Volunteering is in Ruth Bishop’s blood.

Growing up on a farm north-west of Canberra, she and her two younger sisters watched as her parents contributed to their local community through volunteering: for Landcare Australia, the Hospital Auxiliary, and the Rural Fire Service.

‘It’s been one of those things passed on genetically,’ says Ruth. ‘I see volunteering as a critical part of both safeguarding and creating community.’

As Director of Technology and Compliance, Ruth is impressed that Aspen Medical employees receive two paid volunteer days per year. ‘That’s important to me, as my husband and I both work full-time. Otherwise, I’d be taking annual leave.  

‘For my parents, volunteering gave them a sense of self-worth and set an example for the next generation.’

Now married with two teenage daughters and living on the NSW/ACT border, Ruth has inspired her own children by joining the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and sitting on the school board.  

She attended the severe 2019/2020 fires, working alongside the paid fire service. ‘We were put on 12-hour shifts, firefighting and defending, over a 90-day period.

‘There is definitely always a risk, but you calculate that risk based on your training and the situation.’

Ruth trained in both bushfire fighting and in using breathing apparatus. ‘In times gone by, while women were welcome, it wasn’t common to see them in the RFS, in farming communities they would be providing the food and drinks for the firefighters or caring for the family and farm whilst their husbands were away.

‘I wanted to show my girls they can break society’s stereotypes and do things like that now.’

Now a role model, as her parents were to her, Ruth is delighted that her 16-year-old daughter recently signed up as a junior member of the RFS.

‘If it not for volunteers, much of the farming land here would have been destroyed.’ Ruth’s father was one of the Rural Fire Service volunteers that helped put fires out and preserve the land over the last 50 years.

Such volunteers are first on the scene in smaller country towns where there is no retained or paid firefighting service. In Ruth’s case, these paid fire services are based in Queanbeyan.

‘Once they arrive, and this may take some time depending on how far away they are, we work together.

‘Just a couple of weeks ago, I was called out to a house fire in Michelago, because of my training in breathing apparatus.’

Volunteering is a family affair, with Ruth’s husband also a RFS volunteer.

‘When we get a fire call, it’s all hands-on deck; the girls are finding the car keys while I put on my uniform.

‘My husband and I serve in different trucks, one at a time, for safety reasons.’

Ruth is also keen on encouraging others to volunteer for sporting organisations.

‘If you don't have people volunteering in those areas, you don’t have children participating in those activities’, says Ruth. ‘Our sporting teams would not be in existence today.’

For Ruth, volunteering also provides her with a new skill set outside of her work role while supporting her local community.

‘It’s such a rewarding experience and I’d encourage others at Aspen Medical, who may never have considered volunteering, to give it a go.

‘Volunteering exposes you to people from all walks of life, provides you with many opportunities, and opens doors to unimaginable places.

‘You come together as a team as volunteering helps create a community.’

Rural Fire Service firefighter in PPE beside fire vehicle
Aspen Medical's Director of Technology and Compliance Ruth Bishop training with the NSW Rural Fire Service
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