Tara Dugan still wears the Grand Prior badge she earned as a young St John cadet in 1987.

Thirty-two years later, she is still giving back to the organisation.

Dugan, who grew up in Napier, volunteers as a Divisional Manager for Tamatea Youth and is on the Hawke's Bay Area Committee.

She started out with the programme, as an 8-year-old cadet, and in time worked her way through the youth programme, became a cadet leader, and held various other positions, in Hawke's Bay, Tokoroa, Cambridge, and Waikato, before returning home.


In 1999, Dugan became a member of the order St John - an honour sanctioned by the Queen, before being promoted to an officer of the order in 2008.

During her time, she has witnessed a number of changes within the organisation, including that of the uniforms, and the vehicles, but also the programmes it offers.

But perhaps most significantly of all, has been the mixing of men and women in all facets of the organisation.

"When I started as a youth member, in the nursing division, it was just all girls and then the boys were an ambulance division and now we have combined divisions, which is good."

For Dugan, the reason she continues to do so much is simply because she wants to give back to the organisation that gave so much to her as a young person.

"I see the enjoyment and the growth of our cadets that I'm teaching and helping at the moment, just locally and also throughout the country when I've been a national team manager."

The achievements of those young people motivates her to continue.

On top of her normal 40-hour a week, full-time job at Mitre 10 Mega, she volunteers about as many hours to St John.


"It is a really good organisation to belong to; we're very family orientated, we're open to everybody and we are quite a diverse organisation.

The St John Youth programmes help young New Zealanders, aged 6 to 18 develop first aid, health care, leadership and life skills.

The programmes are fully funded by donations and run by a dedicated team of volunteers.