Thursday 3 December is International Day of People with Disability, which is celebrated each year to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and recognise their achievements and contributions.
The theme for this year is Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 World.
New South Wales State Emergency Service (NSW SES) has over 800 members who identify as living with disability that bring valuable skills, expertise and lived experience to the Service and to the wider community.
Colin Bailey is one such member and has been volunteering with NSW SES Snowy River Unit for over seven years. As a valued member of the unit, Colin specialises in Alpine Search and Rescue, Vertical Rescue and Road Crash Rescue.
“Given the proximity of our unit to the alpine region of NSW, we are specially trained in responding to skiers lost in snow, missing bushwalkers and also responding to car crashes,” he said.
Three years ago, Colin’s arm was completely severed following an accident on his property. His then 13-year-old daughter Ayumi and her friend Aja provided lifesaving first-aid by applying a tourniquet to Colin’s arm before paramedics arrived.
“As soon as the accident occurred, I knew I needed the girls to apply a tourniquet to my arm in order to save my life. I was able to direct them in what they needed to do by first aid skills I acquired through my training with the SES.”
After Colin’s accident, his team members spent the weekend renovating his property to make it more accessible for him.
“After my accident, I realised the true spirit of the SES and how fortunate my family and I were to be part of such a caring organisation. My teammates came and offered time over a weekend to help renovate my house and support my family and I through what was a challenging time.”
Colin continues to play a vital role at the Snowy River Unit despite his disability. While his injury may sometimes restrict his participation, such as driving ‘over-snow vehicles’, he continues to respond to emergencies.
“I am still an active member of the unit. I assist with providing advice and directions when my team is searching for missing people as I know the terrain well. There really is a role for everyone in the NSW SES,” he said.
The Snowy River Unit has also just gained two new recruits – Colin’s very own daughter Ayumi and her friend Aja who both just turned 16. The future of the NSW SES Snowy River Unit is looking bright with proven lifesavers like these two young women on the team.