14 May 2021

'It's just a desire to help others': Rotary Awards honour those who are there for us

| Lottie Twyford
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Robert Wiggins holding RESCA award

Robert Wiggins was awarded a 2019 ACT Rotary Emergency Service Community Award for his commitment to serving the community. Photo: Rotary.

Robert Wiggins has an impressive resume.

In his day job, he’s an intensive care paramedic with the ACT Ambulance Service. He’s also a volunteer for the NSW Rural Fire Service and NSW State Emergency Service in his Snowy Mountains community.

In 2019, he was awarded an ACT Rotary Emergency Service Community Award (RESCA) and he says it was a humbling experience.

“We don’t go looking for recognition as paramedics,” he says. “You don’t see much in the news about us. We think of ourselves as the quiet achievers in the background, much more inclined to keep our heads down and just get the job done.

“So it was very special to stand up in the limelight, and it really means a lot to me.”

Robert has had a long career serving the community, and it has now been more than 30 years since he began work as a bush firefighter in the early 1990s.

“Most of the big events that have occurred in southeast Australia – the Sydney and both Victorian bushfires, and the Newcastle floods – I’ve been to as an emergency volunteer,” he says.

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According to Robert, it’s a simple desire to help others that has led him towards a lifetime of assisting people in their time of need.

“It’s what I’ve been doing all my life,” he says. “I suppose it comes from my father who was in the air force and fought in the Vietnam War before joining the Army Reserves. He instilled in me a real desire to be a community-minded person.”

Robert was also an Army Reservist for more than a decade, and his work has seen him play an important role in many local, national and international emergencies.

This has included searching for missing people in the Snowy Mountains as well as providing support after the Christchurch earthquake in 2011. He travelled to New Zealand as part of the third deployment and then worked as a paramedic in the aftermath of the disaster.

He says all of these roles are underpinned by the same motivation.

“Sometimes it’s easy to forget why we do what we do, but having that grounding that we are here to help the community stops you from burning out and keeps you there for the right reasons,” says Robert.

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Roles such as these have the potential to take their toll on first-responders.

Robert says that even when the bad days arise, he tries to focus on the good ones to get him through while also relying on his colleagues and larger ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) team.

For anybody who may be considering signing up to volunteer in any capacity with the ESA, Robert says you become part of a bigger family and will be totally supported.

The ACT Rotary Emergency Service Community Awards recognise the members of the ESA who go above and beyond their normal duties in both a paid and volunteer capacity. Nominations for the 2021 awards are now open.

For more information or to nominate someone, visit the ACT Rotary Emergency Service Community Awards website. Nominations close on Sunday, 30 May, 2021.

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