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Volunteer attends Queen’s funeral

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Senior Australian of the Year 2022 and former Narrandera resident Valmai Dempsey of Canberra was one of ten Australians representing Australia at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II last week.

Ms Dempsey, a St John Ambulance ACT Volunteer for more than four decades, has been a passionate advocate for first-aid training for learner drivers.

She attended the funeral at Westminster Abbey alongside Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Governor-General David Hurley and 2022 Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott.

Her 2022 Senior Australian of the Year Award honoured an exceptional frontline volunteer who tirelessly supported her community during the ‘Black Summer’ fires and Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Dempsey has been a volunteer with St John Ambulance for over 50 years.

“Every Australian should learn first aid”, said Val, who first started volunteering at St John Ambulance as a primary school Mrs Dempsey has been a registered nurse since age 16 and has worked across Canberra’s cancer wards.

The mother of two, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of one, led 40 volunteers to support communities affected by the ‘Black Summer’ bushfires and personally contacted every member of the St John Ambulance team to offer support through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nearly losing her then 17-year-old daughter in a car accident led Val to campaign to get every Australian to learn first aid. While several people tried to help after the accident, none had first aid training and could do little more than wait for an ambulance.

As Senior Australian of the Year, Val Dempsey wants to “inspire another generation with a project that I know will save lives”.

Ian Yates AM, Chief Executive of COTA Australia, said Ms Dempsey’s invaluable contribution to this country should be celebrated today and every other day.

“Val is a force of nature and has changed the lives of tens of thousands of Australians through her tireless commitment to one of our country’s great volunteer services.

“Over 40 years of commitment to volunteering is an astonishing effort and one for which every Australian should be incredibly thankful to Val. She is living proof that our potential doesn’t diminish with age. In fact, the wisdom, drive, resilience and experience of older Australians like Val is priceless and should more often be harnessed for the greater good of our nation,” he said.

Ms Dempsey has travelled around Australia advocating for first aid training since accepting her award.

Narrandera Argus 29 September 2022

This article appeared in the Narrandera Argus, 29 September 2022.

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