Manangatang ACO celebrates 35 years of service this Volunteer Week

Farmer Ken Barnes had no medical experience when he signed up as an Ambulance Community Officer (ACO) in his hometown of Manangatang 35 years ago.

Now, he’s still in the role and it’s his knowledge that stands out most when colleagues reflect on working with him.

This National Volunteer Week (20-26 May), Ambulance Victoria (AV) is celebrating the many roles that are entirely or partially volunteer-based that help us deliver Best Care to patients in every part of the state.

ACOs like Ken are First Responders employed by AV on a casual basis to work on-call in rural and remote communities and volunteer much of their time to maintaining their skills.

They are trained to provide advanced first aid and are often the first on scene, before ambulance back up arrives.

Three paramedics -- two female and a male -- are smiling and standing in front of an ambulance.

Ken Barnes (left) with fellow Manangatang ACOs Emma Hicks (Team Leader) and Trudy Ryan.

Ken said he was motivated to become an ACO by a sense of care for his community.

“I definitely had no healthcare background, but we get regular training sessions and I got all the training on the job,” he said.

“What I enjoy most is just being able to help someone if we can.”

It’s a small team of ACOs in Manangatang, but Ken said it’s great to work alongside people with a common purpose.

“We all know each other and are all local people who put in to help out,” he said.

Across the 35 years, he said it’s been rewarding to know the impact the team has made on some of their patients.

“A couple of times, people have sent us thank you cards,” Ken said.

“They are good to receive, but of course we don’t do this for any accolades.”

At almost 70 years old, Ken said he does plan to continue on for some time yet – which is welcome news for Manangatang ACO Team Leader Emma Hicks.

“I’d love for Ken to stay around for another few years,” she said.

“He’s very valuable to the team – he’s a great help and he knows his stuff, he’s very knowledgeable after all his years.

“It’s a great effort to get to this milestone and we thank him very much for all he does.”

This year’s theme for National Volunteer Week is ‘Something for Everyone’, recognising the diverse passions and talents everyone brings to the act of volunteering.

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