for improvement and,

in more recent years, we see significant


• Terminology: The use of preceptor

and, less frequently, mentor are

now becoming more familiar as

terms that envelop ideal traits and

qualities for on-road introduction

to the paramedic role.

• Approach: Recognition of different

service pathways, tertiary education

formats and individual personalities

are beginning to enhance

understanding around the need for

an all-encompassing approach.

• Standardisation: Industry

standards are helping to form

the basis of performance models,

primarily when supported by

registration principles.

• Tools: Positive feedback methods

have been highlighted as successful

and are becoming utilised more

frequently within ambulance

services and education.

• Workload: Recognition of the

additional demand on paramedic

preceptors has seen some success

through supportive measures such

as peer discussion, allocated time

for debriefing or documentation,

promotional structures and

financial compensation.

This gradual development of each facet

is slowly increasing collective desire

for paramedics to become preceptors,

rather than naturally progressing

towards the role without a clear

purpose. To help to shape a positive

future, what are we aiming for?

• Terminology: Clarity and definition

around the singular terms

“preceptor” and “preceptee” that



ecome globally accepted and

recognised throughout prehospital


• Approach: Selection and training,

specific to evidence-based criteria,

so that competent paramedics may

be educated in precepting for the


• Standardisation: Industry-wide

standards formulated to provide

clear expectation and guidance

for both preceptor and preceptee

to work from. The establishment

of clear underpinning principles

so that paramedics with excellent

clinical and professional standards

more readily aspire to become

excellent preceptors.

• Tools: Development of a range of

recognised communication and

feedback tools so that both parties

have guidance within consistent


• Workload: Implementation of

measures to address, alleviate

and compensate for the additional

workload and emotional labour

involved in precepting.

Strong paths are being forged towards

defining the role and industry standards

in precepting paramedics for the future.

The introduction of students and

graduates into prehospital care is now

more widely discussed, and previous

gaps in research are slowly being filled.

(There are some theses and articles that

are well worth reading in the references

list below.) Historically, much of the

focus has remained on the difficulties

faced by graduates entering the

workforce, but there are similar facets

to consider in supporting both parties if

we are to develop effective precepting

programs and foster strong working


It is well recognised that the learning

curve is steep for new paramedics, but

that learning curve can also be steep

in the preceptor position, too. Just as

preceptees don’t necessarily know the

best ways to approach clinical skills

or professional practice, it cannot be

assumed that preceptors always have

the best answers either. Entry into

paramedicine is known to be a difficult

time with the balance of personal,

emotional, academic, financial and

professional commitments, but it stands

to reason that this can be the case at

any time in the preceptor’s life, too.

With so much going on in the

background of defining, developing and

delivering paramedic preceptorship to a

high professional standard, we mustn’t

forget those currently active within the

role. Unless and until we are provided

clear guidelines in each organisation,

the following prompts may be useful

before and during the time we spend

with students and graduates.


• What benefits are you seeking, and

what are you offering in becoming

a preceptor?

• Are you ready to undertake the

additional workload involved right


• Do you possess positive

professional attributes that may be

worth replicating?

• Are you comfortable delivering and

receiving honest feedback without

feeling stressed?

• Will you be the type of preceptor

that you would have benefited from

in your early career?


• Make a list of expectations you

have of the role so that you can

reassess in the future.

• Note precepting habits you wish

to avoid and check in on them

annually to stay on track.

• Print out a diagram or chart to

follow consistently in working

through feedback together.

• Refresh reflective practice

techniques and find a set method

to become familiar with.

• Seek formal training in precepting,

or research and read material to

help you form a plan.

• Investigate learning techniques and

find out from preceptees which

work well for them.

• Know what your registration body

expects of all paramedics and use

this as a baseline.

• Create (or join if your organisation

has one) a confidential peer

preceptor support group.

• Find out what additional support

exists within your organisation

before you get started.

• Make a brief list of things useful

for new preceptees to know about

working with you.

• Create a list of questions so that

you can tailor and optimise each

precepting relationship.

• Let the preceptee know your

expectations right from the start

and find out theirs, too.

The rewards to be gained from

precepting are enormous, but they are

rarely automatic and must be actively

sought. Like many relationships, the

more we put in, the more get out. We

always recall our past preceptors for

both their good and their bad. Now’s the

time to decide just how we’d like to be

remembered ourselves and take steps

to precept successfully with intent.


Armitage, E. (2010). Role of paramedic mentors in an evolving

profession. Journal of Paramedic Practice, 2(1), 26–31. https://doi.


Carver, H. (2016). The Paramedic Preceptor Experience: Improving

Preparation and Support. Charles Sturt University. Retrieved from


Edwards, D. E. (2018). A Grounded Theory Study of the

Preparedness of Paramedics to Undertake the Role of Preceptor in

the Clinical Setting. University of Tasmania. Retrieved from https://


Myrick, F., Caplan, W., Smitten, J. & Rusk, K. (2011). Preceptor/mentor

education: A world of possibilities through e-learning technology.

Nurse Education Today, 31, 263-267. https://doi-org.ezproxy.ecu.


O’Meara, P., Hickson, H., & Huggins, C. (2014). Starting the

conversation: what are the issues for paramedic student clinical

education? Australasian Journal of Paramedicine, 11(4). https://doi.


Pitcher, D. (2016). Evaluating a program for preparing nurse

practitioner preceptors/mentors. Journal of Doctoral Nursing

Practice, 9(1), 158–163. https://doi.org/10.1891/2380-9418.9.1.158

Sibson, L., & Mursell, I. (2010). Mentorship for paramedic practice:

are we there yet? Journal of Paramedic Practice, 2(5), 206–209.


Sibson, L., & Mursell, I. (2010). Mentorship for paramedic practice: is

it the end of the road? Journal of Paramedic Practice, 2(8), 374–380.


Ulrich, B. T. (2019). 2nd ed. Mastering precepting : A nurse’s

handbook for success. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.


Walker, S., Dwyer, T., Moxham, L., Broadbent, M. & Sander, T.

(2013). Facilitator versus preceptor: Which offers the best support

to undergraduate nursing students? Nurse Education Today, 33,

53-535. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2011.12.005

Williams, A. (2013). The strategies used to deal with emotion work in

student paramedic practice. Nurse Education in Practice, 13, 207-

212. https://doi-org.ezproxy.ecu.edu.au/10.1016/j.nepr.2012.09.010

To see more about “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Paramedic”, head to

www.gbuparamedic.com or follow GBU Paramedic on social media




Tammie Bullard

www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 30

The Govetts Leap bush fire burnt upwards over the cliffs of the Blue Mountains.

The cliff faces in the Grose Valley, can reach heights of over 200m






Last season’s bushfires directly killed 34 people and devastated more than 8

million hectares of land along the south-eastern fringe of Australia.

A further 445 people are estimated to have died from smoke-induced

respiratory problems.

The burned landscape may take decades to recover, if it recovers at all.

While it’s become known colloquially as the Black Summer, last year’s fire

season actually began in winter in parts of Queensland. The first fires were

in June.

So will the 2020 fire season kick off this month? And is last summer’s

inferno what we should expect as a normal fire season? The answer to both

questions is no. Let’s look at why.


Kevin Tolhurst

Hon. Assoc. Prof., Fire Ecology and Management,

University of Melbourne

This article was first published on

“The Conversation”

www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 32

Last fire season

First, let’s recap what led to last year’s

early start to the fire season, and why

the bushfires became so intense and


The fires were so severe because

they incorporated five energy

sources. The most obvious is fuel: live

and dead plant material.

The other sources bushfires get

their energy from include the terrain,

weather, atmospheric instability and

a lack of moisture in the environment

such as in soil, timber in houses and

large woody debris.

The June fires in Queensland resulted

from a drought due to the lack of rain

coming from the Indian Ocean. The

drought combined with unusually hot

dry winds from the north-west. By

August the bushfires were burning all

along the east coast of Australia and

had become large and overwhelming.

Ahead of the fire season,

environmental moisture was the

lowest ever recorded in much of

eastern Australia. This was due to the

Indian Ocean Dipole – the difference

in sea surface temperature on either

side of the ocean – which affects

rainfall in Australia. The dipole was

in positive mode, which brought

drought. This meant the fire used less

of its own energy to spread.

High atmospheric instability, often

associated with thunderstorms,

enabled large fire plumes to develop

as fires grew to several thousand

hectares in size. This increased winds

and dryness at ground level, rapidly

escalating the damaging power and

size of the fires.

Fuel levels were high because of the

drying trend associated with climate

change and a lack of low-intensity

fires over the past couple of decades,

which allowed fuel levels to build up.

What’s different now

Currently, at least two bushfire

energy sources – fuels and drought –

are at low levels.

Fuels are low because last season’s

fires burnt through large tracts of

landscape and it will take five to ten

years for them to redevelop. The

build-up will start with leaf litter, twigs

and bark.

In forested areas, the initial flush

of regrowth in understorey and

overstorey will be live and moist.

Gradually, leaves will turn over and

dead litter will start to build up.

But there is little chance of areas

severely burnt in 2019-20 carrying an

intense fire for at least five years.

What’s also different this year to

last is the moist conditions. Drought

leading up to last fire season was

severe (see below).

Environmental moisture was the

driest on record, or in the lowest 5%

of records for much of south-east


But the current level of drought is

much less pronounced.

Fire weather conditions in southeastern

Australia were severe from

August 2019 until March 2020.

Temperatures reached record highs

in places, relative humidity was low

and winds were strong due to highpressure

systems tracking further

north than normal.

Rainfall Deficiencies: 36 months (February 1 2017 to January 31 2020). Australian Bureau of Meteorology,


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Sunbury, Victoria 3429

0407 317 716



But, in the longer term, climate

change means severe fire seasons

are becoming more frequent. If we

simply try to suppress these fires,

we will fail. We need a concerted

effort to manage the bushfire risk.

This should involve carefully planned

and implemented prescribed fires,

as well as planning and preparing for


Last bushfire season should be a

turning point for land management

in Australia. Five inquiries into the

last bushfire season are under way,

including a royal commission, a

Senate inquiry and inquiries in South

Australia, Victoria and New South


This European Space Agency image shows the fires already raging on Australia’s east coast by the end of December 2019. EPA/ESA

A change in weather patterns

brought good rains to eastern

Australia from late February to April.

A turning point?

The reduced bushfire risk is likely

to persist for the next three to five


These inquiries must lead to

change. We have a short window of

opportunity to start managing fires in

the landscape more sustainably. If we

don’t, in a decade’s time we may see

the Black Summer repeat itself.

It’s too early to say conclusively how

the fire season will pan out in 2020-

21. But moister conditions due to

a neutral Indian Ocean Dipole and

Southern Oscillation Index (which

indicates the strength of any El Niño

and La Niña events), the lack of fuel,

and more normal weather patterns

(known as a positive Southern

Annular Mode) mean there is little

prospect of an early start to the


The likelihood of severe bushfires in

south-east Australia later in the year

and over summer is much reduced.

This doesn’t mean there won’t be

bushfires. But they’re not likely to be

as extensive and severe as last fire


Rainfall Deficiencies: 12 months (June 1 2019 to May 31 2020). Australian Bureau of Meteorology



www.silverspade.com.au 0410 101 011

www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 34




Put your hand up for help.

The sooner you do, the sooner you get better.








In each edition the Australian Emergency Services Magazine we

feature a profile on a person, team, partnership, squad or unit

to showcase their unique contribution to the emergency services

industry. If you would like to be featured or know someone who

deserves some recognition get in touch with our team.


Professional firefighter Darin Sullivan has

worn many hats over the last 30 years of

fighting fires in New South Wales. Volunteer,

Career Firefighter, Station Officer, Protector,

Activist, former Union Official and President

of the Fire Brigade Employees Union, Mental

Health Advocate and Climate Council

Member. With so many years of experience

and an obvious dedication for firefighting

and emergency services we put Darin under

the spotlight to find out a bit more about

this man of many talents and passions.

Station Officer Darin Sullivan is celebrating his 30th

year working for one of the largest urban fire and

rescue services in the world, Fire and Rescue NSW.

His role as station officer at Shellharbour Fire Station,

south of Wollongong, is one he relishes. Not only as it

seems fighting fires is in his blood, but also because of the

community and camaraderie that comes with the job.

It would seem Darin was destined to become a

professional career firefighter. His father, Peter Sullivan,

was also a professional aviation firefighter. It was

the memories of his father coming home wearing his

firefighting gear, the lingering smell of smoke around him

and the great stories he would tell of the day and the

incredible camaraderie of the crew he worked with that

really made a deep impression.

Growing up in the southern shire of Sydney, surrounded

by national parks, joining the RFS as a volunteer when he

was seventeen seemed an obvious choice for Darin. His

then girlfriend, now wife, also had four family members in

the local RFS station at Heathcote, her father eventually

becoming a Life member. Interestingly prior to joining

the RFS Darin had already made up his mind. At the age

of fifteen he knew he wanted to become a professional

firefighter. By the time he was 20 he had applied to the

NSW Fire Service with 10 000 other hopefuls and made it

through the rigorous training that followed.

Darin when he joined NSWFB with his father Peter Sullivan - 1990

www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 36

Reflecting on the last thirty years of being in the fire

service he speaks of the great career choice that it was for

him and feels really lucky to have had the experiences and

life it has brought. Darin began his career at the innercity

flagship station, Sydney Fire Station on Castlereigh

Street. He describes himself as a fresh faced 21 year

old who entered the bustling city station which housed a

large firefighting crew. Darin says he “cut his teeth” there

as a firefighter and asserts it was a great place to do that.

The diversity of working as a city firefighter and the many

varied and colourful experiences of urban firefighting

really consolidated his training. From fighting fires in Kings

Cross, major high-rise fires at The Rocks to the many

rescues across the Sydney region at all times of the day

and night.

After 6 years working in the city, he was transferred

to Wollongong which he describes as another very

interesting and diverse place to work in its own right due

to the varied industry in the area. An example of this was

an incident that occurred during his time in Wollongong

where his team were called to a boat fire off Port Kembla.

The crew were expecting to be dealing with a boat

fire when they turned up at the dock and were quickly

ushered on to a police tug. They could only fit 10 guys

on the tug so they grabbed what they could in terms of

equipment and supplies. They travelled 7km out from

the Port and it was then that they realised it wasn’t just a

boat, it was a bulk carrier coal ship that was on fire. They

fought the fire for 8 hours straight until helicopters came

in and were able to assist.

As a professional firefighter Darin has been deployed to

all the major fire campaigns in New South Wales over

the last three decades. From the 1994 bushfire season

where over two million acres were burnt in New South

Wales, to the Black Christmas bushfires in 2001, Canberra

in 2003 and of course most recently the Black Summer

of 2019-20 where he suffered the worst bout of smoke

inhalation he had ever had which forced him to take a few

days off to recover.

Darin has been leading the Movember Fire Campaigns for the last 15 years

The Summer bushfires of 2019/20 stand out for Darin as

the worst he has seen in his career and he is in no doubt

that the climate and the inaction of a climate policy has

had its affect on the bushfire season and will continue in

seasons to come. He describes what firefighters are seeing

and feeling on the ground is certainly backed up by the

science and is a symptom of what the science has been

predicting for years.

It was on New Year’s Eve that the bushfires really had a

personal impact. Darin and his family had been holidaying

at Lake Conjola on the NSW South Coast when he was

called back home to work on New Years Eve. He wasn’t to

know as he left his wife and family that morning that within

hours Lake Conjola would be overrun by an inferno of fire.

A firestorm that would send people fleeing to the water for

safety, burn 89 homes in the area and see three people

tragically lose their lives.

Darin speaks of the anxiety he felt when he received

a message from his wife that the fire was all around

them, then all communication was cut. Power and

telecommunication towers to the town were down. He was

hours away doing his job.

An hour or so later his Hazardous Materials Specialist

Unit were called to the bushfire disaster unfolding at

Bateman’s Bay. They drove through the main fire front

at great risk to themselves in convoy with a few other fire

trucks. He says there were dozens and dozens of houses

lost at Bateman’s Bay, all just carnage. They finished the

job and drove back past the Lake Conjola area, stopping to

help bystanders at the Lake Conjola exit. They made the

decision to drive through the fire into Lake Conjola to help,

where he managed to find his wife and discovered the rest

of the family had evacuated earlier to safety.

Deployment during the NSW Black Summer bushfires 2019-20

It was a 24 hour workday for Darin, but one he remembers

as the most surreal New Year’s Eve he had ever experienced

after such a harrowing day. “These bushfires were the worst

that I’ve seen – I’ve fought and been deployed in many of

the major campaigns over the last 30 years and that was

by far the worst I’ve seen. Coupled with the sheer spread

of it, the whole eastern seaboard was ablaze. In 1994 it felt


like Sydney was surrounded but in 2019/20 the

whole state was surrounded by fire”.

The physical, emotional and mental toll of

fighting fires is not lost on Darin. He credits

Fire and Rescue NSW with having a great

structure in place to help firefighters deal

with the mental stress, but he also says it

is the job. As a professional firefighter you

are prepared for it, intentionally trained for

it. In contrast, the volunteer firefighters were

enormously overstretched and broken by

this latest bushfire campaign. Darin believes

that the entire organisational structure of

firefighting and emergency services needs a

reset. Merging the services into one would end

the duplicated processes, have an allocated

budget for efficiency and give the fire services

who are the frontline of disaster management

a clear structure. “Firefighting should be taken

as seriously as police, paramedics and hospitals’, he says

“We don’t have volunteer police or doctors in our regional

towns, it’s all a matter of funding”.

Advocating for what is right, when it comes to protecting

those who put their lives on the line, is something that

is close to Darin’s heart. As the second longest serving

president of the Fire Brigades Employees Union and a

former director of the NSW Fire Brigades Death & Disability

Super Fund, he was instrumental in the protection of

workers compensation for fire fighters and ensuring

that firefighters suffering cancer would have immediate

insurance cover due to the nature of the job. He explains,

“The greatest risk for firefighters whether it be urban or

rural is the accumulative effect of smoke from different

sorts of fires….it’s not just the big bad fires that cause the


Darin lost both his father and brother in law to cancer,

both whom were firefighters. In an interview given to

The Sunday Telegraph in 2018 Darin spoke of his brother

in-law, “In 2007, I sat by his bed with my sister as his life

had all but faded, no workers’ compensation or medical

assistance was provided for his girls. He died in a shared

public hospital ward with little to show for his service to the

people of NSW”.

Darin is still just as passionate about this advocacy and

proud that he was able to make a difference so that other

firefighters and families going through the same thing

would at the very least be financially compensated.

Darin is reluctant to call himself a protector, however he

does say that his advocacy role as a union official came

from being there for others. Looking after other members

and families in the good times and the bad times. “It’s

just what we should do”, he says. Darin balances his

professional firefighting job at Shellharbour with his

activism around climate inaction, mental health and

protecting emergency service workers. In response to

being asked if he would take on a role behind a desk in the

fire service, he laughs and explains, “I’ve wanted to stay at

the rank of station officer as I still like going to the fires, I

still like getting in the trucks, interacting with the firies and

I love the station life”. When asked what he loves about his

job Darin says it might sound cliché but, “The camaraderie

is fantastic, I’ve got great mates, I’ve got lifelong friendships

and experiences which spread to outside the job and that’s

been an absolute joy. From joining as a young bloke and

to have gained lifelong friends, it’s an absolute pleasure.

I’m still loving the job, more than ever”.

Thank you Darin for your continued service, dedication and

contribution to the emergency services in Australia.

Leading the Fire Brigade Employees Union Workers comp strike 2012

www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 38




If you’re looking for a mid-year, Winter break, the best

place to look is up north, of course!

Words: Brooke Turnbull

The closer you get to the equator,

the less seasonal changes occur,

so the north of the country really

only has two seasons. Wet season,

this generally lasts from November

to March, and Dry season, which

lasts April to November. So, if you’re

heading north for the Winter, or live in

Cairns and are looking for an excellent

staycation, look no further for our



Cairns has its own airport and all

major capital cities fly into it. Cairns

itself is situated at the top of the Great

Barrier Reef and because of this, has

access to some of the most stunning

and beautiful coastline that Australia

has to offer. If you’re flying in, you can

rent a car and drive around the area,

otherwise there are plenty of day

tours on offer to get you around to all

the major things to see.

Things to do:

Cairns, with it’s palm tree rimmed

coastlines and dense, tropical

rainforests, has no shortage of things

to do. Whether you’re looking for an

adventure holiday or somewhere to

relax and unwind, Cairns is the place

to do it. First up, we want to introduce

you to a world of adventure in Cairns.

From white water rafting to bungy

jumping, if you’re ready to get your

heart racing and your blood rushing in

your ears then look no further.

With 32 years of experience in taking

holiday makers safely to the water,

Raging Thunder White Water Rafting is

unbeatable for excitement and value

for money.

If you’re new to the white water rafting

game, that’s no problems, there’s no

experience needed for you to get

your life jacket on and your oar wet.

If you’re looking for a fun start up,

the Cairns rafting experience takes

you down the Barron river with grade

2-3 guided rapids. However, because

we’re a little more extreme, we highly

recommend the Tully River Rafting


With accommodation pick ups

available, the full day adventure takes

you down to the Tully River and can

boast the best river rafting in Australia

and New Zealand combined, which is

no mean feat, believe us. The full day

tour includes a delicious BBQ lunch

on the river side and has guaranteed

water levels year round. With grade

3-4 rapids, hold on to your hat and

enjoy one of the best days you’ll have

on the water.

The half day Cairns tour starts from

$136 self-drive to the meeting

location. Full day Tully River tour is

$199 with pick ups from Cairns. If

you’ve got little ones though, make

sure you leave them at home, the

rapids are only safe for ages 13 and


Ok, so you’ve taken on the rapids

and you’re ready for something else.

We give you AJ Hackett. Australia’s

only bungy jump tower! From the 50

metre tower you can see the Northern

Beaches and the Great Barrier Reef,

just before you take the plunge down,

the rainforest blurring around you.

With 16 different jump styles, you’re

sure to find the one that suits you


If you’re not into the bungy, but still

want the adrenaline rush, the Giant

Jungle Swing is for you. Swinging

through the rainforest from 45 metres

down to 1 metre and reaching speeds

of 120 km per hour, this is the world’s

fastest swing. If you’re swinging alone

or doing it with mates, you have all

the control with the Jungle Swing,

all you’ve got to do is pull that selfrelease.

The bungy starts from $139 and

includes the jump, a t-shirt and a

certificate. The Jungle Swing starts

from $129 per adult and includes the

swing and a certificate. If you want to

make a full day of it, we recommend

picking up the Skypark Adventure Day

pass. For $299 this includes unlimited

bungy and unlimited jungle swings,

transfers from accommodation in

Cairns and a delicious lunch.

If you’re all tuckered out from your

adventurous, adrenaline pumping

tours, or if it’s really not your scene

there are plenty of other available

activities to get you out and enjoying

your tropical holiday. Without a doubt,

you cannot go to Cairns and not hit

the Great Barrier Reef.

Sightseeing Tours Australia offer the

only fully inclusive Great Barrier Reef

full day tour. From $205 per adult or

$125 per child this tour takes you out to the reef in

style on the gleaming catamaran. Your tour includes

pick up from your Cairns accommodation, before

starting your day off right with a delicious breakfast

that includes bacon and egg rolls, fruit platters and tea

and coffee.

While you cruise to the outer reef you will be given

a safety and equipment briefing, along with an

informative marine biology presentation. Unlike many

other Reef tours, this one will wait until the day before

the Captain makes the decision as to which reef you

will go to. This allows maximum visibility and the best

conditions possible for your day.

Included in your tour is a complimentary certified dive

or beginner dive (no experience necessary), a glass

bottom boat tour and snorkelling with all equipment


The Jungle Swing - AJ Hackett

After you’ve spent the morning exploring the reef,

you’ll enjoy a delightful BBQ lunch before the

afternoon of more snorkelling, there’s so much to see

under the water you wont get bored. On the cruise

back to Cairns, you can enjoy a complimentary glass

of wine with a fruit and cheese platter while you relax

after your sun filled day.

In between enjoying the beaches of Cairns you can

take in the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway that runs

above the Barron Gorge National Park. Or enjoy

the Kuranda Scenic Railway that snakes its way up

Macalister Range. While you’re in Kuranda check out

the Kuranda Original Rainforest Markets. Explore the

Cairns night markets and pick up some souvenirs

to take back home. Or, take a walk along Four Mile

Beach, and have fun in the wildlife habitat of Port

Douglas. Whatever your pleasure, Cairns and its

surrounds, will have it in abundance.

Make the most of your Winter break up north.

Places to Stay:

As with things to do, Cairns has no shortage of

excellent places for you and your family to stay and


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The Shangri-la Hotel on the Marlin Marina is perfect

for enjoying all that the Marina has to offer. With

prices starting from $191 per night in low season for a

Deluxe Room, it’s on the upper end of the price scale

but has all the amenities you could wish for. All rooms

have either a balcony or a courtyard and include free

wifi. The hotel itself offers a huge swimming pool,

plus a children’s pool, a health club and access to the

Marlin Marina. With 3 restaurants and bars, you have

plenty of choice for a range of dining options, or with

in room catering delivery between 7am and 10pm,

have the dining come to you for a more private option.

Cairns is the perfect place to take the kids for a holiday

and the Cairns Colonial Club Resort is the perfect

place to stay with them. Offering 3 lagoon style pools

and a man made beach, plus a toddler pool and large

children’s playground, the kids can enjoy their stay and

play adventure while you relax at the Thirsty Flamingo,

the perfect poolside bar, to take in some live music

and enjoy a cocktail.

Set amongst 11 acres of tropical rainforest gardens

the Cairns Colonial Club resort is an excellent familyfriendly

option, and with Resort rooms starting from

as low as $91 per couple, per night in low season, it’s a

budget friendly one too!

Great Barrier Reef - Sightseeing Tours Australia

Finally, for a more self-contained option, the Reef

Palms offer Queen Bed Studios for as little as $89

per night in low season. These rooms are perfect for

a larger family that want the freedom to enjoy their

apartment as a home away from home. Located 2

kilometres from the city centre and boasting a large

swimming pool and spa, BBQ area, breakfast cafe,

daily room service, free wifi, plus free shuttle to the

Cairns CBD and free airport transfers…what a home

it is!

So while Winter down south is appealing with cold

nights spent drinking wine and snuggling in, if you’re

looking for something a bit wilder book your flight

to the north of the country and spend your break

soaking up the warmth under a palm tree while

watching the sun’s ray glint off the blue jewel water.

There’s really nothing like Winter in the tropics.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Rare and Beautiful, Gemstones

and Crystals, Exhibition and Sales

www.ausemergencyservices.com.au 42

In an emergency, call Triple Zero (000)

To contact the police, fire or ambulance in an emergency, call

Triple Zero (000) from any telephone in Australia. Calls are free.

When to call Triple Zero (000)

You should only call Triple Zero (000) in life

threatening or time critical situations when

an urgent response is required from police,

fire or ambulance.

What will happen when I call

Triple Zero (000)?

The operator will ask you which emergency

service you require—police, fire or ambulance

—and will connect you. The operator may also

ask where you are calling from.

What if I have difficulty speaking English?

If you have difficulty speaking English, you

can ask for an interpreter once you have been

transferred to the emergency service you

requested. You will not have to pay for the


When you call Triple Zero (000), stay calm,

stay on the line and clearly answer the

operator’s questions.




Eat well and keep active. Stay in touch by phone

or video calls and seek help if you need it.

Together we can help stop

the spread and stay healthy.

Find out more at australia.gov.au

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