Danny Eather has been the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service’s Community Liaison Officer since 2017.
We sat down for a chat about his life, Singleton and why he is so passionate about his work.
How long have you been a Singleton resident?
I’ve been here for the last 32 years, which is the full extent of my life! Growing up in Singleton, I attended King Street Primary and then Singleton High School. As a kid living in Singleton, we were given all the opportunities as the town is so well connected. Singleton is close enough to the beach and the city of Newcastle. However, it wasn’t until I worked in tourism that I realised that we often take it for granted that we have an international tourism destination on our doorstep!
How did you become involved in Hunter Valley tourism?
After leaving Singleton High, I had a grand plan of becoming a primary school teacher. I took a gap year, and then by chance, I applied for a casual job at the Singleton Visitor Information Centre. I loved my job and decided to go down the tourism path. I went to TAFE in Newcastle five days a week for a year to study for a diploma in tourism management. I then got a role at the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association at Pokolbin. I started at the Visitor Center, and then other opportunities came my way. I worked in the marketing team after undertaking some additional studies.
What was the highlight of your time in tourism?
My role included hosting and organising experiences for international travel agents from all over the world. I felt pretty privileged to give them a taste of the Hunter Valley, and I built beautiful friendships and relationships. I also got to travel throughout the country for trade shows. It was pretty cool when I’d be recognised as the guy that gave them a great time at Hunter Valley vineyards. I had a year or so working at Destination Port Stevens in Port Stephens as the Destination Marketing Manager before returning to Singleton to work as a Community Liaison Officer for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, or WRHS, in 2017.
Danny, I’ve heard your involvement with the rescue helicopter goes back further than that?
I’ve been volunteering for the Service since 2009 as I wanted to give back to the community. The WRHS is an essential service for the Singleton community when there has been a medical emergency, and rapid transportation is needed. I continued to volunteer even when I was in management roles. I used to call it a ‘five-to-nine job’, as I was doing it after hours. Being a volunteer was incredibly rewarding. Sometimes when somebody would come up to buy a sausage sandwich, make a donation or buy some raffle tickets and we’d have a conversation. I’d often find out that they, or a family member, were still alive due to having the Rescue Helicopter in the community. It really can be the difference between life and death.
We’re very fortunate to have it! How did you end up making the position permanent?
I had just bedded down into my role in Port Stephens when I got a call from Richard Jones, the CEO of the WRHS, saying that they wanted to have a permanent presence in the Upper Hunter, so they were employing a Community Liaison Officer. It was a hard decision, but Rescue Helicopter is my absolute passion, so I knew I had to apply for the position. I got the role and now represent an area from Cessnock to Scone and as far west as Mudgee. I’m on the road a lot. The further you get away from the major hospitals such as John Hunter in Newcastle, the more you realise that having rapid transport can considerably change health outcomes.
What does your role entail?
I work across all of our community’s fundraising programs, including workplace giving, which is a significant contributor to the Rescue Helicopter. For example, the mining sector contributes about $1.4 million a year. Small community group donations also make a considerable impact. I also organise events, golf days and the Hunter Valley Mining Charity Rugby League Day.
I know that’s an event that the whole of Singleton gets behind to raise funds for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Can you tell me about that?
It’s our most prominent event in the area. Since 2014, we’ve raised over half a million dollars for the service. The event was handed to us by a couple of miners who put it together after they’d selected the Rescue Helicopter as the recipient of the funds raised in their first year. They asked for some volunteers and a group of eight of us went along. The following year, the guys asked us to take over running it. It’s continued to grow year by year. We were rained out in March, but the event has been rescheduled for October 2021.
We look forward to it, and thanks for your service, Danny. You can find out more about volunteering or donate to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service at rescuehelicopter.com.au.