From journo to ACO, 30 years on

In 1990, the local paramedic in Kerang started teaching a young journalist first aid skill because both always saw each other at the same call outs.

While the paramedic was looking for an extra set of hands to help people, it was a revelation for the young man.

That paramedic suggested to Ken Jenkins, a journalist from what is now the Gannawarra Times, become an Ambulance Community Officer (ACO).

It was a chance to see and help his community in a whole new light.

Ken celebrates 30 years as an ACO and has no plans to stop in 2020.

Photo attributed to: Andrew Paloczi, Gannawarra Times.

“It’s a special way of dealing with the community. You come across people in tragic situations, and it’s wonderful to help them get through it.’

As one of the 1,100 ACOs across Victoria, Ken admits he has always loved serving his community, including a 16-year stint as a board member at Kerang District Health, not to mention his four terms as chairman.

It’s obviously become a family calling, with two of Jenkins’ daughters working in the health industry.

“The paramedics really appreciate the contribution. To be accepted by the AV community means a lot. The treatment we provide today is very collaborative with the paramedic.”

Contributing to small communities is in Ken’s DNA, and he encourages everyone to take on similar roles.

An ACO’s role has changed dramatically over the years, from providing simple first aid and oxygen, to a more connected approach with paramedics.

“Our small communities wouldn’t exist without these contributions. You can make a big difference if you do it.”

Photo attributed to: Andrew Paloczi, Gannawarra Times.

Ken has seen unprecedented changes to emergency response as an ACO in the COVID-19 era.

“The biggest change is the protective gear and cleaning of our equipment. I’m also seeing some older people not calling Triple Zero (000), which is concerning. There’s also less trauma due to the reduction in sport and recreational activities.”

Over the years, Ken has seen many recruits join the ranks as ACOs go on to work as nurses and paramedics. But for Ken, serving the 3,000-plus town he loves is the best work around.

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