News

Echuca SES volunteer encourages others to give back

By Ivy Jensen

BEING a great-grandmother and working fulltime has not stopped Judi Cantwell from volunteering.

The Echuca woman has been involved with the Echuca SES Unit for three years before taking over as unit controller just over 12 months ago.

“I got into it after meeting people involved with the SES and I thought it might be a niche for community engagement,” she said.

“I’ve never regretted it.”

Echuca SES Unit has 15 members who support their local communities during emergencies such as floods, storms and rescues.

In the past 12 months, the Echuca unit has attended 63 requests for assistance, including trees down, road rescues, building damage, flood, helping Victoria Police and even landslides.

“We usually clean up fallen trees, repair roof damage and help out during flooding but we haven’t been very busy this year,” Judi said.

“We are expecting a wet winter so our flood training is up to speed.

“We have a good team and one can’t work without the other.”

Working fulltime at Echuca Regional Health in administration, Judi said volunteering with the unit had been a real eye-opener.

“I’ve learnt a lot over the years and there are always opportunities to learn more,” she said.

“The SES provide you with training and mateship and lots of interaction with the other emergency services.

“I can use a chainsaw, I have a truck licence and boat licence and have helped with many search and rescues.”

Judi, aged in her mid-60s, said the group was always looking for more volunteers and encouraged people to give it a go.

“Volunteering is hugely important in small communities. It’s a way to give back and it’s very rewarding,” she said.

“Our members helped with the fire assistance last year and were deployed to fire staging areas to help with searches.

“To have these skills where they are able to be deployed is engaging for people and they get a lot out of it.”

Judi said members were aged between 20 and mid-60s and were predominately women.

“They’re really keen to have a go and step up and learn new skills,” she said.

With more than 200,000 volunteers in emergency services across Australia risking themselves to save others, emergency management volunteers are more important than ever.

Volunteering Australia chief executive Adrienne Picone said this extraordinarily challenging year had shone a spotlight on the power of the unpaid workforce in Australia.

“It is more important than ever that we thank and recognise volunteers this National Volunteer Week,” Adrienne said.

This National Volunteer Week, Volunteering Australia is calling on residents to ‘wave your appreciation’ for volunteers by sharing a photo of themselves waving using the hashtags #NVW2020 and #waveforvolunteers.

Anyone interested in joining Echuca SES Unit can go to ses.vic.gov.au

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