Watson, L 2016, ‘Embracing a more inclusive and diverse culture’, QAS insight magazine – May 2016, p. 36-37, <QAS Insight Magazine – May 2016 edition by QAS Media – issuu>.
By Leah Watson
Every year we set aside one day to specially recognise the world’s women. This year International Women’s Day falls on Tuesday March 8.
Throughout her 21 years in the QAS, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Service Planning and Performance, Dee Taylor-Dutton, says she has witnessed major changes.
’41 per cent of the QAS workforce is female now, which is a significant difference to when I started 21 years ago,’ Dee said.
‘Gender-based leadership continues to increase in QAS and we have done a lot to develop a more inclusive and diverse culture.
‘Each of us can be a leader within our own sphere of influence and commit to valuing further diversity.
‘I believe International Women’s Day is all about acknowledging the hard work of many people over many years and celebrating the work women continue to make every day to our communities and to our society more broadly.
‘Because of the work of these pioneers, including those first females in QAS, everyone is able to do the job they want to do here, regardless of gender.’
These two ladies were the first female honorary ambulance officers to be named in QAS
Emma Whitchurch (L) and Mrs E Horsfield (R) were appointed to the Babinda QLD Ambulance Transport Brigade (QATB) Centre during World War II and served the Babinda area for many years.
Both ladies were highly respected in the community for their ready availability to respond to calls for assistance and the excellent care for their patients.
Operations Centre Supervisor, Viv King, joined the QATB in 1986 when she was 19 years old, providing her with very unique experiences.
‘I was really lucky because I started as an honorary ambulance officer in Cleveland, where there was already a full-time female officer. Marcia Love basically took me under her wing and mentored me,’ Viv said.
Of course, not all difficulties encountered on the job were dependent on gender. Like all honorary officers, Viv was trained on the road.
‘You were really thrown into the deep end, basically you had a first-aid kit and that was it,’ she said.
‘My first call as an honorary officer was on my first day and it was to an asthmatic suffering shortness of breath.
‘I’ll never forget when the officer I was with told me to draw up Salbutemol. I had no idea how to do that, so he had to talk me through it right there.’
After completing her training as an honorary officer, Viv moved to Wynnum ambulance station.
‘The guys at Wynnum were brilliant – they took me in with open arms and protected me if I was given a hard time,’ she said.
‘It was still a little difficult back then though because, for example, there were no toilets or sleeping quarters for women – I had to drag a mattress into the training room and listen to the cockroaches running around every night.
‘Something I really remember are the old trundle stretchers we had back then.
‘Also, the Superintendent wasn’t sure what uniform to put me in so I was given a skirt – it was difficult to maintain good lifting practices and modesty while lifting a trundle stretcher.’
One of Viv’s fellow officers during her time in Wynnum was her now husband and QAS Director Operations, LASN Liaison, Tony King.
‘Actually, the first baby birth I was involved in was when I was working with Tony in Wynnum. A year later we got a card from the mother with a picture of the baby on the front. We still have it.’
Now the Springwood Station OIC, Marcia Love started as an honorary officer in Cleveland in 1984, before becoming permanent in early 1986.
‘When I joined the ambulance service, there were only two female officers in Queensland – myself and a lady in Rockhampton who started five weeks before I did,’ Marcia said.
‘On the subject of female officers in Queensland I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the women who worked in the ambulance service during the war.
‘While their husbands were away from war, defending our shores, the women were caring for our community as well as their children – what an amazing effort under what would have been incredibly difficult circumstances.’
Whilst being pioneers in the industry, early female honorary officers also influenced basic standards, like uniforms, for future women.
‘There weren’t any female uniforms when I started, so I was sent down the road to the police station to borrow a skirt from a police woman. To this day, the police woman whose skirt I borrowed is still a very close friend,’ she said.
‘What’s funny is that my father was a police officer for 40 years, in fact all my family were in the police service right back through the generations, so he was none too pleased when I joined the ambulance because he wanted me to be one of the first female police officers.
‘Now we’ve started a new tradition because my husband also works for the ambulance service and both our daughters became paramedics.’