6 Tuesday, 29 October, 2019
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Aid first in crises By Romy Stephens Montrose resident Amanda Lamont has experienced some of Australia's most devastating events over the past decade. From the Townsville floods earlier this year to the 2014 Morwell fires and also the Bourke Street Mall rampage. But rather than being impacted directly, Amanda has seen these events through the eyes of a Red Cross volunteer. "In 2008, I was working in a corporate role and my boss knew I was feeling the need for a social connection in the work I was doing," she said. "I applied on a Red Cross program up in Arnhem Land to work with children." Since then, Amanda has volunteered her time to the emergency services sector of the Red Cross. This has seen her help people prepare for emergencies, provide psychological first aid during emergencies and help with recovery after an emergency. One of her most memorable experiences was staying at a woman's house for over an hour, a year after the bushfires in Morwell. Amanda said the woman initially said she didn't need any assistance but then one thing led to another and they ended up talking about her experience and recovery needs. "In the recovery after emergencies, we can work with people in communities and organisations for days, weeks, months and years after an emergency," she said. "We attend community meetings, outreach, knock on peoples doors." She also recalled being on scene during the aftermath of the Bourke Street Mall rampage. "People just needed comforting and they needed to share with somebody," she said. "For us to be there in the background just so people knew that somebody cared. "Sometimes it's sitting there and saying nothing at all, but just being there with them."
Amanda added that now more than ever, the Red Cross plays a major role in emergency preparedness. "Preparedness is a really big focus because with climate change the ways we are experiencing disasters is changing," she said. Amanda is now working with the Red Cross to call on residents throughout the Yarra Ranges to get involved in volunteering, particularly with forecasts of a hot and dry summer ahead. The Red Cross manager for emergency services, Kate Siebert, said anyone interested can get involved. "Here at home in Victoria, people turn to Red Cross for assistance in a disaster. During such times, our volunteers provide those affected with much-needed emotional and practical support," she said. "Whether you're someone who wants help local people in the aftermath of an emergency, or take a lead role in managing a team of volunteers and even representing Red Cross at important community meetings, we encourage you to apply," Amanda also juggles her work at the Red Cross with CFA volunteering and said it is possible to fit both roles in with a busy work schedule. She said being apart of such a respected and trusted team is very fulfilling. "The power of the brand of Red Cross and the absolute trust that people have in us when we knock on somebody's door to help them," she said. "It's phenomenal and I haven't worked with an organisation that has such respect and trust. "If anyone is looking at volunteering, now is the time leading up to summer when we are getting our skills up to date." For more information on how to volunteer with Red Cross visit redcross.org.au/volunteer and search for Victoria or contact 1800 232 969 during office hours.
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