St John Ambulance volunteer Val Dempsey named Senior Australian of the Year
Val Dempsey has dedicated more than half her life to volunteering for the St John Ambulance.
On Tuesday evening, the Canberra resident known lovingly as Aunty Val, was named the 2022 Senior Australian of the Year.
Starting out as a cadet volunteer while still at primary school, the 71-year-old is now one of the ACT’s longest serving volunteers.
In her acceptance speech, Ms Dempsey joked she was going to need a bigger office.
“One computer in the back room is not going to be big enough for what I want to do,” she said.
In 2021 alone, Dempsey clocked up over 600 hours of volunteer service, leading first aid training, providing support at local events and activities and working with the Covid-19 response team.
Following the 2020 summer bushfire, Dempsey co-ordinated the deployment of teams to first aid posts and led a 40-strong team of volunteers as they supported fire-affected communities.
Throughout the pandemic, the lifelong volunteer took it upon herself to personally contact each St John volunteer to check in on their welfare.
She said her work was for the faith and in the service of humanity.
“I believe holding out a hand to someone or taking the opportunity to be kind makes all the difference and comes back to you 1000-fold,” Ms Dempsey said.
In the 90s, Ms Dempsey initiated a program teaching people with addictions how to apply first aid to those suffering overdoses.
“All life is precious. This is why I believe in first aid and why I believe all Australians should learn first aid to save lives,” she said.
She hopes to use her platform to call for learner drivers to become the next generation of mobile first aiders.
“The first people on the scene of an accident are usually fellow road users. I would like to see a time when all bystanders have the first aid training, competence and confidence to put those skills to use in those vital minutes before an ambulance arrives,” Dempsey said.
“I have dedicated my life to assisting others in need and equip them with skills and confidence to be able to help others and deal with an emergency.
“As a nation, we can rethink our approach to those critical minutes between life and death at the scene of an accident and make community members part of the solution.”
National Australia Day Council chair Danielle Roche said the 71-year-old embodied spirit of the AOTY honours.
“Val Dempsey embodies the Australian spirit of volunteering. She has donated her time to the service of St John Ambulance for more than half a century, helping countless Australians.”
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