Joy of a life of service

Tari JeffersManjimup-Bridgetown Times
As a midwife, St John Ambulance volunteer and co-organiser for Manjimup's Walk for Cancer, Barbara Hunter is passionate about supporting the health and wellbeing of the community.
Camera IconAs a midwife, St John Ambulance volunteer and co-organiser for Manjimup's Walk for Cancer, Barbara Hunter is passionate about supporting the health and wellbeing of the community. Credit: Tari Jeffers

In her professional and volunteering life Manjimup’s Barbara Hunter is all about caring for the community’s health and wellbeing.

As a midwife, St John Ambulance volunteer and co-organiser of the annual Walk for Cancer, Barbara has found her passion in supporting people.

Barbara joined St John in 2014 when she had a deferred year of leave and thought it was an ideal opportunity to fulfil her long-time desire to join the volunteer service.

“I thought it was the perfect time because I could knock out the training,” she said.

“Working full-time at the hospital means you don’t get every weekend off to do the training so it was the perfect opportunity to do it.

“I just love it.”

Barbara said while it was a challenge, being involved with St John was also rewarding.

Her interest in joining the service stemmed from her time working in the hospital, where she saw the volunteers bringing in patients.

Barbara thought that, while her role in reacting to patients once they were in hospital was important, she could be frontline, helping someone at the closest time to the incident as possible.

From her role as a midwife and having that medical background, her biggest challenge when she started volunteering with St John Ambulance was learning to draw the line between the medical and stabilisation.

“Being a nurse and an ambo, I’ve got a fine line I can step over but the ambo side of the line, you generally stabilise the patient so you can pick them up and get them to hospital,” she said.

Barbara and her husband Simon migrated from South Africa 25 years ago and she went straight to the hospital to inquire about a job.

“I asked if they needed staff and they said oh yes, you can start now, we’ll give you your uniform right now and you can start right now,” she said.

“So I walked in there 25 years ago and I’ve been there ever since.

“I’m so passionate about my job, I just love it.”

Barbara said the cherry on the cake of working as a midwife was when she was working with an expectant mother and the birth afterwards.

“It’s magic, just absolute magic,” she said. “Every woman’s different, the whole birthing experience for her is — when she feels like the only one in the world — you are travelling her journey with her.

“Her experience is just paramount and you making it memorable for her is part of the journey.”

She added that watching a woman go through that transition phase and how you deal with the husband, you form a bond with them.

While she has never had a birth in the back of an ambulance, she has had some close calls and will even next month be leading volunteers through some birthing training.

Barbara’s altruism extends beyond the people who need front-line, imminent support, as she is also one of the organisers of the annual Walk for Cancer, which is usually held in October.

She was one of the organisers that took up the walk — which previously took place from Northcliffe to Windy Harbour — about 15 years ago.

“We said we’d bring it on, but that we were bringing it up to Manjimup,” Barbara said.

After much consideration and trial runs over the first few years of taking up the challenge, Barbara and the organisers of the Walk for Cancer have settled on a route from the Manjimup Coles car park to Fonty’s Pool.

“Every cent we raise goes to the Cancer Council and they love every little cent they get, it all goes into breast cancer research,” Barbara said.

For three years, she was also involved with the Walk for Women’s Cancer, where you had to raise $1000 to take part.

Among all this, Barbara is also a Manjimup Rotary Club member and separately, has also volunteered in Kenya and Tanzania with Nurses in Action.

In encouraging people to volunteer, she said it was such a rewarding experience.

“Dealing with somebody and seeing them get better, the whole experience,” Barbara said.

“There’s a satisfaction in doing it and just knowing you’ve giving something back.”

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