Volunteer Ambulance Officers Association of Tasmania Inc.
Tasmania is the only State to have an Association supporting Volunteer Ambulance Officers, partly because of the State’s high dependence on its non-paid ambulance workers. Although other States have volunteers, Tasmania is also the only State where volunteers sit alongside paramedics and that has been actively supported by its salaried colleagues.
The Volunteer Ambulance Officers Association of Tasmania (VAOAT) was formed in 1996 and represents all Volunteer Ambulance Officers (VAOs) in Tasmania. In 2021, the Volunteer Ambulance Officers Association celebrated its 25th Anniversary.
The VAOs who are supported by this Association are all appointed and actively volunteer as Volunteer Ambulance Officers with Ambulance Tasmania under the Ambulance Service Act 1982.
Prior to the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, there were volunteer units throughout the State with different rules and conditions for each station. There was no consistency, and most stations didn’t know anything about any other stations apart from those close to theirs. The inaugural meeting of the VAOAT occurred on 30 March 1996 and their aim was to create a Statewide Association.
In the 25 years that have followed, the VAOAT has supported volunteers, facilitated Annual Gatherings and improved communication between the Volunteer Ambulance Officers and Ambulance Tasmania.
“The Association was formed after three volunteer ambulances were the first to arrive at Port Arthur in 1996 to treat survivors of the massacre. Since then it has provided constant support for members who are often first on the scene when disaster strikes.”
Dianne Coon, VAOAT Secretary 2016 media release for 20th anniversary of the Association.
How the VAOAT supports volunteers
The VAOAT supports VAOs in several ways:
1.A newsletter, First Response, is published quarterly which is emailed to every VAO and a hard copy is posted to every Ambulance station.
2.Meeting with Ambulance Tasmania Statewide Volunteer Services where we are able to discuss policy matters, proposed policies, practical application of policies and negotiating ways that enhance our VAOs experience and ensuring that systems in place are consistent throughout the state.
3.The VAOAT annually invites VAOs to attend a two-day Gathering that enables them to meet their colleagues from other stations, share their experiences and solutions to issues that they encounter as well as providing some practical skills. These Gatherings offers opportunities to hold open discussion with AT management.
5.Access to VAOAT Board members to raise issues.
Funding the VAOAT activities
The VAOAT sources of income which enable its continued support of Volunteer Ambulance Officers across Tasmania are :
- nominal membership fee from the VAOs
- reimbursement from AT, mainly to cover the costs associated with the annual Gathering
- accepting donation
Statement of Inclusion and Equality
The Volunteer Ambulance Officers Association of Tasmania recognises that Tasmania is part of a vibrant and multicultural country and that Volunteer Ambulance Officers are representative of that diversity.
We are home to the world’s oldest continuous culture and acknowledge the Traditional Custodians throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
The VAOAT acknowledges the challenging work that Volunteer Ambulance Officers undertake must be within the boundaries of Workplace, Health and Safety and operational requirements that Ambulance Tasmania are obligated to adhere to and that the VAOAT will support Ambulance Tasmania in matters related to such compliance.
For active volunteers, the VAOAT adopts the World Health Organisation statement “to guarantee that human rights are exercised without discrimination of any kind based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status such as disability, age, marital and family status, sexual orientation and gender identify, health status, place of residence, economic and social situation”. The VAOAT will continually and proactively seek opportunities to ensure inclusion and equality underpin the role that it undertakes to represent volunteers.
The VAOAT upholds the rights of Volunteer Ambulance Officers to work in a healthy and safe environment, to be engaged in accordance with equal opportunity and anti-discrimination legislation, to receive all information that is required to perform their role, to be provided with sufficient training to undertake their clearly defined roles and to be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses.
The VAOAT believes that by celebrating the diversity of Volunteer Ambulance Officers and members of the Tasmanian community, we help overcome stereotypes, build cultural awareness, discourage racism and prejudice and encourage unity.
Our focus is on ensuring that every volunteer is afforded the same opportunity to be included in our VAOAT community.
Volunteer Ambulance Officers serving Tasmania
Ambulance Tasmania (AT) relies on over 500 VAOs to bolster its 300+ ‘on road’ paramedics to enable AT to provide pre-hospital emergency care across the State of Tasmania.
The average years of service for AT volunteers is around 6 years with the longest serving volunteer being 60 years before they retired in 2021.
Through utilising VAOs’, AT is able to provide 24/7/365 coverage across the state over 50 ambulance stations. These include stations that are:
- Fully staffed by paramedics
- Staffed by VAOs and paramedics
- Staffed by VAOs only; or
- Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs)
Every VAO is appointed under the Ambulance Services Act 1982 and receives an Authority to Practice in line with their clinical skill level and protocols. Annual certification through regular training establishes and maintains the clinical skill levels and enables VAOs, to work within these protocols to provide pre-hospital care to all Tasmanians and visitors to the State.
The VAOAT works alongside senior management of AT and is accepted as the voice for VAOs throughout the State.
We have representatives on several AT committees and have been invited to participate in various projects that affect VAOs.
“Without the Volunteer Ambulance Officers, many rural and regional areas would not have the service that they do”.
22 November 2013 – Dominic Morgan, Ambulance Tasmania Chief Executive Officer (2009-2015)
Our aim is “To enhance pre-hospital patient care, by providing representation and support for the well being of Volunteer Ambulance Officers in Tasmania”
VAOAT Gatherings are a social and training event. These are a place where people, from all over the State, all ages and occupations, can gather to celebrate their volunteering. In particular, to share experiences, learn from each other, and go home feeling better about themselves, better about the teams they are part of, and more enthusiastic about their ambulance volunteer work.
The VAOAT endeavours to raise funds to be able to subsidise volunteer attendees, as an important symbol that the Tasmanian community values their contribution.
Who Can Host a Gathering
Any unit can request to host an Annual VAOAT Gathering under the direction of dedicated VAOAT Board members who will be provided for your assistance.
All you need to do is be proactive and enthusiastic, prepare an initial proposal showing the venue, accommodation and meals for, ideally, 100 attendees, draft a budget and organise a committee of 3-5 members, and then send this to the Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org
Are there obligations of what needs to happen at a Gathering?
The VAOAT Annual General Meeting occurs at the Gathering – therefore time needs to be allocated for this to occur.
There is a format that is suggested to follow and more information is available for members on the Gathering Information leaflet on this webpage.
2003 Archers Manor (Oct)
2004 No Gathering
2005 No Gathering
2006 Archers Manor (June)
2008 Gowrie Park (May) & The Lea (Nov)
2009 Camp Banksia (May) & Gum Leaves)
2010 Coles Bay (Nov)
2011 King Island (May) & Queenstown (Nov)
2012 Camp Clayton (Dec)
2013 Nubeena (Nov)
2014 New Norfolk (Nov)
2015 Georgetown (Nov)
2016 Strahan (Nov)
2017 Campbell Town (AGM only)
2018 Scamander (Nov)
2019 Grindelwald (Nov)
2020 Campbell Town (AGM only)
2021 Camp Clayton
2022 Launceston (AGM only)
2023 Looking for a host