Pete Risstrom: Ambo, greenskeeper

March 14th, 2022Pete Risstrom: Ambo, greenskeeper

PETE Risstrom is one of those Daylesford locals who make up the essential character of the town. His story, like many of those who have moved to the region over the years, is a circuitous route.

PETE Risstrom is one of those Daylesford locals who make up the essential character of the town. His story, like many of those who have moved to the region over the years, is a circuitous route.
He grew up on a dairy farm in West Gippsland, took on a horticultural turf management apprenticeship at the local bowls club, and later began a career in the community sector working with people with disabilities.

Eventually he moved to Daylesford back in 1990 with his then partner and now wife, Beverly, where he bought a house and raised two children.
“I didn’t have a job when I came but I soon moved back into community agency work in Castlemaine and Kyneton and also got the opportunity to work in an unpaid position as a casual ambulance officer, helping the one station here with the driving, carrying equipment and so on,” Pete said.
This role, still in place today, is known as an ambulance community officer. Officers generally act as volunteer first responders to emergencies in more remote places around the state where there is no permanently staffed station close by.
They attend, do the basics, and get backed up by the closest permanent branch for transport. Daylesford, while not as isolated as some towns in the state, did not yet have a 24-hour station with the minimum two officers on call. So Pete in his ACO role would pair up with a full-time officer to make the numbers required for a callout.
“That was my community work,” Pete said. “But I started to move away from disability work in the early 2000s and decided to link my ACO experience to a degree in health sciences-paramedicine (a prerequisite for anyone wanting a career as a paid paramedic) and I’ve been a full-time ambo ever since.
After graduation he worked at the Ballarat station and in 2010, when there was a branch upgrade and three extra paramedic officer positions created, Pete transferred to Daylesford. Just last year the station became a 24-hour operation, a status indicative of demand, reflecting just how much the town has grown in the years since Pete first worked as an ACO nearly 30 years ago.
And talking of growth, another place in Daylesford ready to grow and evolve into the future is the iconic Daylesford Lawn Tennis Club.
Outside of work, Pete is head groundskeeper maintaining its 10 grass courts. A role that harks back to his first proper job, maintaining the greens of the Warragul Bowls Club, but like everything associated with the tennis club it is a volunteer position. He has also been a keen tennis player since childhood and by 2005, as his own children grew up, Pete found he had more time for tennis which soon led to working on the upkeep of the grounds.
“The grass courts are in operation from October to late April. The rest of the time it can get too wet so we just leave them to rest, do some restoration work if need be and just mow them occasionally. Over the warmer months we keep them looking good with plenty of water and reseeding. Though it can be difficult if it is a hot summer or drought year. We try to keep as much leaf on as we can but it’s really up to the elements. We are not Royal South Yarra or Kooyong. We all have finite time as volunteers and there is only so much we can do.”
Sitting on just under two hectares, the club, while owning the land, is effectively a civic institution with generations of players passing through its gates. But like the ambulance station before it, the club is drawing closer to a form of modernisation reflecting the changing character of the game.
“The committee is basically looking at bringing it into this century and the way the game has changed in respect to participation. It is still set up for association tennis but we are not an association now.
“It’s more private and social tennis. The plan is to sell off some of the property we have in order to build some long overdue new club rooms and upgrade half the courts to all-weather surfaces. People love the feel of grass, the challenges it offers and it is supposed to be better on the knees and joints, but the upgrades being planned will allow a longer playing season.”
With all these changes on the cards you can be sure that one institution will remain for the time being. That will be Pete Risstrom, line-marking paint at the ready, but always free for a chat and ready to welcome the next generation of Ash Bartys and Alex de Minaurs onto the hallowed turf of the Daylesford Lawn Tennis Club.

Words & image: Tony Sawrey

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