Rachael Moloney has risen from being a little Nipper at Williamstown to becoming Life Saving Victoria’s only current female rescue helicopter crew member.
She is only the second female crew member in the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service’s 12-year history in Victoria (the first was Lauren Chan from Anglesea Surf Life Saving Club in 2010).
Ms Moloney joined Williamstown Swimming and Lifesaving Club as a Nipper in 2002 at eight years of age.
The Ambulance Victoria paramedic said the coronavirus pandemic had prompted her to transition from the sea to the sky.
“Initially I hadn’t thought too much about joining the helicopter crew but with lockdown last year there was not too much else to do, so I saw the opportunity and gave it a crack,” she said.
Fresh out of training, Ms Moloney said she had been involved in a search for a missing person off Inverloch.
“Having experience as a paramedic has been a help in determining the best way to extricate a patient and the best action plan if they do have injuries.
“It would be awesome to have more females on the helicopter – the team is so accepting and encouraging, so it’s a good environment to strive to work in.”
Ms Moloney enters the role as Victoria marks its worst period for drownings with 48 reported fatalities from July 1, 2020, to March, 19, 2021.
“I guess it’s from COVID – people were locked up – and before that we had that bushfire season where a lot of beaches were closed from smoke and a lot of people just couldn’t get down,” Ms Moloney said.
“So, I think a combination of the two; people haven’t been able to get down to the beach for pretty much two years now.
“I think it’s a lot of people wanting to get down; because of COVID they’re not wanting to go to the populated areas, a lot more people are swimming in unpatrolled areas.
“On top of that, kids’ learning to swim and swim programs haven’t been able to happen over the last 12 months because of COVID so I think that’s had a pretty negative impact.
“The only advice we can give people is to swim at patrolled beaches and swim between the flags.”