Ambulance Victoria volunteer honoured with Australia Day medal

Ian Dunell has been volunteering with the Kinglake Community Emergency Response Team fro 16 years, 10 of those as team leader, a position he stood down from in March 2021. Picture: SUPPLIED.

By Mikayla van Loon

When Ian Dunell moved to Kinglake and the opportunity arose to join a volunteer Ambulance Victoria response unit, he jumped at the chance, something that has now led him to an Australia Day honour.

“Long story short, I was involved with a child who had an accident and I knew nothing and that was pre mobile phone days,” he said.

“Then we moved up to Kinglake and read about the CERT team and so we went along to it and learnt some stuff and basically tried to help out.”

CERT or Community Emergency Response Teams are located in rural areas where Ambulance Victoria crews are limited, particularly on night shifts.

Volunteers like Mr Dunell give their time to be on call and respond to any jobs where an ambulance cannot.

Now 16 years later, Mr Dunell has been recognised for his service to the community both as CERT member and team leader with the Australian Ambulance Service Medal awarded on Australia Day.

“I’ll be honest, it is pretty humbling, I suppose. I certainly didn’t expect it but it was really nice to feel like you’re being respected,” Mr Dunell said.

In those 16 years of service Mr Dunell has experienced two unprecedented events being the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Working alongside his wife Vicky and best mate Bart, Mr Dunell said his teams’ job was to look after the firefighters as they returned from the frontlines and check on the community in their homes.

“We did house searches looking for any person who might be burnt and we did that for probably nine days, day and night.”

Mr Dunell was also instrumental in rebuilding the Kinglake CERT after the bushfires left the team reduced and deflated.

Part of that was his ability to establish a response criterion to ensure the community had enough experienced personnel to cover the area, while also providing support to less experienced team members before they responded as independent clinicians.

During what could have been quite a confronting experience, Mr Dunell said the peer support provided by working in a team of three made things easier to handle and deal with at the time.

That camaraderie and friendship has been an important part of Mr Dunell’s time with CERT.

“I became involved in CERT and my wife became involved 12 months later so all of a sudden you’ve got a social group because everyone’s of the same mind and are giving people, so our best friends are within the CERT group.”

During the height of the pandemic, Mr Dunell said it was difficult to maintain training without being able to meet physically but online video calls kept everyone connected and learning.

“It was also very frustrating that we couldn’t get together to do the proper training, the hands-on training but we did what we could do.”

Currently, Mr Dunell and his wife Vicky have been working as part of the Covid surge team to support paramedics.

“To help out the paramedics with the hospital situation, my wife and I have been working at the Northern Hospital as part of an offload team.

“So we probably go two to three days a week for Ambulance Victoria. It means the ambulances hand over their patients to us so they can get back out on the road. We look after their patients until they get admitted to hospital or discharged.”

Being retired, Mr Dunell said he is happy to give his time to the CERT team and offer assistance where he can but hopes at some stage throughout the year to travel across Australia in his caravan and enjoy some much deserved time off.