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Friday, February 26, 2021

Westpac Rescue Helicopter stalwart marks milestone

Richard Jones is a familiar face across Northern New South Wales, and it’s no wonder why.

For 25 years, he’s been a vital part of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

Its Board, Regional Advisory Committees and staff say Richard’s outstanding commitment as Chief Executive, his empathy for those in need, leadership skills and vision have been integral to the service.

Chairman John Davis has commended Richard on his dedication to leading with his heart and prioritising the community’s needs.

“Our operations have evolved continually during Richard’s 25 years of leadership and he deserves every congratulations on his achievements throughout that time,” he said.

“His passion and dedication have been tremendous and he has always kept our community’s needs at the forefront of every decision.

“The Service is extremely fortunate to have had such an incredibly genuine leader for the past 25 years.”

Prior to becoming Chief Executive, in the early 80’s, Richard played first grade rugby for the Dragons before returning to Newcastle to play for Souths.

An injury in the 90’s saw his playing days cease and commentary days commence.

Richard began working alongside NBN’s Mike Rabbit and former Knights coach Allan McMahon, who at the time was running the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

Richard recalled Allan regularly talking about his role with Westpac and then one day Allan shared that he was leaving his job and Richard thought ‘I might have a go at that’ and the rest was history.

It was in November 1995 that Richard started his role as General Manager and for more than half of Westpac’s existence, he has been at the helm.

Throughout his career, Richard has overseen many significant changes.

He led a successful tender into NSW Government to win a ten year contract for the Rescue Helicopter to deliver world-class aeromedical services to the communities of Northern NSW.

He oversaw the introduction of four new AW139 helicopters and development of two new bases at Belmont and Lismore and extensions at Tamworth. 

More recently COVID-19 has posed many challenges and Richard is proud to have witnessed a high degree of patience and resilience over the past months.

“All departments have been working exceptionally well together to get through this tough period and I am proud to say that together our aeromedical response capability continued to be available 24/7 for our community,” he said.

Personally, Richard says one of the things he has really missed during the pandemic is not being able to visit and thank those who support the service. 

“Saying thank you in person is what I love to do, it doesn’t matter if you’ve donated $1 or $1,000 you deserve a thank you,” he said.

“We’re always so grateful for every bit of support we receive and saying thank you is something that I am proud of and I believe we do very well,” he said. 

Richard Jones with his team during a golf day.

Many people have been asking Richard how he has remained so dedicated for the past 25 years.

He said, “It’s never felt like a job”.

“I love what I do and I’m passionate about the vital role our Service provides for the communities of Northern NSW,” he said.

“It’s an absolute honour, every day is so dynamic, there are continuous challenges, however I always see positive growth and the growth I see across our teams inspires me every day.

“Over the years I’ve worked alongside many incredible people and the Rescue Helicopter has been extremely fortunate to have the right people over time to help our Service grow to what it is today.”

Richard says he is driven by community support, past patients, small towns out west and volunteers.

“I love seeing the community support and the positive outcomes – together we are saving people’s lives and the end product is that every time the Rescue Helicopter leaves the ground, so many people had a part to play,” he said.

“This includes our entire helicopter family both past and present, our engineers, aircrew, marketing, housie, finance, admin, board of directors, regional advisory committees, volunteers and donors.

“Also the NSW Ambulance Paramedics, NSW Heath Doctors, Nurses and the entire emergency service network across the regions who do such wonderful work.

“All of which come together to ensure we can provide the best in aeromedical support 24/7.”