VRA celebrates 50 years

VRA Commissioner Mark Gibson and Narrandera Rescue Squad members Wal Lingen, Alastair Macdonald, Tammy Riddell and Wayne Heidtmann, with his ten-year service medal, at the VRA’s mid year conference held in Narrandera over the weekend.

The Narrandera Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) held its 50th birthday last weekend, a full year before the NSW VRA will celebrate its own mid-century.

The celebration was designed to coincide with the annual mid-year meeting of the VRA, including both the executive meeting and the meeting of all the various organisations within the VRA.

“Narrandera put in for the mid-year conference for 2018,” explained Mark Gibson, VRA Commissioner. “So on Friday we had the mid-year conference, the executive meeting, but in Saturday we had the council meeting, which is all the squads in the state. The AGM is always held in Dubbo, but the squads pick where they’ll have their mid-year.”

According to Jerod Sutherland, life member of the VRA, the bi-annual meetings are a rare opportunity for all the squads to make a contribution to the running of the association.

“Generally we have the official opening, but after morning tea it’s the meeting of the association, to nut out what needs to be done to move forward,” Mr Sutherland said. “There’s usually a fair amount to get through. So there’s a mix of the ceremonial and then the nuts and bolts of getting where we’re going to.”

Roughly 30 VRA members were awarded with medals on Saturday night. The VRA offers a medal for members who’ve given 10 years of service, and members receive a clasp on their medal for every five years afterwards.

Narrandera VRA Captain Wayne Heidtmann received his 10 year long-service medal on Saturday, along with Tim Hetherington.

“I’ve been in the VRA for a bit over 11 years, but it was my 10 medal,” Mr Heidtmann said. “I started because I just wanted to give something back to the community. We do a lot of things; floods, rescue, children, animals to be helped out of fences. There are a lot of jobs we do, although some of them are not very nice. But that’s just a part of the job, and like I said, it’s about giving back to the community.”

The VRA began as rescue clubs, or squads.

“There was Dubbo, Albury, Wagga and Narrandera. They were the first rescue clubs, or rescue squads, in the state,” said Commissioner Gibson.

According to life member and secretary of both the Narrandera VRA and the NSW VRA Wally Lingen, the Narrandera VRA began in response to a local tragedy.

“In late 1968 a person drowned in the Berrembed Weir, and the body was recovered by the Wagga Rescue Club,” Mr Lingen said. “The Lions Club called a meeting, and as a result the Narrandera rescue squad was formed. They started out recovering bodies after drownings, because nobody else wanted to do it.”

The NSW Volunteer Rescue Association began in 1969.

“In the early days of the VRA, all squads in the VRA were very busy. As we’ve progressed through safety, with your seatbelts,  our airbags, better cars, the less jobs they get,” Commissioner Gibson said. “The VRA in Narrandera are mostly motor vehicle rescue. They also provide medical assistance to the other services; the SES, the RFS, the police and the NSW Ambulance. In the not-too-distant future they’ll be assisting in a defibrillator program, and that’ll be through the NSW Ambulance.”

VRA members are required to have a constant amount of training – 24 hours for any previous six months.

“So if we do an audit on the squad, they’ve got to be able to supply the paperwork to us to say they’ve attended 24 hours training in any six month period,” Commissioner Gibson said. “They’ve got to update their skills all the time, so most squads train weekly.”

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