Valmai (Val) Dempsey or ‘Aunty Val’ as she’s also known, has been named the 2022 Senior Australian of the Year.

She’s been recognised for her work as an advocate for first aid training and her long serving work with with the local chapter of St John Ambulance.

Starting as a cadet volunteer while still in primary school, she’s now been with St John Ambulance for more than 50 years.

Her passion for first aid was realised during the 1980’s when her then 17-year-old daughter was involved in a car crash at Black Mountain.

“A car came through the lights and collided with her, It rolled the car over and ploughed them into a telegraph pole.”

Her daughter recalled people gathering at the scene but no one stepping forward to help, because they didn’t know what to do.

“I wonder now if anybody had those first aid competencies that i’m passionate about.”


As one of our city’s longest-serving volunteers, Val continues to dedicate her time to the cause, teaching young volunteers important first aid skills.

“The change i’d like to bring about, when you have a drivers license – you already have that first aid competency.”

“Learning first aid and delivering it at that critical time will hold you in good stead and stay with you for your life.”

In 2020, Val faced her biggest challenge yet as a St John Ambulance volunteer – first with the ‘Black Summer’ bushfires, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response, she led 40 fellow volunteers as they supported fire-affected communities during the emergency that stretched over many weeks.

Then when the pandemic hit, Val displayed unwavering commitment to the St John team, despite heavy impacts on team morale.


Without hesitation, she personally contacted every volunteer to check they were ‘doing OK’ in terms of welfare, mental health and morale.

It is these tireless commitments to St John that has led many in the community to know her lovingly as ‘Aunty Val’.

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