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Launch of St John Ambulance Learner Driver First Aid, Lawns of Parliament House Canberra


This is Ngunnawal Country. Today we are all meeting together on this Ngunnawal Country. We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Elders.

It is a real delight to be here with you this morning for the launch of Learner Driver First Aid.

Today’s launch is the result of a lot of hard work by many people. It is typical of a St John Ambulance initiative: a pragmatic, practical solution to a real problem.

St John Ambulance volunteers and staff epitomise that great Australian trait of, upon seeing a need, rolling up the sleeves, getting to work and making the community better as a result.

They don’t wait to be asked — across so many programs and initiatives they simply show up, step up and help. They’re not motivated by praise or recognition, rather a desire to help others.

And the program we’re launching today, Learner Driver First Aid, will help others.

The headline figures speak to the scale of the problem St John Ambulance has identified: 1,200 killed each year and 44,000 seriously injured — a $30 billion cost to the national economy.

The size of those numbers shock, but it is also important to remember that each individual story is an unimaginable tragedy.

Twelve hundred families whose lives will be forever changed: parents not coming home, children taken far, far too soon, and friends, colleagues and loved ones suddenly gone.

For those who suffer serious injuries, it is a long painful road to recovery.

This new program will make a real, measurable and practical difference.

It is a pretty simple equation: the more of us who know first aid, even the basics, the more people who will receive critical care in the minutes that follow accidents.

Lives will be saved and some of the tragedy I spoke of avoided.

It is an admirable goal and I want to acknowledge the passion and commitment that so many at St John have put into it.

Having said earlier that St John people don’t seek praise and recognition, I would be remiss to not highlight a very special person for whom today’s launch has been 30 years in the making: our Senior Australian of the Year, Val Dempsey.

A brief story about Val and Learner Driver First Aid. Back in May, Linda and I welcomed Val and the other three Australians of the Year to Government House for a video call with Her Majesty The Queen.

The call was to celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee and, in lieu of her being able to visit Australia, take a little bit of Australia to her in the UK.

As you can imagine, we were all a bit nervous but there was no need. The Queen put everyone at ease. Her interest was particularly piqued by Val when she passionately launched into what she was determined to do as Senior Australian of the Year — the program we’re launching today.

I think we can safely say that Her Majesty was converted into a strong supporter.

I think The Queen was also impressed that Val was closest to matching her in terms of duration of service. Val, I'm pretty sure that you committed to reaching your own Platinum anniversary with St John? 

We can only hope so, Val, as you are a national treasure. Congratulations on today and all you have achieved this year.

Thank you, again, to all at St John Ambulance. Today is another example of the remarkable contribution you make to our community.

It is now my great pleasure to launch Learner Driver First Aid here in Australia.