NSW SES volunteers
SES volunteers come from all walks of life, bringing different skills, interests and backgrounds. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS
  • disaster and accident

Wide search for regional rescuers as SES chase recruits

Jack Gramenz March 6, 2024

The orange uniform is a familiar sight when disaster strikes but the image of volunteers tackling floodwaters and fires doesn’t show the whole picture.

As the NSW SES begins one of its biggest recruitment campaigns to date, it wants the regional communities it’s targeting to know everyone can play a role, whether operating in the field, planning logistics or providing support.

“Our volunteers come from all walks of life, bringing with them many different skills, interests and backgrounds,” Commissioner Carlene York said.

“We offer incredible training opportunities for all ages and abilities … there is a role for everyone at the NSW SES,” she said.

Regional communities account for more than 80 per cent of the state’s SES units with 217 out of 261 based in the bush.

Ally Dickson has been in the thick of the organisation for nine years after being inspired to join as a teenager.

“It basically came down to helping people,” she told AAP.

NSW SES Commissioner Carlene York
 Carlene York: there’s a role for everyone in the NSW SES. Image by AAP PHOTOS 

The 28-year-old has since performed a varied stint of service all over the state.

There’s more to volunteering than the dramatic rescues that make it into news bulletins, she told AAP.  

“There’s some people that I know that just do desk work (or) drive a vehicle because the units just want a driver,” she said.

“It’s really tailored, it can be what you want to make it … but you’ve got to put in the work.”

The diverse age-demographics, as well as the desire to help common amongst volunteers, means there’s plenty of support available.

“Those more experienced members take on board and mentor young ones through,” Ms Dickson said. 

“The young ones show the old ones technology and how to use iPads.”

Training other volunteers, Ms Dickson has seen nervous new recruits transform their capability beyond what they thought possible.

“Knowing they can actually achieve something even when they think that they can’t, it’s the realisation that actually they know their stuff, they just don’t have the confidence,” she said.

Emergency Services Minister Jihad Dib, who will launch the recruitment campaign in Wagga Wagga on Wednesday alongside Ms York, said volunteers have done amazing work providing a vital service as floods, fires and storms hit the state in recent years.

“Whether it’s rescuing someone trapped in a flooded vehicle, assisting police and other emergency services with bush searches and road crashes or tarping a roof after an intense storm, our SES volunteers are there and ready to help,” he said.