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Walking Forward team wins Premier’s Award
As a longtime volunteer for CFA, St John Ambulance and Red Cross, Jenna Kelley relishes the opportunity to give back to her community in any way she can.
On Sunday 4 December, Jenna’s efforts were recognised at the Victorian Premier’s Volunteer Awards, where she won the Change Maker Award for her work in founding the Walking Forward Disaster Relief Team Inc., an initiative that supports horse and pet owners before and during natural disasters.
The Premier’s Volunteer Awards are held each year, and seek to highlight the extraordinary contributions of volunteers in Victoria, and the vital role they play in creating happier, healthier and well-connected communities. This year the ceremony coincided with International Volunteer Day (5 December), a day when the global community gets together to celebrate the important role of volunteering in our society.
Jenna said receiving the Premier’s Award was a true honour, and she is extremely proud of everything the Walking Forward team has achieved.
“Walking Forward began back in 2014, while I was studying my Diploma in Public Safety – Emergency Management,” she said.
“In our last unit we were learning about animals in relief centres, and it was then I realised there was nowhere for me to take my 23-year-old horse if a bushfire ever hit my property. I knew if I was in this situation I wouldn’t be alone.”
Jenna set about founding a team that could develop a database linking equine owners with property owners who would have the capacity to temporarily house animals during major emergencies.
Pet owners would be able to move their animals to a nominated safe place, and also access other essential services including: first aid/veterinary supplies, feed donations, animal and fauna rescue, and psychological first aid.
Jenna visited Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley with her plan.
“Lappo was great,” she said.
“He just said to me, 'Jenna, we need this, make it happen' and so I did.”
The Walking Forward initiative has achieved a lot in two short years. Through building strong partnerships with the emergency services, LGAs and local clubs and business, the team has now successfully rolled the database out in communities’ right across Victoria.
“I’m so proud of everything we’ve achieved, but none of this would have been possible without the support and contribution of many others,” Jenna said.
“I’d especially like to thank Craig Lapsley, CFA’s Peter Baker, my committee and all the people from LGAs and agencies who have supported us behind the scenes from day one. Thank you for sharing our knowledge journey.”
The team will now continue its work to grow the database, gain more registrations interstate, and establish ongoing funding and agency support, which will ensure the database service remains free for all community members.
They also hope to one day expand the initiative to Los Angeles and New Zealand.
You can read more about the National Equine Database here.
To access the database visit www.tepscon.community