Taking the pulse of those on the ground
While the machinery and muscle power of the Australian Defence Force’s support for the national bushfire emergency has seen broad coverage, there are also plenty of smaller stories that are having their own significant impact on devastated communities.
In the NSW Snowy Valleys region, medical personnel from the 1st Close Health Battalion are offering primary medical services while public services are reestablished.
Besides offering a walk-in clinic, they have a resuscitation capability and can evacuate patients to outlying hospitals using local paramedics.
The small detachment in Tumbarumba deployed from Brisbane on January 5 and are already well-travelled, with stays in Batemans Bay, Eden and Coomera before arriving in Tumbarumba.
To further their work, they are undertaking community engagement at the nearby town of Batlow using a Bushmaster Ambulance-variant Protected Mobility Vehicle, reaching out to people in need, whether it be with medical assistance or the delivery of water and other goods.
For Army medic Private Brenden Walker, the opportunity to serve the people of the region is an honour, but it comes with the stark realities of the bushfire emergency.
“On the first day people were just glad to see us,” he said.
“The next day we weren’t getting many enquiries, so we visited people at the RSL club. We started chatting with the locals and they in turn started opening up and talking.
“We found out there were people in need, so we got some addresses and delivered some water.
“They were people who have lost their homes and are living out of their cars and vans, and we were able to help them and offer medical assistance.
“It’s an honour to be able to come down and help out, I’m glad that I was there when the call went out for people to be deployed.”