Walking down the main street of Donald in regional Victoria and spotting someone alive and healthy he’d helped in an accident or emergency only weeks before brings a quiet smile and a sense of achievement to Brian Bayles.
In 26 years the volunteer ambulanceman has responded to over 800 emergency calls in his home district – saving many a life and sparing much suffering, though he himself wouldn’t put it quite that way.
Working at the local paper, the Buloke Times, Brian put his hand up to help when the volunteer ambulance service was first established in 1969. ‘I’d done a first aid course - and I reckoned the people of Donald deserved an ambulance service, just like every other Australian community,’ he says.
While the level of training and equipment has improved greatly and there’s a bit of pay, Brian and his colleagues still have to drop everything, don their overalls and get moving when the call comes. With cuts to rural health services, the distances to be driven are longer and the race to save life more tense. ‘There are times when all the professional ambulance services in the region are tied up – and we’re it,’ he says.
‘Brian is the ambulance service,’ says his editor, Robin Letts. ‘He helped develop it. He’s always on call, always ready to help.’
In 2005 Brian received the Ambulance Service Medal for his outstanding voluntary contribution to the ambulance service and his unwavering commitment to his community over quarter of a century.