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The Volunteer Rescue Association Inc (VRA) is an Australian organisation of volunteer members, they provide rescue to the communities across New South Wales. The first rescue squads, with the assistance of NSW Police formed the Volunteer Rescue Association, groups with common charters can become an affiliate of the Association.
In times of need, whether it be in the emergency or recovery phase, the VRA can bring affiliated squads together to provide assistance to other services or to assist one of its own affiliates.
The first VRA specialist squad, Bushwalkers Search and Rescue (today known as Bush Search and Rescue New South Wales) was formed in 1936. The first VRA General Land Rescue Squad was formed in 1950 to assist Police with recovery of persons from the Murrumbidgee River, to provide flood rescue, evacuations and ferrying of food and medicines between isolated communities around Wagga Wagga in southern NSW. Soon after the Wagga Wagga Rescue Squad became involved in general land rescue. In 1960 the Bourke Rescue Squad was formed, followed in 1962 by the Dubbo Rescue Squad. In 1969, at the suggestion of the State Police Commissioner several volunteer rescue squads (Albury, Dubbo, Narrandera and Wagga Wagga) met and formed the Volunteer Rescue Association. VRA Rescue Squads continued to be established where a need existed and the Police, Ambulance, Fire Brigade and local community supported the establishment of a volunteer rescue squad.
Today, the Volunteer Rescue Association provides a training structure with CBT Competency Based Training under its own Registered Training Organisation VRA Training Pty Ltd (#40468), and with policies and procedures affiliated rescue squads provide a comprehensive rescue service to the community. The Volunteer Rescue Association provides a command structure when rescue squads come together, during major incidents, with standardisation of equipment, all come together as a cohesive team.
Regional squads can be either land or marine based. Land-based squads can be involved with motor vehicle accident rescue, vertical rescue, river rescue and dive rescue. Marine-based squads can be involved with coastal emergencies on the north and south coast. In addition, there are specialist squads with particular skills who do not operate in any particular region. Examples of these include squads with bushwalking, cave rescue, radio (communications), Australian Civil Air Patrol (aircraft), and dog expertise.
The current President of the Volunteer Rescue Association is Mark Gibson.
The Volunteer Rescue Association is involved on a day-to-day basis in general rescue operations primarily, road accident rescue, land and maritime search and rescue operations. This extensive experience is invaluable in times of major operations. The Volunteer Rescue Association (as the VRA) has responded to the following major incidents:
While assisting at these major operations, VRA units continued to meet their primary responsibility of providing rescue services to their communities.
As with many volunteer organisations, an increasing number of VRA squads face difficulties recruiting sufficient personnel in order to respond effectively to incidents. This has led to a gradual decline in the number of accredited squads from 47 in 2007down to 32 by 2013, with responsibility moving to other organisations such as Fire and Rescue NSW and the State Emergency Service.
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