A volunteer’s story – Karen Robinson

VOLUNTEERING WITH ROAD TRAUMA SUPPORT SERVICES VICTORIA

My volunteering experience with Road Trauma Support Services Victoria (RTSSV), has been a lifeline that has transformed my life, and thus influence my relationships with others most positively and fruitfully!

I came across a quote the other day on Facebook that stated this: “One day, you will tell your story, of how you’ve overcome, what you are going through now, and it will become part of someone’s survival guide.” I feel the work that RTSSV’s volunteers and paid staff do – does just that – for many within our community.

My volunteering story began back almost ten years ago now, on the 5th of November 2009. At our family home, early on a Friday morning, a knock at the front door revealed a young police officer who asked me, was I Karen Robinson, Ben’s mum and I said yes. With words that stumbled around, he said they were not sure; they had the right address. He then stated that Ben, my son, had been killed in a single-car crash. Ben was 25, travelling at 140 kilometres per hour on a straight stretch of country road, in the early hours of the morning, with a BAC level of .08, hit a kangaroo, lost control of his vehicle, hit two trees and was killed instantly – the coroner’s report stated. I want to say here, that he was not a bad person, he was well-loved and liked by many, but he did engage in risky driver behaviour for many years, and on the night of his death, made some choices that tragically cost him his life. Ben is greatly missed and especially by me, his mum, his dad and sister.

My family’s grieving process was different, for the each of us, but for myself, I wanted to see if I could connect with like-minded people – to give purpose and meaning to my life that had been completely shattered, by the sudden and tragic loss of our son Ben. Connecting with RTSSV proved to be, one of many steps I undertook during this volunteering journey of mine.

RTSSV’s volunteer speaker training back in 2011, lead me to spend five years as a volunteer speaker, sharing my life experience with road trauma, through the Road Trauma Awareness Seminar (RTAS) program to repeat road traffic offenders – people just like my son. Someone asked me one day “you must feel great after sharing your story” and I thought at the time that, that was not the case. After thinking about for some time, I thought it was the worthiest of tasks I do in my life and still is!

What has enhanced this journey of mine has also been through the paid work that I now do with RTSSV. My volunteering has led to opportunities given to me by Chris Harrison, Education Services Manager, to undertake the role of Regional Coordinator and the RTAS program Facilitator. The position entails connecting me with other facilitators and other volunteer speakers. My job is to help them stay connected regionally and with head office, help with training and give support where needed. My role as a Facilitator is to facilitator sessions about road safety and road trauma, for traffic offender participants, in the hope they will become, safer and more responsible road users in the future.

My volunteering experience with this organisation has been lifesaving for sure. It has improved my sense of self-worth after our family’s tragic event. It helped me rebuild and re-energised my life to give it meaning and purpose. It has given me opportunities to connect and develop meaningful relationships with likeminded people, and opportunities to take up training to enhanced existing skills, and learn new ones!

As a mother, a wife, a friend, a work colleague and community member – I am genuinely appreciative of this – and thank you.

Karen Robinson
June 2019

Warrnambool police officers donate award

A big thank you to Senior Constables John Keats and Trudy Morland, who were jointly awarded $2500 by the Rotary Club of Warrnambool East, for this year’s Dr John Birrell Award. They have very generously donated the money to our organisation>> https://bit.ly/2DBsj2g

Pictured below is Leading Senior Constable Trudy Morland, Road Trauma Support Services Victoria Regional Coordinator Rhys Tate and Rotary Club of Warrnambool East President Maggie Dwyer.

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Bernadette Nugent is appointed as Chief Executive Officer

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Bernadette Nugent, to the position of Chief Executive Officer. Bernadette joined Road Trauma Support Services Victoria in 2012 as the Manager of Counselling and Support Services and has had more than 30 years’ experience working with individuals and families in a variety of settings with a focus on grief and trauma.

Bernadette is passionate about not-for-profit organisations and about offering quality programs and services that are relevant, accessible and responsive to the needs of the community they serve.

Bernadette brings a wealth of experience and strong relationships to the CEO role.

Bernadette is very much looking forward to working with our dedicated team of volunteers, staff, board and stakeholders to continue our work in reducing the incidence and impact of road trauma.

You’re invited to Shine a Light on Road Safety

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“To complete this walk, surrounded by people who understand the impacts of road trauma, was very powerful. People talked, cried and laughed together and were united in the ambition to make a difference. I think this is a community of people who will continue to come together each year in support of this event and, who will ultimately help influence change for Victoria’s road users.”

When: Sunday 5 May 2019. Entertainment starts at 11 am, walk from 11.30 am and lunch from 12 to 1.30 pm.

Where: Palms Lawn, Albert Park Lake (between the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre and The Point Restaurant)

Distance: 2km or 5km route. Or just sit back in the marquee seating and enjoy a coffee and chat.

The walk: Wheelchair, mobility scooter and prams accessible. Dogs on a lead are welcome.

Food: Water, coffee, snacks and a sausage sizzle BBQ on site.

Cost: $15 individual, $20 family and $50 team

REGISTER NOW

Helping when someone you know has experienced road trauma

The impact of a traumatic event affects individuals in a variety of ways. Some of the symptoms can be extremely difficult to manage. If someone you care about is experiencing the after-effects of trauma, there are some things you can do to help.

Spending time with them will help them to stay connected. This is extremely important and aids in their recovery.

Listening without offering advice. Allow the person to talk about how they feel. Feelings are natural and normal.

Resist the urge to “fix it”.

Recovery takes time and offering a safe place for them to express how they feel can really help their recovery process.

Offer reassurance that they are safe. Trauma undermines our ability to feel safe in the world.

Encourage the person to ask for help and support. Where possible, offer practical assistance with day-to-day tasks such as cooking or picking up children.

There is no set time for the recovery of trauma. There is usually a natural recovery that occurs after trauma. For some people that can be a slow process and can take months or even years.

First on scene and witnesses of road trauma

If you have witnessed or given assistance at the scene of a serious road incident, it is important to be aware of the range of feelings, thoughts and responses you may have. Individuals may have reactions that may be hard to manage and confusing for them and those that are close to them.

Common reactions include flashbacks, sleeplessness, uncomfortable physical sensations and symptoms, social withdrawal, irritability, and strong emotions such as anger or guilt – just to name a few.

These are all normal human responses to a traumatic event, and there is usually a natural recovery that occurs over time. However, for some people that can be a slow process and can take months or even years.

It is important to seek support from family and friends who are able to listen without trying to fix it. If you find yourself alone, or your symptoms persist, it can be helpful to speak to a professional such as your GP, a counsellor, psychologist or a social worker.

Trauma and children

When a child experiences trauma, their age and level of maturity can influence how they react. Some children find it hard to understand their feelings and struggle to verbalise them. Despite the difference in their ability to describe what they are experiencing, children can be affected by the same range of reactions an adult experiences following a traumatic event.

A child’s age impacts on the way they express their distress and what they may need to recover. There are some signs to look out for in children who may be having difficulties but do not necessarily lead to long-term problems. Most are normal and will resolve in time with the help of caring family members and friends.

Some of the signs to watch for include:
• Reliving the trauma through dreams, play, preoccupation with traumatic events
• Distress when reminded of the traumatic event
• Disorganised or agitated behaviour
• Avoiding reminders
• Withdrawal from people
• Losing interest in significant activities
• Over alert – hypervigilance
• Sleep trouble
• Unusually clingy
• Physical discomfort
• Changes in behaviour eg. regression

HOW TO HELP
It’s important to recognise that the child’s behaviour may be a response to the trauma. Reassure the child that they are safe. Have open honest communication about the experience, including both talking and listening. Give the child special attention and allow them to express their emotions. Offer comfort when they are distressed. Correct any misunderstandings or unwarranted fears.

Give clear honest information in an age-appropriate way. Encourage enjoyable activities and have quality family time together. Maintain routine where possible. Using creative practices such as drawing or writing about the experience helps children to understand and process their feelings. Using play for young children is another way to help them communicate and process what they are feeling. Normalise any emotions they experience.

WHEN TO GET PROFESSIONAL HELP
If the reactions described in this post are severe or continue for an extended period, the child could be experiencing a more serious reaction and may need professional help. Contacting a health practitioner is also recommended if a child is experiencing:
• Severe and continued sleep disturbance
• Severe anxiety when separated from loved ones
• Continued fears about things which may remind the child of the trauma
• Behaviour problems at home or school
• Self-doubts, withdrawal or other significant changes in emotions or personality
• A return to ‘babyish’ behaviour that the child had outgrown
• Intense and ongoing emotional upset
• Substance use, dangerous or risk-taking behaviours.

We offer free state-wide professional counselling to anyone impacted by road trauma and are open Monday to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm. To make an appointment call 1300 367 797.

Michael Lombard Honorary Life Membership

As a lawyer working with people who had sustained terrible and often lifelong injuries in road crashes, Michael identified the need for people to be emotionally supported in their journeys of grief and trauma.

During his involvement with, and participation in the initial committee which was to become Road Trauma Support Team, he offered his expertise in law to assist the program in its early incarnation. Hence the Befriender Program, and ultimately Road Trauma Support Services Victoria (RTSSV) was born.

He dedicated the following decade to the fledgling committee and organization, ensuring its financial survival. Of particular note was his participation in the Rose Weekend, a fundraising initiative that was instrumental in the early successes of the organisation. Later his astute business acumen and savvy professional connections were once again instrumental in creating a philosophically aligned relationship with the Transport Accident Commission, a relationship that continues 19 years after inception.

His support of our work has, as recently as this year, continued to provide opportunities for us, ultimately for the benefit of Victorians impacted by road trauma.

And so, after 24 years of friendship, support, guidance and dogged determination, it is our privilege and pleasure to admit Michael Lombard (pictured below with CEO, Cameron Sinclair) to Honorary Life Membership with RTSSV.

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Chris and Kate Parkin Honorary Life Membership

Commencing their journey with Road Trauma Support Services Victoria (RTSSV) in 2003 when, three years after commencing their careers as paramedics with Ambulance Victoria (then Metropolitan Ambulance Service), they responded to an article calling for volunteer speakers in our Road Trauma Awareness Seminar program.

During their early careers, they had witnessed road trauma on many occasions and had key learnings they wanted to share to make a positive difference to the attitudes and behaviours of drivers charged with driving offences. In their words, they learned that:

  • Road trauma is mostly avoidable
  • Road trauma incidents are largely due to people’s poor choices and
  • That the devastation road trauma causes also has impacts on our emergency services personnel and first responders

Their experiences in assisting people directly impacted by road trauma have informed their work with RTSSV and their innate generosity and compassion led them to continue to both positively influence driver behaviour, and also offer much needed and invaluable peer support to other volunteer speakers who are also impacted by road trauma.

Whilst they have stated in this year’s annual report that they are inspired by the resilience and courage of our volunteer speakers, it is us who are inspired by their generosity and commitment since 2004 to our organisation and road safety.

It is our privilege and pleasure to admit RTSSV’s first-ever husband and wife team to Honorary Life Membership, Kate Drain-Parkin and Chris Parkin (pictured below with CEO, Cameron Sinclair).

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Education team meeting 2018

On Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 of July, we held our state education team weekend at the Iluka Retreat and Camp, Red Hill South.

Thank you to a great team for making the weekend a great success.