Our Community Chopper

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Despite all the challenges of the last few years the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service is always there when you need it, serving communities across Northern NSW.

After the challenges faced in the previous two years, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service started 2022 optimistic that for the communities it serves across Northern NSW, they could look forward to a brighter year ahead.

But, once again in 2022, particularly for the northern region of the State, nature dealt an ugly hand to individuals, families, businesses and the Service itself, with a relentless cycle of extreme weather and resultant flooding in the Northern Rivers and as the year progressed, other regions across Northern NSW, with the Northern Rivers flooding seeing the Service’s Lismore Base inundated.

Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service CEO Richard Jones OAM was again full of praise for the resilience and strength of character shown by all those affected.

“Once again, as they did throughout the peak periods of COVID, I was overwhelmed by the strength and perseverance of the communities we serve and their ability to deal with what seemed like insurmountable hardship.” 

“Having served though COVID, our front-line responders now faced an entirely different challenge. Without hesitation, they continued their vital role in ensuring the well-being of not only the communities they served but their own safety and that of their colleagues in what were extremely challenging conditions,” Jones said of the first few months of 2022.

“We extend our sincere respect and admiration to all in the NSW Health Care Chain and emergency networks Health Professionals, Hospital and Nursing Staff, NSW Ambulance Paramedics, Police, RFS, SES, rescue crews and other first responders,” Jones continued.

“Their strength across the last three years, in what must arguably be the most challenging period in their respective careers, is truly admirable and I share our communities sincere appreciation for their continued professionalism and commitment in responding and caring for the wellbeing and safety of our communities,” Jones concluded.

The success of the Service to fulfill its obligations in this response has relied on several factors. This includes the close working relationship with NSW Ambulance and the Local Area Health Districts in responding to the challenges of 2022.

Each mission flies with a Critical Care Medical Team consisting of a NSW Ambulance Critical Care Paramedic and NSW Health Doctor and depending on the needs of the patient, specialist Nursing staff.  These Teams, along with the Pilot and Aircrew Officer, not only endured the ever-present threat of COVID but then faced the challenge of working through extreme weather conditions and responding to those impacted by floods.

Jones also expressed his pride in the commitment and dedication displayed by Service staff to yet another difficult year.

“I’m sure the community will join me in thanking our pilots, aircrew officers, training and checking crew and engineers who ensured our aircraft remained on standby and ready to respond to our communities across Northern NSW 24/7 throughout 2022.”

“On the ground, our Fundraising and Marketing Teams, administration and training teams, worked tirelessly and our Board and Regional Advisory Committees provided invaluable guidance and support.”

“A genuine heartfelt thanks however to our many sponsors, supporters, volunteers and community members, who faced with their own pressures during 2022, still continued to rally behind the Service, helping us to continue to provide this life saving capability across Northern NSW. In particular, I’d like to thank Westpac, with 2022 marking the 47th year of their support in contributing to the vital lifesaving service that has touched so many lives across almost half a decade,” Jones said.

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Red Shirts Rally Again

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service’s passionate ‘red shirt’ volunteers are rallying again post COVID with the support of mining services provider Thiess.

COVID restrictions severely hampered volunteer activity and the Service’s key fundraising events but as activities and fundraising initiatives come back online, the financial support from Thiess aims to both reengage with existing volunteers and attract new ones.

“During COVID we were very aware our volunteers missed their involvement with normal fundraising and event activities,” Danny Eather, Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service Regional Partnerships Officer, Upper Hunter and Central West said. “We recognised it was vital for us to reengage with these passionate and dedicated groups as soon as possible and we are fortunate Thiess shared this vision.”

A Thiess spokesperson said they were eager to see the volunteers return and that the company is acutely aware of the valuable contribution the volunteer support groups make to the region.

Thiess acknowledged volunteers are the backbone of any not-for-profit organisation and efforts to retain and attract volunteers are essential and they felt privileged to support organisations like the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service that benefit the communities where we live and work by providing this lifesaving service.

Thiess’ support of volunteers will allow the Service to attract existing volunteers back, encourage new volunteers to join their local support group and deliver a volunteer conference, aimed at developing and recognising volunteering excellence.

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Fundraising Back In Full Swing

Amongst a myriad of community fundraising events and activities that are returning post COVID, the highlight of the Service’s 2023 events calendar continues to be the ‘Rescue Ball’ that this year will be held in Newcastle, Tamworth and Upper Hunter.

The Ball’s will each embrace the theme of ‘regency’ and promise to continue the tradition of glamour, fun, fine entertainment…and more glamour!

Tamworth kicks off the ball season on the 1st April, followed by the Hunter Rescue Ball on the 19th May, culminating in the Upper Hunter Rescue Ball on the 24th June.

The ‘regency’ theme is carried across each gala event, allowing guests to step back into an era of elegance, sophistication and regency glamour, with classical music on arrival and dazzling performances, before dancing the night away to a live band, all whilst enjoying a three-course meal and beverage package and an array of engaging fundraising activities including a live auction and raffle.

Details and further information for each gala event can be found on the Services website at https://rescuehelicopter.com.au/events/ with all funds raised going to guests local Rescue Helicopter Base helping to save local lives in their community.
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Powered by Partnerships

It takes a lot of support to keep the Chopper in the air. Fundraising, workplace giving, donations, volunteers and the important partnerships with organisations. We asked some of the Service’s partners why they supported them.

“The NSW mining industry is extremely proud of our long term partnership with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service. Those working at the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service are highly trained professionals and they provide the highest level of care to people in our community when they are in need. Our industry’s support for this vital service has never wavered and we are grateful for the important work they do for communities across the state.” 

Stephen Galilee, CEO, NSW Minerals Council

“Coal miners from our region have supported the rescue helicopter service since it was established. Our members currently contribute about $1 million a year through payroll deductions, in recognition of the vital service the rescue helicopter provides to our community. Coal miners work in dangerous jobs, in locations that can be hours away by road to medical care. They take comfort in knowing that the ‘angel in the sky’ is there when they or their loved ones need it. Our Union is proud to support the rescue helicopter through the payroll deductions and other regular fundraising by members, as well as serving on the board. We intend to maintain our close relationship with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service well into the future.”

Robin Williams, District President MEU Northern Mining and NSW Energy

“Our purpose is to protect workers in the NSW coal industry, but it goes far beyond that. Our partnership with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service embodies our commitment to give back to the industry, families and communities in which we operate. The service they provide is critical to the lives of so many families, and I’m proud that we are able to support their invaluable work.”

Lucy Flemming, CEO, Coal Services

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