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Age is no barrier to making an impact in emergencies

This article appears in: Alumni stories, Humanitarian, Disaster and Emergency Management
J. Graham Davis

‘You’re never too old to learn’ is something J. Graham Davis has taken to heart. As he approached his 80 birthday, he realised that although he's had a long career in emergency services and a lifetime of learning on the job – there were still some gaps in his knowledge. It was time explore formal study options.

After leaving school at 15 to work as a journalist covering police and emergency reporting during the day, J. Graham Davis spent his nights and weekends volunteering with the NSW RFS and Queensland SES.  After finishing his Diploma of Workplace Health and Safety, he built on his knowledge in emergency management by completing his Graduate Certificate in Emergency and Disaster Management at CDU.

I could see that changes were coming to the SES – and I wanted to be a part of shaping the future direction of emergency management in Queensland. 

Real-world impact

During his emergency services course, J. Graham was able to use his research skills to study real-world problems and incorporate his understandings of the challenges facing emergency service organisations when working with volunteers. 

Preparing a 5000-word thesis is no easy task for anyone, but J. Graham took it a step further and sent his thesis, 'Where did 1000 orange angels go' for submission into a parliamentary enquiry into the future of the SES and the role of volunteers in emergency management.

Not one to shy away from tackling the hard questions, he also prepared another thesis with a critique of disaster plans for several local councils and the state/defence department disaster management arrangements.

CDU gave me the opportunity to use my learning and research in ways that have already make a difference to the way organisations like the SES, rural fire services and the Defence department manage volunteers in emergency situations.

J. Graham knows the challenges of training and managing large groups of volunteers.  He is currently the Leading Field Officer and Volunteer Community Educator with the Redcliffe SES Group in Queensland. 

Having the opportunity to study Human Resources in my course helped me strengthen my people management skills.  I have been able to apply those skills right away to identify and mitigate antisocial and disruptive behaviour in my SES group.

Advice for getting ahead

He encourages other students considering their study options to consider environment and disaster management courses.

Australia is one of the most natural disaster prone countries on earth.  We need more people who are qualified and skilled at coping with natural disasters.

"Courses like the Graduate Certificate in Emergency and Disaster Management and Master of Emergency and Disaster Management at CDU are excellent preparation for taking on those roles," he says. 

The career options are limitless for working in the field of emergency management, and J. Graham believes that CDU is a leader in training those who will shape our emergency management response.  With careers in everything from on the ground environmental management, preparation of disaster response plans, heading up incident response teams and working with NGO’s – it’s a career that could take you all over the world.

Support to have a go

Getting the right advice and support was key to getting started on the road to studying.  Although he couldn’t start his first choice of course right away, it was the support of the CDU staff that helped him navigate through his options and get the career outcome he wanted.

Completing an emergency management course at CDU has helped me endlessly in my career, especially in understanding the processes that organisations and government departments use in disaster management.

J. Graham came into CDU already armed with a wealth of knowledge and skills in emergency and disaster management.  He credits his study success to the CDU staff who exceeded his high expectations and challenged him to fill his knowledge gaps.  Being taught by industry experts with current knowledge and connections with NGO’s, government and leading aid agencies gave J. Graham the opportunities to explore his research interests into areas that would directly benefit his workplace and shape legislation for volunteer organisations.

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