Raffle ticket was the unexpected start to a new calling

Kerry Turpin from Evans Head Marine Rescue. Photo: Contributed

Susanna Freymark

Who would have thought that buying a ticket in a raffle would turn a woman’s life around?

Eight years ago, Kerry Turpin bought that ticket from Kirra Hartland, a volunteer with Evans Head Marine Rescue.

Kirra is “very persuasive”, Kerry said. And that’s how Kerry became a volunteer.

She trained as a radio operator and when needed she crews on the rescue boat.

“I love the people there,” she said.

“While I can still make a contribution, I will.”

Kerry had no hint that her deputy commander Jim Roberts had nominated her for an Australasian Women in Emergencies Network award recently.

She won an Outstanding Excellence Award for her contribution to Evans Head Marine Rescue and for disaster resilience.

Kerry grew up in Sydney where “My dad always had boats.”

She lives in Wardell on high ground and three Evans Head Marine Rescue members “were stranded here” during the floods.

“I ended up with 13 people at my house.”

She set up an evacuation centre at the Wardell Sporting and Recreation Club.

“There were 60 people there by the morning and we had no food.”

She drove to Ballina and could only get as far as the butcher because of rising floodwaters.

“I got the sausages and then the road closed,” she said.

“And we were cut off.”

With Fire Brigade members, she loaded people onto the back of the fire trucks and they were taken to Alstonville.

During the floods there were many medical emergencies.

“We had a fella on an oxygen machine,” Kerry said.

She only had a landline to communicate during the flood efforts. Kerry wrote the phone number on bits of paper and asked rescuers to pass it on to people who needed help.

Restaurants were sending food to Wardell and two doctors turned up to help.

“A lot of people took comfort from seeing a uniform.”

She intends to keep wearing that uniform and serving the community through Evans Head Marine Rescue.

Marine Rescue heading out to sea. Photo: Nina George
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