20 Years in Green: the highs, the lows and the in between

Press Release

2024 marks 20 years since the class of ‘04 officially joined the St John WA team. Sixteen of the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed graduates are still donning their greens today, working across different areas of the organisation.

Two decades is an incredible feat – and a lot has changed since 2004.

Obama became a household name, Aussies endured seven Prime Ministers, Facebook took over the world, and then Donald Trump. ’04 babies celebrated their 20th birthdays – and if that wasn’t wild enough, there was a global pandemic.

Meanwhile, these legends were taking on new roles, saving lives and keeping the WA community safe.

Sarah Crabbe, Blaise Rego and Naomi Johnson

How did it all start?

For Area Manager Blaise Rego, he was ready to make a change in life and challenge himself after working at Burswood Casino for more than a decade.

“Once I started, I knew it was more than just a change, it was a job that aligned with my values,” Blaise said.

“The euphoric feeling of helping to save a life is one that stays with you for a very long time. Hence my 20-year career.”

Operations Manager Naomi Powell was studying nursing when she began volunteering at the Kalgoorlie Sub Centre and realised her love for paramedicine.

“From day one I was so inspired by the paramedics that I ditched my degree and applied for SJWA straight off the bat,” Naomi said.

Others said that they had an affinity for paramedics since childhood with Special Operations Paramedic Travis Kendrick wanting to join St John WA since his high school days.

“I would see paramedics on my walk to school at Morley depot and admire their job, dressed smartly in their uniforms, washing their vehicles, or driving to a call with lights and sirens,” Travis said.  

Classmate Sarah Crabbe echoed the sentiment, having dreamt of becoming a paramedic since she was a little girl.

“Those around me said that being a female paramedic wasn’t possible, I was ‘too small’, and they were different times,” Sarah said.

“So, I took a job at a medical centre, and one day SJWA came in to teach us first aid. The trainer encouraged me to become a volunteer, I was lucky enough to be accepted and, well, the rest is history.”

Rhonda Saville and Debra Daniels

The job: then and now

At the time, paramedicine was largely a male dominated profession, but the 2004 cohort was the first group that had a 50/50 split of men and women.

The cohort was also the last to have paid inductions, which allowed the class to work and get paid to study at night to become paramedics. For young mothers Rhonda Saville and Debra Daniels, this allowed them to do both.

“I think with more flexibility these days more women can join but it’s mostly young people coming through now as they have to have university degrees, whereas we were older with kids,” Rhonda said.

 “But our skills are the same, we just got more intensive training early on.”

Rhonda and Debbie have since forged a bond that has seen them through the past two decades.

“We’re best mates. We’ve been constant friends the whole way through,” Rhonda said.

With 20 years of different metro postings, the pair reunited in 2023 when Debbie returned to road duties and requested her old ‘partner in crime’ Rhonda to hit the road with her.

When asked about their highlights at SJWA, friendship took the cake.

Stacey Abbott said that the people she’s met along the way were “hands down” her favourite part of the job.

“The people – 100 per cent. It’s a genuine privilege to call these people my ‘family in green’,” Stacey said.

Travis agreed the camaraderie along the way had been his biggest highlight. “I’ve had many great moments throughout my career, but what is most satisfying is the camaraderie of SJWA and the close friends I’ve made through the years,” Travis said.

Station Manager Duncan Jones said that he was happy to see so many of his classmates still sporting green.

“I’m not sure we expected that to happen. It’s funny that our AP numbers used to be ridiculed as a postcode by the three-digit dinosaurs of the time but now it seems we are part of that same group,” he said with a chuckle.

From working with vollies to namesake newborns, the team has had some pretty cool moments across their careers.

Sarah said the privilege of helping others had brought her many magical moments during her time at SJWA.

“I helped deliver twins in the Graham Farmer Tunnel, and one of the little girls was then named after me, so of course that’s a huge highlight,” Sarah said.

Robert Perozzi, Hilda Brogden, Duncan Jones, Travis Kendrick and Troy Shortland

“Elderly patients are my favourite, you just learn so much from them. I’ve been ‘adopted’ so many times and have a lot of grandparents out there now.”

Many agreed that seeing and implementing change had been milestone moments.

“There’s so much room to grow at SJWA, and I’ve been lucky enough to work both on-road and operationally, in the country and in metro,” Naomi said.

Naomi’s role has evolved from a volunteer Ambulance Officer in the country, to Paramedic, to Station Manager, to leadership. Now, she’s focused on improving safety through her role as Operations Manager.

“The important thing, is that I know what it’s like out there, and so I’m able to drive change to support our people and what they need.”

Duncan reflected on his continued passion and involvement with the country and volunteers.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with volunteers and I still see myself moving towards that direction in future to help our volunteers do their best for all those who live out in the country,” he said.

What advice would you give the class of 2024?

Enjoy being a paramedic. Know that you don’t have to have it all figured out, ditch the five-year plan and embrace the now. Keep your eyes open for opportunities and don’t be scared to try something new.

Naomi Powell

Enjoy each day and moment and take every opportunity that appeals to you.

Travis Kendrick

Welcome to a life changing career. Be open to every opportunity, be a role model for the next generation, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable – that’s Emergency Management 101 right there!

Stacey Abbott

Remember it is a privilege to be invited into someone’s home on what is potentially one of their worst days. Always advocate for your patient as sometimes you are their only voice. Most of all, look after each other out there and don’t forget to laugh at yourself!

Sarah Crabbe

Never forget the reason that you joined and remember to practice empathy for all of your patients regardless of the situation. Keep a growth mindset throughout your career and never stop learning and developing.

Blaise Rego

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