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My volunteering story: Battling natural disasters at Port Mac

My volunteering story: Battling natural disasters at Port Mac


Em grew up in the Inner-West and never had to deal with natural disasters, so it was certainly a shock for her when she received an evacuation call during the 2019 bushfires. Read below about her resilience and journey to becoming a volunteer for her local community.

Written by Em Hollingworth

Community… its definition has a different interpretation to everyone.

To me it is a sense of belonging, of being a part of something, to be surrounded by people who will support you as you work towards a common goal.

In 2019 the Mid North Coast region was hit with one of the worst bushfires it had ever seen.

The fires had burnt an area of 3572 hectares affecting Taree, Port Macquarie, and many surrounding towns.

You may wonder at this point, why am I talking about a bushfire that happened 5 years ago and how it changed my definition of community?

In 2018 I was invited to come along to a meeting, a meeting that changed something in me.

I joined St John Ambulance as a volunteer medic which gave me not only endless opportunities, but it was a way for me to give back to the community that so lovingly embraced me.

The 2019 bushfire season was one of the most devastating catastrophic events I have ever experienced.

I was deployed in November to provide medical assistance in evacuation centres in and around Taree.

During my first deployment, I was part of a team of medics at an evacuation centre inside a local club who helped assess and treat victims who were in the path of the bushfires.

I helped treat infected wounds and burns through to mental health issues.

The most serious cases went to the base hospital, but for many, the St John medics were a sense of safety.

In 2021, the Port Macquarie and Hastings regions were subject to flooding, with many people displaced due to the rising water levels of the Hastings River.

At the Panther’s club, a major club located in Port Macquarie, an evacuation centre was established.

It was somewhere safe, where there was a sense of family between strangers who had never met one another before.

It was almost 10 grueling days of not knowing how bad the situation was really going to be.

As part of my deployment during the bushfires and the volunteer work, I was awarded the Premiers Citation and the St John Ambulance (bushfire) Citation in 2020.

This was an extremely proud moment for me.

As a volunteer I never look for acknowledgement or recognition for the community work I do, but I was extremely delighted to not only be recognised by St John Ambulance, but also by the Premier’s office.

So, you may still be asking why I talk about this word “community”.

Humanity rose to the challenge in the face of adversity.

The community came together. It didn’t matter if you were a stranger, a patient, a victim, or an emergency service worker.

We worked together as one.

We came together as one, and for that I will forever be grateful.

Proud Em Hollingworth with her award.

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