The growing accumulation of tributes at the sculpture in Wills Square adjacent to the Royal Daylesford Hotel is as much a tribute to our community’s first responders as it is to the victims of Sunday’s tragedy.
Few who were not there can imagine the confronting scene that faced emergency crews at the site of the tragic accident. Four people died at the scene, one died later in hospital and several are still in hospital recovering from physical injuries.
It is a credit to our emergency services personnel that, in an extremely chaotic situation, all victims were on their way to hospital by road or helicopter within 45 minutes of the first crews arriving.
But the images of the tragedy will haunt those who were injured, those who were witnesses and those who attended to the injured and dying for many years to come.
Local resident, Dudley McArdle, was the Director of the Federal Government’s Australian Emergency Management Institute at Mount Macedon and Director of the Emergency Management Branch of the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services. Asked how emergency responders could be trained to respond to such an horrific situation, he said, “You can’t. You simply train people to take care of their own mental health and to support their team members.
“With exposure to multiple situations, it might get easier but the memories stay for many years, perhaps forever”
Local services will have brought comfort to many residents who were impacted by the tragedy. A community vigil on Monday evening was attended by over 200 people including the Mayor and local councillors, local state member, Mary-Anne Thomas and member for Ballarat, Catherine King. An all-faiths service at Christ Church on Wednesday evening also drew a large crowd. Stand up counselling has been provided throughout the week at the site of the accident and drop-in counselling has been provided by Central Highlands Rural Health.
“The community vigil was an important opportunity for the Daylesford community to come together to support one another and express their sorrow for those who have lost their lives, their loved ones, and those still recovering following this dreadful incident,” said local state member, Mary-Anne Thomas.
“Our first responders, CFA and SES volunteers, Victoria Police and Ambulance Victoria paramedics, have each done an incredible job in the most challenging of circumstances – we are grateful for their service, and as a community offer our comfort and support. I am pleased that our emergency service agencies are on hand to support their members through debriefing and peer support.”
Member for Ballarat, Catherine King MP, also attended the vigil at Victoria Park. “I had the opportunity to speak with some of the responders at the vigil and to remind them that it is okay not to be okay right now. There are services available,” she said. “The entire community is so incredibly grateful for them and for their work, but we also need to appreciate the toll it can take, and that for some people it can take time to work through.”
Local CFA Brigade Chief, Glenn Webster, praised the collaboration between emergency services. “The collaboration between Vic Pol, CFA , Ambulance Victoria and the SES is stronger than ever,” he said. “Out of trauma comes healing.”
“We are so grateful to the first responders, and community members, who did what they could at the time,” said Hepburn Shire Mayor, Cr Brian Hood. “They showed enormous strength and courage in an extremely distressing situation.
“On behalf of Council I express my deep gratitude to the staff of emergency service agencies and the many organisations that Council and Council staff have worked with following this tragedy. The collective response has been exceptional”.
Our CFA and SES volunteers, Victoria Police and Ambulance Victoria paramedics deserve our admiration, our gratitude and our unreserved support.