'I'm missing from so many family photos': St John worker's heart-wrenching letter protesting poor work conditions

An anonymous frontline ambulance officer has penned a heartwrenching letter to St John's board of trustees in protest at poor working conditions and pay.

The letter, which discusses the sacrifices that have been made for the job, is the first in a series that aims to raise public awareness of the realities of being an ambulance professional.

"I am a qualified health professional," the letter says. "My pay has not kept up with inflation and most ambulance officers today are worse off financially than five years ago."

The letter comes as partial strikes involving about 1000 ambulance officers continue for St John, as they push for shift recognition payments and recognition as registered health professionals.

FIRST Union, which represents ambulance staff, says it is yet to receive a response from the board in its quest for a remedy to these issues in what is becoming an "increasingly frustrating scenario" for its members.

Read the full letter:


I am missing from so many family photos. Not because I hate the camera but because I am a frontline Ambulance Officer. I have been rostered to work numerous Christmas's and New Years', and many more nights and weekends. I have more weekends at work, than off. I do not get to choose my rostered days on or the length of my shifts. I do this willingly for a job I love, and with the support of my family who sacrifice the most.

I have attended too many cardiac arrests to ever count. I have seen too many young people killed in their vehicles, drowned or died at the hands of those meant to protect them. I have identified your grandmother's stroke in the dark, at 3am on the bathroom floor and ensured she received life-saving treatment within the short window available. I have taken away your pain. I have delivered your baby. I have shocked your husband's heart so they he may arrive at hospital alive to receive treatment. I have cleaned up your mess when you got drunk and never made it to the toilet. I have broken into your house in the dark at night because your family are worried for your safety. I have seen you attempt and be successful at suicide.

I have also attended you when you called for stubbing your toe or cutting your finger. When you called because you had no transport to get to the doctor. When you called because you had a mild fever, were lonely or just didn't know what else to do. Sometimes these calls came after I had seen people die. I never told you. I put a smile on my face and did my job.

I have been covered in your blood, sweat, urine and faeces. I have been spat at, groped, verbally and physically abused. You have threatened to punch my lights out and told me to get f****d when I tried to help you after crashing your motorcycle. I have worked 14-hour stretches with only one 30-minute break. I have worked in the crushing heat and punishing cold. My crew-partner and I have carried you, twice my size, down numerous flights of stairs because you couldn't walk.

I am a qualified health professional. My pay has not kept up with inflation and most Ambulance Officers today are worse off financially than five-years ago. Paramedicine is the only health profession that does not receive penal rates for shift work, is not Professionally Registered, and our employer has a monopoly. Despite my Bachelor of Health Science in Paramedicine I am currently employed as an Emergency Medical Technician, meaning I can be paid even less than the already low Paramedic salary. This is akin to employing a nurse as a healthcare assistant. Would this be ok in any other health profession? Is this not a form of free labour?

My colleagues and I cannot continue to pay a high personal price for this job. We are at risk of falling over, some of us have already and are struggling to get back up. I have always been there for you. Now I need you to help me.

  • We deserve shift recognition payments.
  • We deserve to employed in the role we are qualified to perform.
  • We deserve recognition as Registered Health Professionals.
  • We deserve an employer than cares for us so we can care for you.



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