By Kyra Gillespie
A four-year-old Nar Nar Goon boy is one of the youngest recipients of a Community Hero Award in Victoria’s history.
James Tonks, now five years old, helped saved his grandmother after an horrific bicycle accident exactly one year ago.
James and his grandmother Maryke Van Duyl were riding tandem along a track in Paynesville when a failed U-turn caused them to crash heavily to the ground.
Ms Van Duly was knocked unconscious and left bleeding heavily from a head laceration.
Unable to wake his grandmother, James wasted no time and bravely followed the sound of a nearby lawnmower to seek help, telling the neighbour that his grandmother’s “brain was leaking”.
With the alarm raised and triple zero called, it was not long before paramedics arrived and James was able to share the details he could remember about the crash. He also helped the paramedics with their equipment as they treated Ms Van Duyl.
Ms Van Duyl was taken to Bairnsdale Hospital where doctors cleared her of having a serious head injury and she has since made a full recovery.
Paynesville paramedic Charles Gilbert nominated James as a Community Hero because he was impressed that he immediately thought to go for help following the shock of the accident and seeing his grandmother bleeding and unresponsive.
“For a four-year-old boy to have the presence of mind and initiative to run and get help is just extraordinary,” he said.
James was presented with a Community Hero Award at the Parliament House ceremony on Monday 20 November by Minister for Ambulance Services Jill Hennessy and Ambulance Victoria CEO Tony Walker.
James described feeling “happy” and “excited” about receiving his award and medal.
The Chairo Christian school kindergartener has big plans to teach his peers about being a community hero.
“I’m going to tell them how to dial triple zero and also what to do so they can be community heroes,” he said.
After appearing in The Herald Sun and on the likes of Nine News, ABC Radio and 3AW, James was ready for his moment of fame to be over.
“All the photos are a little bit crazy,” he said.
Proud mother Michelle Tonks said she was “blown away” by the response to her son’s bravery.
“We’ve been blown away by the whole experience,” Ms Tonks said.
“It’s something James would do but the fact that he is so young has caught a lot of attention.
“I have to say, he wasn’t too happy about seeing himself on TV!”
When asked if the Tonks children were taught about what to do in an emergency, Ms Tonks shook her head.
“I don’t know where he learned to do what he did that day. When I asked him how he knew to call for help, he said that he ‘just did’.
“One time his dressing gown melted a little standing near a fire and he immediately said ‘mum, I have to stop, drop and roll!’
“I asked him where on earth he got that from and he said that Mrs Powers from kinder taught him that.”
Staff and fellow students at Chairo Christian School, Pakenham, campus shared James’ excitement as he bought his award and medal to the classroom the following day.
“Kids at school are really into super heroes and we’re really proud of having a real-life hero at Chairo Christian School,” Principal Pete Wells said.
“James showed care and initiative in a critical moment and he’s a great example to our community.”
This is the 18th year of Ambulance Victoria’s Community Hero Awards and 15 Victorians were honoured for their bravery and selfless actions to save lives.
Visit ambulance.vic.gov.au for the full honour roll of 2017 Community Heroes.