Siren sounds on paramedic’s impressive career

Peter Burns (71), of Woodvale, is retiring after 41 years as a paramedic with St John Ambulance. Pictures: David Baylis d495582
Peter Burns (71), of Woodvale, is retiring after 41 years as a paramedic with St John Ambulance. Pictures: David Baylis d495582

AFTER 41 years with St John Ambulance, Peter Burns will take his last callout this Friday.

The Woodvale 71-year-old started with SJA in September 1978 as an ambulance officer after a friend suggested the career move.

“I was talking to someone who was married to a physiotherapist and we had a really good conversation generally about life and where I came from and what I was doing,” Mr Burns said.

“And the more he explained the type of work and what paramedics do, the more interesting it sounded compared to what I was doing, which was a manager of a furniture factory.

“So he suggested I become a paramedic and I did.”

During his 41-year tenure, the former carpenter said he had seen four changes of uniform, “outlasted three CEOS” and watched education within the industry expand to world standards.

“I saw it when we had three weeks training, and there was a lot involved in that, to what it is now which is a university degree,” he said.

“And the equipment just keeps improving.”

Peter Burns (71), of Woodvale, is retiring after 41 years as a paramedic with St John Ambulance. Pictures: David Baylis d495582

Mr Burns said a career with SJA was “something you have to work at and not take lightly” but that it was “a job with heart”, stating his greatest career achievement was “longevity” and having a small role helping to train ambulance volunteers.

“They are an exceptional breed of people that give selflessly their time, effort and energy so for me just to help with their training was a small ask compared to what they do on a regular long-term basis,” he said.

He also remembered one of his favourite jobs where he helped a woman give birth on the couch in her home.

“When we had the baby it was just a beautiful moment and we saw that look of love I’ve only ever seen between a mum and a baby,” he said.

“We felt like a million dollars and we walked out, the sun was just coming up, and I thought ‘I love this job’.

“That was really emotional.”

Mr Burns said he had enjoyed his time at SJA, which had given him many challenges to overcome including not having a university degree.

“I left school at 14 and, coming from a large family there wasn’t a lot of involvement, but I was blessed with good people around me that encouraged me to not give up, keep going and keep trying and to maintain my studies,” he said.

“My family and friends are proud of what I do and I’m happy to be doing it.

“Some of the jobs test you out and you go home and it’s not nice on occasions but there’s other times you feel you’re walking on air.

“And I work with some exceptional human beings called fellow officers and they’re the reason I keep coming back.

“It’s hard to explain but there’s a bond between officers I’ve never seen anywhere else and I’m proud to be part of it.”

He said retirement would include working through his bucketlist that features visiting Vietnam, Singapore and Portugal and a Rhine River cruise.

“I’m going to miss it big time but I’m looking forward to new challenges,” he said.

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