“Family feel”: Penrith SES branch launches recruitment drive

Amanda Owens is encouraging locals to join the SES. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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With Penrith residents no strangers to extreme weather events, it’s no surprise that the Penrith SES branch is always busy.

Despite a break from floods in the last few months, local members have been busy responding to thousands of incidents during storm season, among other events including calls off the back of the weekend’s earthquake, and being involved in the search for 12-year-old Auburn boy Hussein Al Mansoory.

Fortunately, the unit has a good number of volunteers compared to regional units, for which there has recently been a large volunteer recruitment campaign launched, with incidents like these encouraging the community to come together.

“Particularly after heavy storms and floods, we see a big influx of people wanting to come and join,” Deputy Unit Commander John Vickers said.

However, outside of these periods, Deputy Unit Commander and Member Engagement Coordinator Amanda Owens noted there is a lull which has prevented numbers from getting back to pre-COVID levels.

“We did lose a lot of people after COVID dropped off,” she said.

“I think they got used to being away from the Unit, not seeing a lot of people, and they had a lot of commitments with work and family.”

Owens noted there are plenty of reasons to be a part of the SES in Penrith.

“It is a big commitment, but it is awesome, and it’s very rewarding helping your community and learning those new things,” she said.

Within their group of almost 100 members, Owens said there are volunteers of all ages, with those as young as 16 able to join with parent permission.

“In the last group, we got our first 16-year-old, and she joined a day after she turned 16. Her dad is our Training Coordinator, so she’s been so excited to join and follow in his footsteps,” she said.

Gladis Mahfoud, Amanda Owens, John Vickers and Jack Prendergast. Photo: Melinda Jane.

“I find that a lot of intakes now are those younger ones, whereas at the start of it there were a lot that were over 40, retired people who just wanted to do something now that they’re not working.”

Vickers noted that his granddaughter also plans to join the SES one day, having spent plenty of time at the unit throughout her childhood.

It’s because of this that the unit has a great community feel internally.

“You get to meet this whole range of people that are amazing people,” Owens said.

“They’re all like my family – I know more about them and they know more about me than my workmates.”

The Penrith SES also has a bond with the rest of the local community, regularly visiting schools, and attending events and festivals.

“Last year, we interacted with over 1000 people with just the boat!” she said.

“It’s good, because it’s brought us closer with the other agencies like the RFS, so we’ve got that relationship now.”

The Penrith SES branch is currently doing an intake of new members.

Though she said it is a significant commitment, with signing up involving a few months of training before you’re able to go out into the field, Owens is hoping to see everyone get involved, no matter how, or how long, and fall in love with it just as she has.

“I didn’t think I’d still be here, but here I am, eight years later, running everything. My life revolves around here, not the other way around!” she said.

“I really encourage everyone to give it a go, even if it is just for a year. It is worth it.”

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