I wanted to join the army and be a medic when I left school. But there weren’t females in the service then. So I got a first aid certificate, and a home nursing certificate in 1957. The Voluntary Aid Detachment was formed in Murwillumbah, so I joined that. I did volunteer work in the hospital in between milking’s. I loved what I did. In 1973 I had a friend in the ambulance service and he wanted me to become a trainer, so I taught my first class in 1973. I was made a volunteer trainer in January 1974. So for 48 years I’ve been a volunteer trainer with St John’s.
I taught a class, this is way back now, 40 plus years. And Robyn McEwan was the person in the class and she stood up and she said, ‘Fay if I’ve got to do that I can’t’. I said, ‘yes, you can’. ‘No’, she said, ‘I can’t do that CPR’. I said, ‘you will otherwise the patient will die’. So next week she’s in front of the butcher’s shop and this little four-year-old darts across the road and gets hit by a 4WD. She’s there, and she can hear me saying, ‘you can do it. You can do it’. She went over and he had arrested. Robin started the CPR and she got him going. The ambulance arrived, picked him up, on the way to hospital he arrested again. They picked up a doctor who said, ‘we won’t take him through to Murwillumbah, he needs to go through to Brisbane’. He arrested again on the way to Brisbane. They got him going. He spent three months in Brisbane Hospital, and he had to learn to walk and talk again.
Recently I was teaching a St Joey’s class, South Murwillumbah, this primary school lot, and at morning tea we were talking. I was saying how important it is for everyone to know first aid, and when I told this story the teacher said, ‘hold it, do you realise you’ve got Nigel’s son in your class’? See, the father was in Brisbane as a four-year-old boy, and now, it’s amazing, he’s married and he has two children. When we went back into the classroom the teacher said, ‘Bailey, do you know what happened to your dad?’ He said, ‘yes, he got hit by four-wheel drive and he died’. And I said, ‘Bailey do you know who I am?’ He said, ‘you’re the lady who saved him’.
I took on the first aid in primary schools and trained over 6000 students at 27 different schools in the community, all over the Tweed valley. I was giving back to the community. I co-formed that St John Ambulance Brigade here in Kingscliff. I became its first superintendent, went to all the big events, sat on the football field for about 10 years being the first aid officer.
My proudest moments were being made a commander of the most venerable order of St John of Jerusalem in 2004, to wear the mantle of the order, the second highest honour, and to go on a re-enactment as an army medic of the first World War recruitment drive in 1999. We marched for 14 days from Parkes to Bathurst. We followed the marchers. 32 marchers. They marched to the beat of the drum at 120 paces per minute.
We walked 97 km. Each night we would pull up and set up our first aid post on the side of the road. There we’d look after the injured and then we would have a camp concert. As I’ve been a soloist all my life. I could sing. I became known as ‘The Rose of no-man’s land’. I marched with those guys into Bathurst, cried all the way, because we were going home next day. Those guys that marched in 1916 went to war.
It was what I wanted to do all my life, and here I was being an army medic.