Volunteers are the wow factor

Fairfield SES volunteers Les Milne, Nancy Nguyen, Jelena Kantar, Kylie Chen, Vannara Tan, Col Phipps, Grigory Rogojkin and Mick Robinson. Picture: Chris Lane
Fairfield SES volunteers Les Milne, Nancy Nguyen, Jelena Kantar, Kylie Chen, Vannara Tan, Col Phipps, Grigory Rogojkin and Mick Robinson. Picture: Chris Lane

The theme for this year's National Volunteer Week (May 20 to 26) is "making a world of difference".

In Fairfield, volunteers are the beating heart of the community. From sporting teams to community organisation and cultural events - they simply wouldn't happen without the support of volunteers.

For the 100-strong crew of the Fairfield State Emergency Service they are on call to respond to emergencies 24-hours a day.

The Champion caught up with Fairfield SES unit controller Les Milne and other volunteers on Wear Orange Wednesday (WOW Day) - a chance for the community to wear orange and say thanks to the SES volunteers.

Mr Milne joined the SES in 1986. His first experience in rescue and evacuation was the 1986 and 1988 floods at Lansvale and Carramar. Since then the former electrical engineer has assisted other major disasters, including the 1989 Newcastle earthquake and the Thredbo landslide in 1997.

"The most enjoyable thing about volunteering is that you can go out and help people and they really appreciate it. They can't believe we don't get paid," said Mr Milne, who encouraged residents to clear their gutters in preparation for the storm season in October.

"The volunteers at Fairfield SES are dedicated and committed to helping in a emergency. We have uni students, teachers and nurses just to name a few and we all come together to help the community when they need it."

SES volunteers are trained in skills such as first aid, general rescue, storm damage, chain saw operation, administration and flood boat operation.

Bossley Park resident Jelena Kantar joined the Fairfield SES this year.

The forensic science graduate, who came to Australia from Serbia in 2000, said she wanted to volunteer to "help people and the community."

"And be part of something special like the SES," she said.

Volunteering Australia chief executive Adrienne Picone said Australia's volunteers provide a 450 per cent return for every dollar invested.

"This is the equivalent of $290 billion in social and economic good," she said.

"This unpaid workforce provides indispensable support to organisations and communities, and deserve recognition for the substantial social, economic and cultural contributions they make at local, national and global levels."