Coral Bay volunteer takes community spirit to the next level
Coral Bay is a tropical paradise renowned for its proximity to the stunning Ningaloo Reef.
But beneath the surface of this world renowned holiday town beats the heart of a close-knit community. And a passionate group of volunteers are keeping the town safe, whether it is dealing with the aftermath of a cyclone, road crashes or marine rescues.
Sandra Lymbery is one of those community heroes. A volunteer for 16 years she is the Administration Officer for the Volunteer Fire and Emergency Services (VFES), Secretary and Treasurer of Volunteer Marine Rescue Services (VMRS) and a driver for St John ambulance.
Sandra and her partner Bernard Vale, Commander of the VMRS, made the move north 19 years ago and they have become hard bitten volunteers.
“We decided to step up and volunteer because we could. You might be tired after being up all night waiting for the Royal Flying Doctor, but in the end I enjoy doing it and it’s nice to help people,” Sandra said.
She has also brought all emergency services together under one roof - Coral Bay Combined Emergency Services.
“We were all having separate meetings and it made no sense in such a small community. I instigated one meeting for everything and now we can achieve more,” she said.
Coral Bay Combined Emergency Services share a purpose built shed where they conduct training and house vehicles and vessels. A few years ago, with the help of funding from Royalties for Regions, the group purchased a one bedroom donga with a kitchenette and an admin office.
“It’s very useful when there’s a cyclone, especially when you have to be up every four hours for teleconference briefings. We’re also able to offer it to people who are in town for emergency services training,” Sandra said.
When there is an emergency in Coral Bay Sandra knows where everyone is at any given time and who to call on.
“I coordinate the call outs for VMRS and VFES and usually have the on call phone for the ambulance five to six times a week,” she said.
While the town boasts access to the Ningaloo Reef from the beach and beautiful diving, snorkelling and fishing spots, the ocean sometimes takes a tragic toll.
Over the years Sandra has coordinated and been called out to countless incidents in Coral Bay, and she said it really makes you appreciate how fragile life can be. As a peer support officer for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) she will often help friends and families dealing with loss or illness with the practical side of things like insurance or travel arrangements.
Sandra and her fellow volunteers have been recognised for their work many times. In 2015 when Cyclone Olwyn devastated Coral Bay volunteers pulled together and had the town up and running in just six days, relocating 80 residents. Sandra and fellow volunteer Frazer McGregor, Officer in Charge of Coral Bay VFES, were awarded the Volunteer Fire and Emergency Services Award for Excellence for their selfless service.
Despite the time and commitment it takes to volunteer Sandra said she still enjoys it.
“And if there’s anyone interested in becoming a volunteer, we’re always looking for new people,” she said.
Sandra Lymbery is a finalist in the 2017 Volunteer Marine Services Awards (VMRS) for Outstanding Individual Contribution. Coral Bay VMRS is a finalist for Outstanding Group Operations.