Farewell, Stuart

Stuart started at VCC EM as a volunteer, joining the staff in April 2009 and eventually becoming CEO. In that time the organisation has grown to include almost 1600 volunteers and earn a position at the State Emergency Management Centre.

But when Stuart started, the organisation was in a much more humble position.

“The early days were scary as we operated out of (former boss) Graeme Winterton’s garage,’’ Stuart told a handful of volunteers at the shiny new Port Melbourne office on his last day, Wednesday, January 15.

“Graeme and I worked out of there each Wednesday. VCC had no disaster plan and we had only 290 names on our list. But I agitated the VCC to have more of a role, to strengthen our role within the VCC. We needed a profile and a presence and then we got a seat in the VCC office.’’

The devastation that was Black Saturday in February 2009 caused Stuart to take drastic action, transforming from the mild-mannered reverend we know and love into a man on a mission.

“I was new and probably naïve,’’ Stuart said. “I walked into Graeme’s garage and said that we needed a whiteboard. I phoned the VCC, but they told me they couldn’t deliver one.

“So I stormed into a church in Mulgrave – which shall remain nameless – and commandeered an office.’’

  ‘I was honoured to be respected as a leader’

Stuart said that since those days, VCC EM had grown to become involved with other emergency organisations.

“We value-add to other agencies. I know because there is so much anecdotal evidence,’’ he said. “VCC EM has a reputation for quality that is approaching sub-clinical care.’’

And that care extends to the volunteers.

“If we cannot support our own people, how can we support others?’’ he asked. “It is essential we look after our own.

“Jesus had the 12, he looked after them, then he sent them out. Look after the leaders, they will look after the rest.

“It doesn’t matter how many letters you have after your name, if you don’t have genuineness and authenticity people will see through you.

“I love it that each volunteer brings different gifts and we build on that. I am always amazed that we say no is a legitimate response to a call for availability, but then how many people turn up.’’

Asked for the highlight over his more than a decade of service to VCC EM, Stuart had no hesitation.

“It was being invited to speak to a congregation at a mosque after a stabbing,’’ he said. “The Imam asked me to speak about psychological recovery and trauma.

“It was a symbol of trust. Being Muslim or Christian didn’t matter. It was about humanity. I was honoured to be respected as a leader.’’

All that is left to say is that VCC EM’s loss is Ambulance Victoria’s gain!

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