The Governor and staff from Government House wore orange today to show their appreciation for the more than 2, 000 Western Australian men and women who volunteer with the State Emergency Service (SES).
Wear Orange Wednesday (WOW Day) is an important national day of thanks for SES volunteers who protect and support the community during natural disasters such as storms, cyclones and floods, and with land searches, vertical rescues, road crashes and bushfires.
With the recent bushfires earlier in the year, and the COVID-19 pandemic impacting people all over our State, it is more important than ever to reflect on and recognise the significant contribution of volunteers who give their time to ensure our communities are supported.
WA Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm AFSM said SES volunteers had stepped up during the past few months for COVID-19 operations with the same sense of civic duty and commitment they have always shown,
“Alongside attending the usual storm damage and land searches, the SES has also helped manage the road blocks on intrastate borders and contacted people in self-isolation to assist the Department of Communities,” Commissioner Klemm said.
Government House staff member shares her inspiration for joining the SES
Government House Strategy and Engagement Project Officer Ms Krystal Hartig joined her local SES Unit earlier this year after feeling an urge to help her community following the bushfires in January.
The Governor sat down with Krystal this week to find out how her training as a probationary officer is progressing and her motivations to volunteer.
The Governor started by asking what inspired her to join,
“The emergency service has been a large part of my life. I’ve been very aware and connected with emergency services – my Dad used to be a police officer himself and volunteering has similarly always been a passion of mine.
When I lived in the Pilbara – my family lived there for about 14 years – my Dad was in the volunteer fire service at the time while still serving as a police officer and it really instilled in me a deep passion and understanding of the importance of volunteering and community engagement, particularly in emergency services.
Now that I’ve found myself well established at home here in Perth I decided it was time that I feed my volunteer itch. I think the bushfires definitely did trigger my wanting to join the SES. I did scope out the bushfire volunteers but I realised I didn’t just want to help when there is a fire, I want to help as much of the time as I can. I was attracted to the SES by the fact that their assistance is so wide ranging – they assist with a vast number of things and collaborate with the different volunteer services so I knew this would be the right fit for me.
Fortunately the timing was right – the SES had set up a stall in my local shopping centre and it made me aware of their existence and presence. It was then that I found out I’m located on the border of one of the largest, if not the largest, units of the SES.”
The Governor was interested to know how Krystal’s training might have been impacted by COVID-19,
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we had to make some adaptations to how training is undertaken at the moment. We have to do a whole variety of training which has been delivered online over Zoom.
We do training every Wednesday and this has been focussed on activities we can practice at home – training with knots, courses on manual handling – essentially the trainers run different training sessions on topics of interest and relevance to our work. As social distancing restrictions decline we can then utilise those skills back in the unit,” Krystal said.
There have been around 35 people in Krystal’s training courses which the Governor found an encouraging number given the recent hardships on our community with COVID-19 impacts. He commented that it was indicative of our Australian character,
“It’s a really impressive community-mindedness. I’m always amazed by the people who are prepared to volunteer – they do so in this State in such numbers, about 600, 000 volunteers. This represents a big percentage of our population. You wouldn’t go to Europe or the US even and find anything even remotely approaching this.
It must be something about the Australian spirit, the Australian attitude – our psyche. Maybe it dates back to poems like ‘Send Round the Hat’ by Henry Lawson. Australians are generally generous when it comes to financial contributions, and pretty generous with their time. And it’s just as well because that probably keeps us all in one piece at the end of the day.”
When reflecting on Krystal’s own motivations to contribute her time, the Governor drew a link to her regional upbringing,
“Krystal I know has had a fair amount of experience with regional living, so perhaps it is that she is more attune to the need for volunteers, particularly emergency service volunteers.
There is a larger percentage of volunteers in WA in regional areas than in metropolitan areas. This is not altogether surprising when you think about it because the population outside of the metropolitan area is quite small and it’s very difficult to sustain the level of publicly provided services that you would find in greater population services. We tend to have very small country towns compared with the eastern states, so volunteering is absolutely critical here in WA,” he said.
Krystal’s probation period will last for a mandatory 3 months. Probationary members have a different uniform to identify them until they have become active SES members.
Show your support
All Western Australians are asked to show their support of SES volunteers by wearing orange at home, in the workplace, at school today – 20th May 2020. People taking part can show their support for the SES volunteers by sharing their orange outfit on their social media platforms and using the hashtag #ThankYouSES.
The SES has more than 2,000 members across 65 units supporting WA communities throughout the State. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with the SES visit the emergency services volunteer recruitment website or contact your local SES unit.