ANYONE looking for free skills training, a sense of purpose and a new bunch of good-hearted friends can look no further than becoming a member of the Victorian State Emergency Service (VICSES).
VICSES is looking for new volunteers to help keep people and property safe when disaster strikes and educate the community on a range of safety issues.
As the control agency for storms, flood, earthquake, tsunami and landslide throughout Victoria, VICSES volunteers are involved in many types of emergency situations and road rescues. SES volunteers are often the first to step in during a crisis, but also participate in special projects, community education programs, public safety events and more so that all residents can know how to stay safe during an emergency.
It is a modern, inclusive organisation that welcomes all genders from age 16 upwards, from all walks of life and backgrounds, to fill a range of non-operational and operational roles.
Hastings SES deputy controller Helen Pugh has been involved with the emergency service for the past eight years, joining in her late 40s when she had more time and wanted to pursue something meaningful.
She says joining the SES can be whatever the individual wants from it – regular involvement, occasional emergency assistance or just an opportunity to add transferable skills to a resume.
“My children were older and I was looking to do something in the community where I could meet people and use my skills,” she said.
Since then, Pugh has been involved in attending and organising logistics for hundreds of emergency and training incidents and has completed courses that have developed her leadership and public speaking skills.
As the SES is a registered training office, all volunteers receive nationally endorsed and competency-based training in areas ranging from first aid, general rescue, chainsaw operations, community education, media training and much more. They also gain skills and experience in leadership, teamwork, communication, accountability and commitment.
Pugh says that above all, helping others and being part of a team is still her driving force.
“It’s funny because in my private life I really am quite shy, but as most SES members will tell you, once you put that uniform on you realise that there are people relying on you, and you just have to ‘show up’. It’s about so much more than just yourself.”
Section leader Ebony Manusama, 34, joined the SES when she moved to the Hastings area two years ago to “embed” herself in the community, and says that even on the most “chaotic” of days, the moment she puts on her orange uniform she gains a sense of order.
“As soon as I put my uniform on, I know exactly what I have to do and what my role is,” she said.
The busy young mum says joining the SES had helped her become part of the community.
“I can’t play sports because of an injury, so joining the SES has been a great way to contribute and get to know people,” she said.
“I have a young family but that hasn’t stopped me being involved because there is so much flexibility to the organisation.”
Manusama says she doesn’t see any downside to being involved with the SES, and on the contrary enjoys plenty of “positives”.
“It’s rewarding, and one of the most humbling things is that you get to see humanity in a totally different way,” she said.
Hastings SES covers 462 square kilometres, including as far as Mornington and Mount Martha right through to Somerville to Red Hill. Members can also be deployed elsewhere if there is a need, including to other states in times of emergency.
Across the state, VICSES provides emergency assistance to thousands of people every year, and it’s volunteers are the backbone of the organisation.
As a statutory authority, VICSES is governed by a board, which is accountable to the Minister for Emergency Services. Operating since 1950, VICSES covers all of Victoria, via 150 units across six regions.
To learn more about the role of a VICSES volunteer and how to join go to ses.vic.gov.au/join-us/volunteer-roles