Home » After giving back to their communities, SES volunteers are asking South Australians to pay it forward

After giving back to their communities, SES volunteers are asking South Australians to pay it forward

The State Emergency Service (SES) is asking South Australians to pay forward the support it provided during the recent Murray River flood event by signing up to be a volunteer. 

As the lead agency for the once-in-a-generation flood, the SES and its volunteers worked tirelessly across the state’s river system to protect people’s lives and homes.

From building barriers to responding to urgent calls for assistance, when things went wrong the “army of orange” was a reassuring sight in river communities. 

SA SES south region commander Leanne Schmidt said more than 500 people across government and independent agencies were involved in keeping people safe.

“But quite often we were short [of help]; it was really hard to find people,” she said.

SES volunteers say they’re proud to wear the uniform when protecting the community.(ABC Regional, Rural & Emergency: Anthony Gerace)

“We ended up bringing a few crews up from Adelaide to do things, like work on our sandbagging sites, because that was something we hadn’t done before.”

Ms Schmidt said, while most volunteer efforts were directed towards the Riverland and Murraylands, the new recruitment call-out was to all South Australians.

“Certainly in our Riverland units we are quite short [on numbers],” she said.

“Not only did we have the larger River Murray event, but there were also a number of other events [that required our help] … where people could help.”

‘We need to support each other’

Signing up to be an SES volunteer was never a question for Loxton acting unit manager Bill Garside — it just came naturally.

A man with blue glasses and a radio in his hand looking at a screen
Bill Garside says he loves being able to give back as part of the volunteer organisation.(ABC Regional, Rural & Emergency: Anthony Gerace)

“I’ve always enjoyed working with the public in the care field. I’m a retired registered nurse and have military experience as well,” he said.

“I’ve been able to use all these caregiving skills I’ve picked up over a lifetime to do something … and give back to the community.”

Mr Garside said working with the SES was like being part of a family.

A white boat on a trailer with the words State Emergency Service Rescue
Volunteers are trained to operate a number of different vehicles, including rescue boats.(ABC Regional, Rural & Emergency: Anthony Gerace)

“We meet all kinds — farmers, people who live in remote areas, and quite often we’ll have a serious storm event when trees come down on houses and cars,” he said.

“At times like this, we need to support each other and communicate well within the SES and with the community.

“We bring them along with us to show how and where we can help.”

Loxton’s SA SES deputy unit manager John Kindness said volunteering for the organisation gave people the opportunity to learn skills that were transferable to all aspects of life. 

A man in a bright orange uniform pointing towards a white truck
John Kindness says volunteering allows people to upskill.(ABC Regional, Rural & Emergency: Anthony Gerace)

“There’s a wide range of training and pathways within the SES. You’ve got vertical access, vertical rescue, roof height, safety, chainsaw work — it’s all recognised,” he said. 

“You have communications with police, GPS, road crash rescue, field support, response management training — there are heaps and heaps of roles where the learning applies.”

He encouraged anyone considering getting involved to register their interest by calling the volunteer hotline on 1300 364 587.

“What you learn goes anywhere you want it to go and that’s right across the board.”