Our People - Trudy Whelan

  Comment Banner July 2010

AFSM a fitting finale for Trudy


The honour of receiving the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) was a fitting finale for Trudy Whelan prior to her retirement. Trudy has worked tirelessly and with great dedication for over 30 years to ensure the psychological wellbeing of fire fighters.

A quiet achiever who has not sought public recognition for her efforts and achievements, Trudy joined the SA Country Fire Service (CFS) in 1978 as an administration officer and worked in a variety of administrative positions, including the accounts section, undertaking human resources management tasks and managing the central and regional administration officers.  

During the tragic Ash Wednesday Bushfires of 1983, Trudy answered distressed callers on the bushfire hotline in the communications centre. For the past 22 years until her recent retirement she has been instrumental in managing the delivery of welfare services to the CFS. Since the inception of the Emergency Services Administration Unit (ESAU) and the South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission (SAFECOM), she has also worked with the State Emergency Service and SAFECOM.

Since 1988 Trudy has managed the Stress Prevention and Management Program (SPAM), a program that has help thousands of CFS and SES volunteers. She has also managed an Employee Assistance Program for career staff, acting as a staff counsellor and being on almost constant 24 hour call. These programs have included the provision of a wide range of psychological services, including training and education, group debriefings after critical incidents and individual and family counselling.

Trudy managed and coordinated an extensive peer support program and has been instrumental in the development of a nationally accredited and recognised Certificate 3 course in community services. Many CFS and SES volunteers in South Australia have graduated from this course and worked in conjunction with mental health professionals to add to a multilevel service provision.  

Other visionary practices were incorporated into the program, e.g. producing and directing a specifically made DVD distributed to every brigade and unit in South Australia.  This resulted in clarity of roles and responsibilities for every rescuer and fire fighter in the State. Trudy recently supervised a research project which produced a world first random controlled trial of critical incident stress debriefing.

Trudy has received awards from WorkCover and the Critical Incident Stress Management Foundation, which has an international affiliation, and she has been constantly approached for information and assistance by other local and interstate agencies that recognise her program as being best practice.

Evidence of that best practice has been the low to minimal number of stress claims, lodged by CFS, SES and SAFECOM personnel under the State WorkCover system. This has been achieved by Trudy working hard to promote the concepts of prevention and self management to staff and volunteers.

Trudy has coordinated welfare support to several large South Australian deployments interstate, including bushfires in New South Wales in 1994, 2000 and 2001 and Victoria in 2003 and 2009.


09.07.10 COMMent Trudy Whelan
AFSM medal recipient Trudy Whelan at her farewell recently with, from left, A/Chief Officer MFS Mick Smith, SAFECOM Chief Executive David Place, and CFS Chief Officer Euan Ferguson.



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