The Victoria State Emergency Service (SES) has been involved in most major emergency responses in Victoria since it began in 1950 and continues today as the lead agency for response to flood, storm, tsunami and earthquake across the state.
The Victoria State Emergency Service began in 1950 as the Victoria Civil Defence Organisation. The organisation was originally established to act as a volunteer based civil defence agency, which could quickly be activated in the event of war.
To support the development of the organisation, the Commonwealth government established the Civil Defence School at Mt Macedon in 1956. By 1961, a Civil Defence Office was established in the Victorian Premier’s Department, and efforts were made to form a civil defence unit in each municipality.
In 1962, disastrous fires caused substantial damage in the Dandenongs and the Premier directed that a state plan be created to manage peacetime disasters. The plan was issued in 1965, before being modified and reissued in 1968.
By 1972, around 100 voluntary Civil Defence Units had been established in municipalities across Victoria. The same year, Parliament passed the State Emergency Services and Civil Defence Act, formally legislating the role of the Victoria Civil Defence Organisation.
In 1973, the first Civil Defence Organisation headquarters was established at 31 Queens Road Melbourne. In 1975, the Victoria Civil Defence Organisation was renamed the Victoria State Emergency Service to conform with other states.
During 1979, the Ministry for Police and Emergency Services was created. Its branches included Victoria Police, Metropolitan Fire Bridge, Country Fire Authority and the Victoria State Emergency Service. The Victoria State Emergency Service Act 1981 was passed, formally re-establishing SES as a general emergency management agency.
On 1 November 2005, SES was re-established as an independent Statutory Authority. As a Statutory Authority, SES is governed by a Board, which is accountable to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services.