Sole member of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Bulahdelah Support Group hangs up her wings

Rusty’s efforts included the building of helipads in both Bulahdelah and Tea Gardens to more efficiently service the community in the event of an emergency medical response.


FOR 18 years, Rusty Sargeant has served as the Chair and more recently, the sole member of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Bulahdelah Support Group but on December 7, Rusty ‘hung up her wings’ and officially retired.

In her time in the role, Rusty and her group have raised over $140,000 for the Service and helped install helipads in Tea Gardens and Bulahdelah.

In recent times however, Rusty has served as the sole Support Group member, as volunteer numbers gradually declined.

Currently no one is stepping into Rusty’s shoes, a role that will no doubt be hard to fill, so despite retirement, Rusty will continue to manage the money tin donations in the area until new volunteers come forward.

Increasing visitor numbers and the sheer volume of traffic passing through the region on the Pacific Highway has allowed Rusty to see the fruits of her labour first hand and she admits it gives her mixed feelings.

“Every time I hear the aircraft or know it’s in the area for an accident on the highway or another emergency, my first thoughts are for the people and families involved.

“At the same time, I take some comfort in knowing that the work we have done in the past in raising funds for the service has ensured that those people will be receiving the best care possible,” Rusty said.

“Our efforts to secure the two helipads at Tea Gardens (opened in 2011) and Bulahdelah (opened in 2009) are my proudest accomplishments, working with Val Brown, another Support Group member who retired three years ago.

“Together we know these facilities will be utilised in years to come to deliver a better outcome for those who live, holiday or even just pass through this area should they ever need the Rescue Helicopter,” she said.

Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service CEO Richard Jones OAM said that Rusty’s contribution, along with that of her Support Group in past years, has been invaluable to both the Service and her local community.

“Our volunteers are such an important part of the communities we serve,” Jones said.

“For 18 years Rusty has worked tirelessly with her members and notably in recent times, on her own, to continue to support the Service and ensure that we remain available to her community and others like it across Northern NSW,” Jones said.

‘Retirement’, Rusty admits is probably a loose term for both her and husband Kim, knowing that whilst her official role will cease, the couple know that the Service is entrenched into their psyche and every time they hear the aircraft overhead, they will revisit and treasure their contribution to the Region’s life saving aeromedical service.



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