healthy com­mu­ni­ties

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - By KYLIE WIL­SON

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.”

PHOTOS: Kylie Wil­son

HELP­ING OTH­ERS: Jo Brookes en­joys con­nect­ing with North East com­mu­ni­ties in her work as a para­medic com­mu­nity sup­port co­or­di­na­tor in the Up­per Hume re­gion.

COL­LEAGUES: Natar­sha Canny, the para­medic com­mu­nity sup­port co­or­di­na­tor for South­ern Hume, chats with Jo Brookes.

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