COVID-19 Update

24 July, 2020  

The COVID-19 landscape continues to change with an increasing number of cases in Victoria and now more recently in NSW, including just this week in regional centres outside of Sydney such as Port Stephens.  

More than ever we must not let complacency set in within any aspect of our personal lives – both at home and work.

There have already been multiple examples of members of the public breaching isolation, attending large gatherings and not maintaining social distancing.  

I encourage everyone to be vigilant in all aspects of your day to day life. What you do at home has the potential to impact your family and friends as well as your colleagues at work.  

This is particularly important for the Service, as it has the potential to jeopardise the essential aeromedical support we provide the community and health industry during these challenging times.  

As a result, we continue to encourage our staff to work remotely and maintain the strict restrictions surrounding our operational bases in recognition of their place as Critical Health Facilities, ensuring that our aircrews, medical teams and engineering and maintenance staff remain safe and ready to respond 24-7 as we continue to service the community throughout this crisis.  

To this end, it is important as a community that we keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots and take the necessary precautions in the event you have visited or been in contact with anyone travelling to, from or living within these areas. Details of NSW Hotspots can be found HERE  

Please stay safe and continue to observe all the recommended health and safety initiatives being promoted to combat the spread of this virus. All of us have a responsibility to our family and loved ones, as well as the wider community, to do whatever we can to slow the spread and keep our communities safe.    

Yours sincerely

Richard Jones OAM

Chief Executive Officer



25 June, 2020

I’m pleased to be able to give you a more positive COVID Update today, focusing on some news we received overnight.

In May, the International Society of Aircraft Transport Trading (ISTAT) committed, by way of the ISTAT Foundation, $500,000 for global COVID-19 relief.

I’m pleased to share that the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service was overnight announced as one of a number of recipients of a grant under this initiative.

We are proud that ISTAT and the ISTAT Foundation chose to partner with us on crucial, aviation-connected services, with a grant of $36,000 provided to the Service in recognition of its efforts throughout the current COVID situation.

ISTAT has been a great supporter of our Service in the past, including a significant grant in late 2018 towards flight simulator training for our pilots as part of their advanced training and development. This essential training comes at a significant, but necessary cost to the Service, which is where the generosity of ISTAT was greatly appreciated. 

As continuing moves are made around Australia to gradually ease restrictions, we are actively planning how we will move into the next stage of activity for our staff, volunteers and community engagement. These plans are very consciously being prepared mindful of the safety and well being of all involved and the wider community. This is particularly important within our operational teams and our engineering and maintenance crews who ensure the efficient operation of our aircraft.

With the majority of our staff working remotely and our volunteers and support group initiatives on hold, our Bases continue to be a focus for our COVID response, ensuring our pilots, aircrews, engineers and maintenance staff remain safe and similarly the NSW Ambulance Critical Care Paramedics and NSW Health Doctors who form our Critical Care Medical Team on board the aircraft.

Understandably, our extensive precautions on Base will remain, ensuring that for those most in need during this time, we remain focussed on responding 24/7 with the best possible aeromedical support available to the communities we serve.

Whilst our fundraising activity has been significantly impacted by COVID, we are grateful that international organisations such as ISTAT have recognised and acknowledged the challenges we face at this time and have provided this valuable financial support to maintaining our safe and effective operations across Northern NSW.   

Yours sincerely

Richard Jones OAM

Chief Executive Officer 


15 May, 2020

As Government advised restrictions around COVID-19 remain in place with regard to social distancing and group gatherings, I would like to provide an update for you on the Service’s ongoing response to these measures.

Our focus since this pandemic commenced, continues to be on the safety and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and supporters across our communities.

The cancellation of our major fundraising events, along with the activities of our many loyal Support Groups and volunteers has placed increased financial pressures on the Service. Our staff have rallied however and are exploring several opportunities for fundraising initiatives outside of our normal sphere of activity, including a range of new virtual events and other ideas that may generate funds for us whilst our staff, supporters and volunteers remain socially isolated in line with Government health guidelines.  

Our most recent example of this was an online auction held in conjunction with what would have been our annual Rescue Ball on Friday May 1. With the generous support of the many businesses who donated auction items for the Ball, we raised over $40,000 for the Service.  

On Monday May 11, we launched our annual EOFY Appeal, which we hope will raise approximately $300,000 for the Service. We are mindful however that many of our communities are still reeling from the bushfires, continuing drought conditions and in some cases floods that followed earlier in the year and whilst not everyone will be able to donate, we are grateful for those who can.  

We continue to monitor the situation daily, with regular meetings via safe means by our Senior Management Team and our Board, ensuring we abide by the decisions of government, whilst at the same time prepare a strategic path forward for the organisation both financially and operationally for the immediate future and for post COVID-19.   

With easing of restrictions, we can all take some comfort in the fact that lockdown measures instigated early appear to have saved Australia from the devastating impact of COVID-19 to date, but we must not be complacent and continue to work together and keep each other safe.  

Please stay vigilant, observing all recommended health initiatives as together we continue the fight against this virus, ensuring the wellbeing of yourself, your family and loved ones.  

And despite the financial hardships our Service shares with other organisations around Australia, I would once again give you an assurance that we will continue to focus on the provision of the best aeromedical support for those most in need across our communities of Northern NSW for the duration of this crisis.  

Yours sincerely

Richard Jones OAM

Chief Executive Officer 



9 April, 2020

I hope this update finds you safe and well in these uncertain times. 

I would like to sincerely thank everyone in our community who has reached out to our team in recent weeks, to check-in, offer support, share advice or to simply say hello. This reminds me of the strength of our community and why we are so passionate to serve you. And it also gives me great confidence that together, we will get through this most difficult time.

On the eve of the Easter Long Weekend, we are normally preparing for a busy period, ready to attend incidents in the great outdoors as people embark on road trips to enjoy outdoor activities with family and friends right across our region. This year however, I want to reinforce the importance of staying home unless you need to attend work, exercise or seek medical care.

Staying home will help save lives.

With restrictions on non-essential travel as a result of COVID-19, Easter 2020 for individuals, families and communities both coastal and inland, will be very different. You can rest assured though, our crews will be on standby 24-7, as normal, to provide prompt aeromedical assistance to those most in need, wherever that may be.

Our Aircrews and engineers, along with partners in NSW Ambulance and NSW Health, work hard to ensure our aircraft are fully prepared in every event that they are needed. As always they have been so well supported by administration staff, the majority of who are now working remotely from home in line with social distancing and Government health guidelines.

All are focused on guiding the Service through this challenging period and importantly, preparing us to move forward beyond COVID-19 in the best shape possible.

So whilst we are far removed from ‘business as usual’, I would like to reassure you, our stakeholders partners and friends, that despite the challenges we are facing, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service remains focused on provided world-class aeromedical support throughout these difficult times from our Belmont, Tamworth and Lismore bases.

I am ever grateful for the strength of relationships and support that is offered to our Service. I would like to wish everyone a safe and happy Easter break and encourage you all to abide by Government guidelines in the interest of ‘flattening the curve’ and in the months ahead, returning as soon as possible to the life we are accustomed to, shared with family, friends and work colleagues.

Yours sincerely 

Richard Jones OAM

Chief Executive Officer



18 March, 2020

As with all organisations across Australia, the past fortnight has been a challenging one for the Service.

In conjunction with our partners, NSW Health and NSW Ambulance, we have been proactive in putting in place organisational procedures to ensure our priority is the continued provision of essential aeromedical services across the communities we serve, with our Bases recognised as Critical Health Facilities. 

At the same time, we have been assessing the impact the COVID-19 virus would have on our many planned and proposed events where our staff, volunteers, sponsors, supporters and key stakeholders come together to support our Service.

Due to increased public concern, to protect the health of stakeholders at all levels and in response to the Prime Minister and COAG’s direction with regard to organised mass gatherings of people, I wish to advise that we have taken steps to postpone a number of our events and activities across the communities we serve.

Whilst it is disappointing to take these steps, the safety and well-being of our supporters and staff is paramount and out of precaution and in consultation with our Board, Senior Management Team and NSW Health, we have decided this is the best course of action.

We are very conscious of the huge efforts undertaken by our staff and volunteers and the generous support of sponsors involved with these  events and activities however the safety of all members of the Rescue Helicopter family and the wider community takes priority.

We appreciate your understanding and patience at this time as our team works through the logistics and issues that come with the postponement of these numerous events and activities.

Finally, for the duration of this health crisis, despite the unique challenges we all may face in the communities where we live, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service continues to be focused on providing the best in aeromedical support for those most in need 24-7.

Please stay safe and observe all the recommended health initiatives being promoted to combat this virus so as to ensure the well-being of your family and loved ones.

Yours sincerely 

Richard Jones OAM
Chief Executive Officer