| Geoff Helisma
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis will continue championing the Iluka Ambulance Action Group’s campaign to establish an ambulance station in the town.
Around 250 people attended a meeting at the Iluka Golf Club on Monday July 30, where Ambulance NSW made a presentation regarding its preference to establish a ‘first responder’ volunteer service and to gauge the public’s reaction to the idea.
In a media statement following the meeting, which was facilitated by the MP’s office, Mr Gulaptis said the people who attended “sent a clear message: they will accept nothing less than a full service”.
“Despite what ambulance officials are saying about where Iluka fits in the scheme of things, I will continue to advocate very strongly for an ambulance station in the coastal village, as I believe it is justified.
“It has one of the highest ageing populations across the state, with 60 per cent of residents over the age of 60, and is a popular tourist destination, which triples in size during the peak season.
“I have already spoken to the Health Minister and the Deputy Premier and will continue to press a strong case for Iluka.”
Mr Gulaptis recalled the efforts of former Yamba resident Jim Agnew, whose advocacy and campaigning (with ample assistance from other community members) resulted in the construction of the Yamba ambulance station and, years later, the community health centre, which is named in his honour.
“Yamba was told ‘no’ … but that never stopped … Jim Agnew agitating the powers that be until an ambulance service was realised.
“There is nothing more powerful than a community unified in its cause and I have assured them I will walk side by side with them in their campaign for an ambulance service.”
Mr Gulaptis congratulated John and Ann McLean of Iluka who have steered the campaign after collecting more than 11,500 signatures on a petition.
Ann Mclean agreed with the sentiments expressed by Mr Gulaptis.
“Everybody was overwhelmed; Chris did a fantastic job and supported all who were there,” she said.
Deputy director of clinical operations for NSW Ambulance NSW north coast, Supt Evan Clark, was also upbeat about the meeting’s outcome.
As part of its presentation, NSW Ambulance showed a video about first responders, which was made by the volunteers themselves, “who tell their stories, why they do it and what they get out of it”.
“Our purpose was to engage the community and give advice on the types of volunteer programs we have in place across the state – and to gauge the Iluka community’s interest, to form a first responder service.
“A number of people approached us for application packages after the meeting; they will make contact and, if there is enough interest, we will look towards getting a first responder service up and running.”
Supt Clark said training would commence in early 2019 if enough interest is shown.
“We were quite pleased to see how many people from the community turned out and listened to what we had to say,” he said.
“NSW Ambulance currently has 326 volunteer first responders stationed at 50 locations across the state.”