Fourteen Sapphire Coast SES personnel have been awarded National Emergency Medals for their courageous efforts as frontline responders, volunteers, and community supporters during the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20.
The medals were awarded during a ceremony on Thursday, April 21, at the Bega SES unit by South Eastern zone commander Colin Malone and Sapphire Coast commander Michelle De Friskbom.
The National Emergency Medal was established in 2011 for the purpose of recognising the unique contribution and commitment of those who have provided sustained or significant service in response to declared nationally-significant emergencies.
Ms De Friskbom opened the celebration with a speech ahead of ANZAC Day that outlined the personal significance of the event for her and her family members, many of which had served in the army and undertaken deployments.
The enormous efforts of the SES personnel were acknowledged by Ms De Friskbom who said members were assisting others while some of their own homes had been lost to the fires.
She said SES units were tasked with supporting the evacuation centres, providing logistic support to various staging areas within the Bega Valley, assisting with communications at the Bega Fire Control Centre, assisting the NSW Police with welfare checks, door knocking, providing situational awareness updates, and assisting with first aid as required.
She said their tasks continued into January and February, and it wasn't until February 10, 2020, that the Bega Valley went from fires to floods and their RFS assistance ceased.
"Sapphire Coast cluster of SES units Bermagui, Bega, and Eden, and the assistance of our various teams of local VRA and NSW Police had supported the RFS substantially and consistently since day one."
Members of the Bega Rotary club were also in attendance and presented the Bega Valley SES unit with a $300 donation.
John Mills, Unit Commander for Bermagui and Moruya Units, joined the Bermagui Unit in March 2016. He was instrumental in doorknocking and supporting the community during the bushfires.
Malcolm Douglas joined the Bega Unit in May, 2012, and has continued to be the Deputy Unit Commander, a position he also held from 2015 to 2018. He has been an operator in most field disciplines and has assisted in unit training. Ms De Friskbom said his calm persona was of great assistance during the fires.
Yvette Ringland joined the Bega Unit in May 2012. She has held the roles of: Deputy Unit Commander, 2013 to 2015; Unit Commander, 2015 to 2020; and Local Commander, 2017 to 2021. Yvette has been instrumental in the running of the Bega Unit since she joined in 2012 and the same could be said during the bushfires where she spent the majority of her time as the SES Liaison Officer in the EOC.
Rodney Gould joined the Bega Unit in October 2013. He has held the roles of: Deputy Unit Commander and Unit Commander from 2017 to 2020. Rod holds the rank of Leading Senior Operator and is the Rescue Capability Coordinator for Bega Unit. Ms De Friskbom said he was a valuable operator in all field disciplines and assists with training unit members. Mr Gould deployed to Glenn Innes during the bushfires to assist with logistics.
Jennifer Walker joined the Bega Unit in September 2007, holding the rank of Job Ready. During the bushfires she deployed to Queanbeyan and also assisted in the Bega Valley. She has assisted in out of area operations as often as she was able to, most recently to Queensland in November 2020.
Brian Evans, joined the Bermagui Unit in March 2016 and has recently become qualified as a SES VR operator. Brian has assisted with all field training in the unit. Ms De Friskbom said his personable nature, and quirky sense of humour have made him a valuable member of the Bermagui Unit. Mr Evans assisted with doorknocking, and at the Bermagui evacuation centre during the bushfires.
Jannetje Burrell joined the Wollongong Unit in December 2014 and the Bega Unit in October 2016. She has long been dual member of Wollongong and Cooma Units and has held the rank of Senior Operator. As a retired nurse, her first aid skills were utilised on training nights to deliver important hands on skills. Ms Burrell has recently obtained her trainer accreditation and is looking forward to becoming a NSW SES first aid trainer. During the bushfires she deployed to Queanbeyan and assisted the Bega Valley. She has continued to assist in out of area operations as often as she was able, most recently to Menindee in February 2022.
Samuel Genter-Saikovski joined the Bega Unit in March 2017 and has held the rank of Operator. Ms De Friskbom said he has always been keen to learn new skills and assist new members of the unit. Mr Genter-Saikovski was instrumental in training VRA and NSWPF members in the Collector App which was used for doorknocking throughout the Bega Valley during the bushfires.
Gunter Baurhenn joined the NSW SES in September 2008 and joined the Bega Unit in 2013. He was Bega Deputy Unit Commander, 2020 to 2021, and has since held the rank of Senior Operator. Gunter has left the Bega Unit, but remains a dual member of Wollongong and Cooma. He has also volunteered with Naromine, Hawksbury and Goulburn Units. Ms De Friskbom said he was an important mentor within the Bega Unit. He was deployed to Glenn Innes and Kempsey during the bushfires, and assisted in the Bega Valley. He has continued to assist in out of area operations as often as he had been able, most recently to Menindee in February 2022.
Kylie Robinson joined the Bega Unit in May 2019 and held the rank of Job Ready. She held the role of Finance and Administration Coordinator for Bega Unit and has since left the NSW SES. Kylie assisted in the Bega Valley during the bushfires. Ms De Friskbom said her specialty was catering for the Incident Control Centre and Bega Unit with home cooked evening meals, "that were a very welcome sight!".
The four other award recipients who were not able to attend on the night were Belinda Toohey, Emily De Friskbom, David Masterson, and Mark Lawrence.
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