A DESIRE to connect to her community drives paramedic Jo Brookes in her role as a paramedic community support coordinator in the Upper Hume region. Jo lives in the Mitta Valley and has recently celebrated 10 years’ service with Ambulance Victoria, commencing as an ambulance community officer with the Mitta Mitta team in 2008. She said she first joined after her family moved to the region from South Gippsland and she was looking for a way to become involved with the local community as well as make friends. After becoming part of the Ambulance Victoria team, she trained and studied to become a paramedic through the Rural Sponsored Degree Program and graduated in 2015. While she began in her new role just this month - which sees her working as a professional paramedic whose work goes beyond the traditional role of responding to emergency cases - she has been working closely with people in rural communities in the North East for many years. In addition to supporting emergency response, a key focus of Jo’s role is working with local health services to provide primary care and training, and supporting local ambulance first responder teams, engaging with many communities across Upper Hume including Mitta Mitta, Chiltern, Bethanga and Walwa. She also liaises with local health organisations so that she knows what health care is already available to small town residents.
Criss-crossing the region, she has met with various community organisations - from parent groups and schools to people at Men’s Sheds. Over time, Jo has educated community groups and members of the public about CPR, the correct use of defibrillators, and other forms of first aid, so when an emergency happens, “people aren’t so overwhelmed with what is occurring”. “I provide education and whatever they want to know,” she said. “It helps build community resilience and preparedness for medical emergencies. “I love to get out there and see communities. “I want to listen to people.” Jo said she was proud of the work that she had done with local communities over the years, in places where health services can be located up to an hour away. “The most rewarding thing for me is seeing what these first response teams can achieve, seeing them work as a team and putting their training into action,” she said. Jo added that while all the small communities she deals with have their own health response systems in place to deal with the health risks most pertinent to their community, Chiltern is well served by their long running Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers. Southern Hume counterpart Natarsha Canny, who is based in Alexandra and works with a number of small communities in the region, including Marysville, Eildon and Woods Point, said she also finds fulfilment in helping people in her area. “For me, it’s really nice to come back to your own community,” Natarsha said. “We’ve both got a passion for the community,” Jo added, while Natarsha said, “it’s why we went for this job”. When not working, Jo said she loves to spend time with family, working on her farm and volunteering in her community, especially at her local school and football club. “I have a very strong sense of community, and understand the commitment that volunteers show when taking on roles within their communities,” Jo said. “I am also passionate about enhancing the availability of emergency services capability and continually improving health outcomes in rural areas.”
HELPING OTHERS: Jo Brookes enjoys connecting with North East communities in her work as a paramedic community support coordinator in the Upper Hume region.