When disaster struck close to home


After a wedding ceremony at her family’s Adelaide Hills vineyard in December 2019, Anastasia Bougesis, returned from her honeymoon to find much of their property destroyed by bushfire.  

After a wedding ceremony at her family’s Adelaide Hills vineyard in December 2019, Anastasia Bougesis (BHlthSc(Paramedic) ’10, BNg(GradEntry) ’12), Chief Development Officer for Disaster Relief Australia (DRA), returned from her honeymoon to find much of their property destroyed by bushfire. For a trained nurse and part-time paramedic with several major disaster relief missions under her belt, this episode was very personal.

‘I decided to lead the DRA reconnaissance team during the Adelaide Hills relief effort which I found was a very cathartic experience for me,’ said Anastasia.

DRA unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams in disaster response operations around the world. The model is based on a US founded organisation Team Rubicon, which was started by US marines.

Team Rubicon Australia began in Queensland after Cyclone Debbie in 2017 and the membership-based not for profit organisation has since grown to six locations in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Townsville, Perth, and Adelaide. It was renamed Disaster Relief Australia in 2019.

For three months after mid-January, DRA’s relief effort deployed 278 volunteers who completed more than 10,500 hours of work, providing assistance to 119 households.

As DRA’s State Commander, Anastasia also organised and led a second bushfire recovery operation on Kangaroo Island.

‘The 2019-2020 Australian bushfire deployment was one of the biggest challenges faced by the organisation.

‘We ran five operations across the nation concurrently and it was a very difficult time. Everyone was stretched.

‘Out of that experience we learned several lessons, particularly to work within our means and we have updated our recruitment methods. We also partner with organisations like the Minderoo Foundation.’

After graduating from Flinders University in 2012 with nursing and paramedic science degrees, Anastasia worked for the South Australian Ambulance Service before deploying in 2017 as a medic to Proserpine in Far North Queensland after Cyclone Debbie.

‘I took a leadership position with them in the same year and have since been promoted to an executive appointment as Chief Development Officer.’ Anastasia now manages a team of four, overseeing business development, marketing, fundraising, media and communications.

‘I became a paramedic because I loved the idea of being able to support people on their worst days. There is a certain sense of purpose in service-based roles, and I really felt like this is one that would give me that sense of purpose while also making a real difference to people’s lives. ‘

As a child Anastasia always dreamed of being involved in the humanitarian sector. She says her career lives up to her aspirations.

My qualifications opened the door to being able to deploy overseas to the British Virgin Islands to lead a disaster relief operation in response to Hurricane Irma and Maria in 2019.

‘As Mission Commander, this gave me the opportunity to lead 30 people from three countries in our aid efforts. This was definitely a career highlight.’

‘Our vision for Disaster Relief Australia is to become the pre-eminent disaster relief agency in the Asia Pacific Rim. I would like to see us accomplish this during my tenure.’

From the 2021 College of Medicine and Public Health Alumni Magazine – Read more

Find out more about studying Paramedic Science at Flinders 

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