Home' Phillip Island and San Remo Advertiser : January 4th 2018 Contents PAGE 18 - THE ADVERTISER, THURSDAY, JANUARY 4, 2018
“EVERYONE has achieved what we set out to
do,” says Artie Murdoch, at the recent disbanding
of the Phillip Island Ambulance Auxiliary.
This simple statement wrapped up 57 years of
service to the Phillip Island community by a dedi-
cated and committed band of volunteers.
At the age of 88, Artie Murdoch has put in a
remarkable and unrivalled number of years of
It is a huge effort, and one he reflects on som-
brely with the passing of several founding mem-
bers, all his colleagues, in recent years.
The dedicated group represent a time when
people rolled up their sleeves, banded together
and got whatever job was necessary, done.
Perhaps we may never see their like again; cer-
tainly not in terms of the continual and volunteer
With the Ambulance Auxiliary membership
now down to five, and with a new financial model
functioning across the wider Ambulance Victoria,
the Phillip Island Auxiliary decided that the time
was right to call it a day.
They chose to hold their last meeting on De-
cember 1, 2017, as it marked the exact date on
which their first meeting was held in Cowes, back
The Ambulance Auxiliary was launched back
then in response to a community need.
At that time, Phillip Island and San Remo did
not have an ambulance service.
It did have its own excellent hospital in War-
ley, and a resident doctor, Dr Hopkins, based in
Dr Hopkins had his own vehicle, a station
wagon that he used to pick up patients and bring
them in to be cared for at Warley.
But as the island population grew, so did this
demand on his time.
It got to the point where he could no longer do
this on his own, and he needed help.
So a group of local men, all hard working in
their own spheres, and all with families to raise
and support, got together and took matters in
They became his “ambulance drivers.”
Thus the Ambulance Auxiliary was formed.
Members were rostered and would go out to ac-
cidents or incidents with Dr Hopkins and help
him to load those injured or in need of hospitali-
sation into the vehicle and drive them back to
A public meeting was held shortly afterwards,
in the old shire hall, to lobby for an ambulance.
This meeting resulted in a vehicle being sup-
plied through ambulance headquarters in Leon-
gatha; and the officer-in-charge Laurie Wells com-
ing over to Cowes each week to give the island
volunteers training in first aid.
Members were also the ones who in years gone
by had volunteered to act as unofficial life savers,
as no such service existed.
Artie Murdoch recalled those times recently.
“The Herald newspaper ran a Learn to Swim
program back then; and some of us were trained
in this as there wasn’t a life saver on the island.
“The Phillip Island Shire brought a resuscitator
which was left in our shed, and three or four of us
were trained to go to all the drownings.”
That training was then extended through Lau-
rie Wells to accredit the men with the Bronze Cer-
tificate, which was a highly rated qualification.
With a vehicle and a team of trained drivers, the
island finally had an ambulance service of sorts.
It functioned on a roster system, with members
rostered according to their availability.
“The roster system was really for night time,
and for Saturdays and Sundays,” Artie recalled.
“We had a list of names of those who were avail-
able, and who were happy to take it in turns to be
on-call,” he said.
The late Snowy Dixon held strong memories
of when he was football coach of the juniors and
would get down to the ground early on match day
to park the ambulance as best he could – just in
“But during the daytime,” Artie continued, “the
roster was covered by people like the bank man-
ager, (the late) Tom Beaton or the policeman (the
late) Ernie Lee and some of the local farmers.
“Cefn Price was one who was on call at that
If patients required transport for treatments
such as xrays at another hospital, the ambulance
would be driven by anyone who had the time or
was going that way.
It worked a treat
By today’s standards this system would never ex-
ist. But 50 years ago, in a caring and resourceful
community, it worked a treat.
The ambulance was parked in a reserved space
under the Warley Hospital, which also served as
“It used to be parked at a garage in Chapel Street
which was situated between what is now the Phil-
lip Island Bakery and The Advertiser office,” Artie
“Or else anywhere around town,” he added.
While the men were volunteers, and were not
paid, they were given a remuneration stemming
They decided to set up an account and pool this
money to put it towards a greater use.
This was how the first ambulance station was
built and funded back in 1981, in Settlement Road.
“A year or two after we got the ambulance, it got
busier and busier as the island was growing.
“So we needed a station,” said Artie.
Along with the insurance account, the local com-
munity was actively fundraising, holding various
activities and functions, such as community balls,
to bolster the coffers.
In the past 20 years, an estimated $250,000 has
been contributed to the purchase of much needed
equipment, the outfitting of vehicles and the train-
ing of staff, said Artie.
Artie also recalled how the original station came
to be furnished.
“The furniture for the station came from the Phil-
lip Island Brass Band.
“When the band wound up, the money we had
paid was used for the purchase of furniture,” he
Artie himself played leading role in this move.
At that time he was president of the band, and a
skilled musician of quite a few of its instruments.
“I was administrator of most of the stuff,” he
Since that time, the ambulance auxiliary has
continued to quietly go about their business, doing
what they needed to do to achieve their goals.
When paid ambulance staff were finally appoint-
ed on Phillip Island in 1981, the Ambulance Auxil-
iary continued its service in a supportive role to the
They look back with pride at what they have
done, and ultimately at how they have contributed
significantly to the welfare and the lives of others.
“We started from scratch, and now have a brand
new station with 23 personnel, and still have dol-
lars in the bank,” said Artie.
The extent of their achievements, over the 57
years, has not only been magnificent but deeply ap-
preciated by the ambulance brigade and the wider
“What the auxiliary has done over the years has
ensured that this community has been very well
serviced and that the ambulance vehicles were the
best equipped within the service,” said Mal Mc-
Cann, team manager of Phillip Island Ambulance,
and recent secretary of the auxiliary.
“The equipment that our vehicles have had is
now standard equipment in all vehicles.
“All the dollars raised has always been spent to
ensure that the community has received the best
possible response,” Mal said proudly.
“For this reason, Cowes has always been on the
cutting edge of providing the best service.
“The vision of these guys, and the fact that they
have remained focussed, over 57 years, has played
a major part in the quality of the service that we
have today,” he said.
The auxiliary bank balance of $80,000 will now
be held in a trust by Ambulance Victoria.
This is the same funding model that now oper-
ates across the state.
The funds are designated solely for Phillip Is-
land, for use when the occasion arises.
In closing the books for the last time in Decem-
ber, Artie Murdoch spoke briefly for his fellow aux-
iliary members Rob Jeffery, Rod Patton and Bill
Bilson, and secretary Mal McCann.
“I’m nearly 89 and we’re all getting older so it’s
difficult for us to keep going.
“Physically we can’t do a lot more, but we’re hap-
py with what we have done, and that the dollars we
raised will still be used here.
“I feel I’ve done my job. We all feel that way,” he
All that needs to be now said is: Thank you for
a job well done, from a very appreciative Phillip Is-
VICSES volunteers from the
Phillip Island Unit attended an
equipment presentation evening
as part of the ongoing partnership
Alan O’Connor from Phillip Is-
land SES said the new lighting
equipment the unit had been pre-
sented with would greatly assist
in making incident scenes safer
for emergency personnel and the
“An overall upgrade and update
of unit equipment was needed.
“The new Pelican lighting gear
allows for faster set-up at an inci-
dent so that emergency scenes can
be made safer sooner.”
Phillip Island SES has 23 vol-
unteers and responded to 86 inci-
dents in 2016/2017.
While not able to be present on
the night, San Remo SES has also
received equipment sponsored by
AAMI including traffic wands, e-
flares and helmet lights.
VICSES chief executive officer
Stephen Griffin said that VICSES
was delighted AAMI’s contribu-
tion has been effectively directed
to supporting volunteers at a local
“AAMI’s contribution is highly
valued by VICSES volunteers.
“The equipment funded by AAMI
helps our 5000 volunteers to pro-
vide a vital emergency service role
in their local communities.”
As well as emergency response,
VICSES volunteers work tirelessly
to educate and prepare their com-
munities for natural hazards,
plus undertake accredited train-
ing year-round to keep their skills
“We have provided over 1700
pieces of new equipment to SES
volunteers across Victoria.
“Equipment presented to units
includes chainsaws, motorised
hydraulic kits and remote area
“We’re thrilled to be able to pro-
vide support that enables VICSES
to carry out its invaluable service
to our communities,” said Simone
Taylor, AAMI customer engage-
ment and sponsorships manager.
To learn more about SES and
volunteering with either the Phil-
lip Island or San Remo SES
Unit, visit www.ses.vic.gov.au/
This is the last official photograph, taken in 2010, of family connections to the auxiliary. With a membership now of only five, the Ambu-
lance Auxiliary of Phillip Island ceased to exist on December 1, after exactly 57 years of continual service to the local community.
This photo was taken back in 2010, when families of past Ambulance Auxiliary members joined those still present, for a final time.
Pictured back from left are: Peter Forrest and Lewis Betts whose fathers drove the ambulance; the late Allan Warren, Greg Patton, Peter
Kelly, Bill Gaskett (first appointed officer in Cowes), Stephen Papworth and Mark Cooke (the Regional Manager of South Gippsland in 2010).
Middle row: Sandra Rocottas, daughter of volunteer driver Bob McRae, Gwen McRae, wife of Donald McRae, the late John Reid, Rod
Patton (still serving), Greg Sassella (then CEO Ambulance Victoria), Cefn Price, Robert Jeffery (still serving), Bob Davie whose father Stan
Davie called the meeting 57 years ago to establish the auxiliary and the then local MP Ken Smith.
Front row: Representing the original ambulance auxiliary drivers: Rob Dixon, son of Snow Dixon, the late Tom Beaton, Laurie Tyrrell and
Geoff Burrell; Artie Murdoch (still serving) and Nance Mackenzie, wife of Jim Mackenzie.
Artie Murdoch was one of the first volun-
teer ambulance drivers on Phillip Island, and
was the last man standing last week when
the local Ambulance Auxiliary disbanded af-
ter 57 years of service to the community.
Artie is the sole remaining member of the
founding committee and has been a driving
force in the development of our present day
ambulance service throughout that long pe-
riod of time.
He is pictured here in 2010 with grand-
daughter Nicole Blackman and wife June,
when he was presented with a certificate of
appreciation to mark 50 years of continual
Ambulance Auxiliary calls it a day after 57 years of service
THE steel carrier BBC Seine
will arrive in Western Port from
Port Pirie tomorrow (January
5), departing for Port Kelang on
Also arriving on January 5 will
be Gas Taurus from Yokohama.
The very large gas carrier will
leave for a destination to be
advised on January 8.
The LPG tanker Bougainville
will arrive from Melbourne on
January 9 and depart two day’s
later on January 11.
Another very large gas carrier,
Scarlet Ibis will arrive from
Botany Bay on January 13 and
sail on January 15.
The Phillip Island SES Unit recently received sev-
eral items of new equipment as part of the annual
AAMI equipment grants program. Phillip Island
SES volunteers Noel Duffy and Alan O’Connor are
pictured at the presentation.
Upgrade for Island SES Shipping in
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