Former sailor gets hands dirty in post-disaster ops

A message from Disaster Relief Australia

Friendship, comradery and being there for com­munities on their worst day are but a few of the reasons Peta-Maree Grant volunteers with Disas­ter Relief Australia (DRA).

A former Radio Operator with the Royal Aus­tralian Navy, Peta-Maree joined DRA’s South Queensland team in 2018. Since then, she has become an integral part of the organisation. As a volunteer, Peta-Maree uses her skills and experi­ence from the ADF to unite with fellow veterans, emergency responders and civilians and deploy to disaster-hit communities domestically and around the globe.

Peta-Maree’s ‘day job’ with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services sees her involved with disaster response in numerous ways, including incident management, co-ordination and con­trol centre operations.

Her voluntary role with DRA, however, gives her the opportunity to assist on the ‘front line’ after a disaster and to ‘get her hands dirty’ on the ground.

For Peta-Maree, it is a chance to work side-by-side with serving and former members of the ADF and provide practical, life-changing, and direct help to communities who have lost everything in floods, fires, or extreme climate events.

‘There is no organisation like Disaster Relief Australia,’ said Peta-Maree. ‘We are there when the waters have receded and the fires are out. We are there when many people need the most help and support – the recovery phase.

‘Our work can be as practical as removing dam­aged furniture or clearing fallen trees, but the difference this can make to someone and how they feel about their situation is unbelievable. To know you have played a role in that is life-chang­ing and it is addictive.’

The highlights of volunteering with an organ­isation such as DRA are numerous and they are significant.

In addition to the essential role it plays in the recovery of a disaster-hit community, DRA offers a unique support network for veterans and first responders, who can often feel adrift after leaving the ADF or an emergency service. The structure and nature of DRA operations echo military operations and provide the opportunity for veterans to continue to serve and use their hard-earned skills and discipline.

For Peta-Maree, volunteering with DRA is an opportunity to spend time and build valua­ble relationships with fellow veterans and first responders, as well as civilians who come from every walk of life.

While the experience of deploying on an oper­ation is unrivalled, the buzz and opportunity of volunteering with DRA does not begin and end with deployment. DRA offers ongoing training opportunities to its volunteers, which Peta- Maree has also taken advantage of. She has trained for Strike Team leader roles and to work within DRA’s Incident Management Team, which is responsible for overseeing an operation. She has also undertaken a mental health course and consequently, has a much better understanding of PTSD.

In Peta-Maree’s opinion, there is no other organisation like DRA. It ticks every box.

‘For all the communities I have helped and new skills I have gained, I have also made some fan­tastic and lifelong friends and, once again, found the comradery I felt in the Navy,’ she said.

To find out more about DRA, and to join up, go to Disaster Relief Australia.

Peta-Maree Grant
Peta-Maree Grant hard at work as a DRA volunteer

Peta-Maree Grant hard at work as a DRA volunteer