SHINING THE SPOTLIGHT ON LOCAL VOLUNTEERS
Matt Viola, more likely known as ‘Flash’ amoung the SES crew, has volunteered with the Hepburn Shire Unit for two years.
“It’s an awesomely fun thing to do. I tell everyone I speak to ‘join, come and join, it’s an awesome time’.”Hepburn Shire SES volunteer Matt Viola
Matt said he had always wanted to join a community service, and SES were looking for volunteers.
“It’s so much fun,” he continually repeats. “I love everything about it.”
The crew gather at the station every Wednesday night for training.
“It’s a bunch of mates getting together, but we learn an amazing amount with all these qualifications we get through SES,” Matt said.
“It’s an awesomely fun thing to do. I tell everyone I speak to ‘join, come and join, it’s an awesome time’.”
Matt describes the crew as his second family. They form strong relationships and a supportive community as they train and head out to jobs together. For Matt, a single parent of 14-year-old twin girls, the relationships he has built at SES have supported his family.
“You form bonds with people here,” he said. “You have got to trust them. If you are up on a roof and they have got the ropes down the bottom you have got to trust them.”
VOLUNTEERS ON CALL 24/7
Majority of the Hepburn Shire Unit call-outs are to fallen trees, but Matt said the crew have traveled to support the Ballarat unit at times and it is all hands on deck at the station when bad weather hits. Volunteers are on call 24/7 but can choose to respond depending on their situation at the time.
“If there is a job and I am at work, I may not go. I say family first, job second, then SES,” Matt said.
“Because it is voluntary you do not have to attend every call. If a situation arises and you know what it is and think you may not be comfortable, don’t go.
“But then again like when the storms that came through a couple of months ago, that was classed as an event and we were all here. That was a hectic night.”
Matt, like all SES volunteers, may attend calls at any time of the night, but it doesn’t faze his young daughters.
“They absolutely love it,” he said. “I told them straight up, ‘when you are old enough, you girls are joining’. They’re keen. Because I have shown them it is important to help people.”
Young people can join the SES at 16, but cannot attend calls until 18. Young volunteers can learn, train and gain qualifications to be fully operational by the time they turn 18.
“I can’t recommend it enough for people to join,” Matt said.
“At SES, it doesn’t matter if you have got stripes on your shoulder or not. Everyone is equal. When a newbie comes in, everyone bounces up. As soon as you walk in the door you feel comfortable.”