25 January 2022

Tragedy triggers ACT Senior Australian of the Year's call for mandatory first-aid training for learner drivers

| Max O'Driscoll
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Valmai Dempsey

Valmai Dempsey was named ACT Senior Australian of the Year for 2022. Photo: Supplied.

Mandatory first-aid training for all learner drivers!

That’s the demand of ACT Senior Australian of the Year for 2022 Valmai Dempsey, ahead of the Australian of the Year Award presentations.

After dedicating her adult life to volunteering with St John Ambulance, Ms Dempsey wants to see the next generation of drivers become ‘mobile lifesavers’ when they earn their licence. It’s a wish born many years ago after a tragic incident involving her daughter.

“Our daughter was involved in a car accident that ended up being a fatality. Her dear friend was killed, and she remembers very clearly from the accident, people stepping up and saying ‘we want to help’ but not knowing what to do,” said Ms Dempsey.

“I don’t want to see anyone else having the same feelings as those people who stopped and wanted to help my daughter at her accident. I can’t possibly imagine how that must’ve felt.”

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She described the implementation of mandatory first-aid training for learner drivers as a “golden opportunity” that would help build the capability and resilience of the community. As ACT Senior Australian of the Year, she wanted to use her platform to address the issue that’s close to her heart.

“The number of people that I’ve spoken to about this particular program that I’d like to initiate, and their first words are ‘well, that’s a no-brainer’,” said Ms Dempsey.

“Give me bucketloads of reasons why one wouldn’t want their kids when they’re learner drivers to build their skills as a first-aider?

“It’s proven to save lives, and we are such a large country and so many people are in so many cars on the road. Every time I see people driving around, all I can see is potential first-aiders,” she said.

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It’s a push that St John Ambulance Australia is standing firmly behind. National CEO Brendan Maher pointed to the draft National Road Safety Strategy for the next decade, which hopes to achieve a 30 per cent decrease in death and trauma caused by incidents on the road through safer speeds, roads, vehicles and driver behaviour.

“The strategy cannot overlook the need for a rapid and confident post-crash response from bystanders,” he said.

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