Whether you are caught in a car crash or your house has been damaged in a storm, chances are the SES Bendigo Unit are one of the first crews on the scene to help you out.
This vital service is now calling out to the public for their support as they start their 2019 recruitment drive.
“We have space at the moment for a minimum of eight more people to join as volunteers and if we get 16 fabulous people, we’ll take them,” the unit’s Deputy Controller Natalie Stanway said.
“We have pretty strong interest all year but we try to do a once-a-year recruitment because it gives people the opportunity to form those bonds,” she said. “We get some really great results out of having them all go through together.”
Read more: New rescue truck for Bendigo SES volunteers
The SES Bendigo Unit go out on around 600 jobs a year, although those numbers can fluctuate with natural disasters or other events.
Eighty of those jobs are classified as rescue, which varies from serious road crash and industrial rescues to children who have been trapped in different places.
But while a lot of the SES Bendigo Unit's work requires strength and courage, Ms Stanway said all you need to volunteer is the desire to help the community.
“I would honestly say that there is a place in the Victorian SES for absolutely everybody,” she said. “You don’t have to go out on the truck, and if you do go on the truck, you can go out for storm jobs and not road crash rescue.”
“There are also plenty of jobs to do back at the unit in terms of finance, social media, catering, and educating the community by doing visits to schools and community groups,” she said.
Ms Stanway said the unit is also looking to further represent the diversity of the Bendigo community.
"Absolutely everyone is welcome in the Bendigo Unit," she said. "But we'd like to have people from some of the different cultures within Bendigo."
"The Karen community in Bendigo is having a huge growth at the moment," she said. "We'd love to have people from the Karen community."
Two women who were part of the most recent volunteer intake are Jemma Nesbit-Sackville and Melissa Church.
They both joined the organisation in March last year with the same goal in mind.
“I work for an emergency service and that gives me a specific set of skills that I wanted to contribute back to the community,” Ms Nesbit-Sackville said.
“I just felt that I had something to give back insofar as time and energy and effort,” Ms Church said. “It’s been an amazing journey.”
The SES is a volunteer service so people can be flexible around their work and family commitments.
“Everybody realises that when there’s a storm event, we’re just all hands on deck as best as we possibly can,” Ms Church said. “But if your children are at home, then that’s where you’ll probably be.”
“We just all do as much as we can, when we can,” she said.
But if you are considering joining, you are encouraged to have a discussion with your employer and your family.
“For some, the nature of their work means they can’t get out of it,” Ms Stanway said. “For example, our Unit Controller is a primary school teacher and he can’t leave his class but he’s a fabulous responder overnight.”
While there are some sacrifices, Ms Nesbit-Sackville said there are more benefits.
“Everyone has a place within the team,” she said. “It’s about working to our strengths and understanding when we go out on a job, there’s going to be different abilities with every crew that comes together.”
“Whether you want to get on a roof or your petrified of heights, there’s always a job for someone who wants to join the SES,” she said.
“Have a go and try because you might amaze yourself and find that you really can find your place within SES,” Ms Church said.
To find out more about volunteering for the SES, head along to the information nights at the Huntly Unit on March 5th or the Bendigo Unit on March 12th.
Giving back to the community
Brett Walsh started volunteering at the SES when he was only 19 years old.
“I joined the SES for my own personal reasons,” he said. “I was involved in a road trauma and it’s my way of giving back.”
“I get to help out people who have been in similar situations who weren’t doing wrong but have ended up in bad situations,” he said.
Mr Walsh had been part of the SES for 12 years, and in that time, has has developed close bonds with team members and attended thousands of rescues.
But his experience is quite different to some of the other SES Bendigo Unit volunteers.
“I’m a nurse at the emergency department and I’ve been lucky that I’ve been to jobs and then I’ve gone to work and had that follow-up care,” he said.
“You know that you’ve helped contribute with the ambulance and the firefighters to get the person to that point,” he said. “And that’s a good feeling.”
Mr Walsh said anyone who is looking for new skills and great mates should join the SES.
“The teamwork is second to none,” he said. “It’s a different feeling to what I get at work or to what I get playing sport.”
“It’s a different closeness,” he said. “You go through unique experiences with SES that you wouldn’t normally in a private life.”
“Those experiences are great and they counteract the sad ones where it breaks your heart,” he said.
It is not always easy to be part of the SES, but Mr Walsh said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“There are ebbs and flows but I’ve been here a long time and I enjoy it,” he said.
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