Your family, our family

Your family, our family is a campaign designed to highlight the sacrifices family members and friends make to ensure Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) volunteers are able to support their community.

On this page:

Behind every brave and hard-working Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) volunteer is a support network of people that enable them to do what they do in their community. 

Once again, in 2021 our members’ friends, family and employers have stood by our volunteers through a difficult time, major storm systems, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of them, our volunteers can respond to emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 

VICSES volunteers could not look after Victorians without the support of their families and employers. During the weekend of November 13 – 14, the Your family, Our family campaign aims to highlight the incredible people that support the 5,000+ volunteers who are the backbone of our service.

Your family, Our family aims to celebrate our members and the people who support them. It might not just be their immediate family who supports them - It’s their extended family, employer, housemates, workmates. 

Now, more than ever, “your family, is our family…so thanks to them”.

Videos - Stories from the service

Your family, our family - The Katris family and White family.

Your family, our family - The Connell family.

To help celebrate the family and friends of VICSES, here are some case studies that show the beautiful support systems behind our volunteers.

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Dee Azzopardi, VICSES Pakenham Unit and Patrick Mulcahy, Principal at Carwatha College

Dee Azzopardi says there are three important things in her life - family, work and SES. As the First Aid nurse at Cawatha College in Noble Park, Dee says she is privileged to be supported by her workplace. The college is flexible when she needs to respond to the pager going off, and have demonstrated their flexibility and support by training another staff member to cover the first aid office when she's called out. Since joining VICSES two years ago, she's attended over 200 jobs and been on four deployments. 

School principal Pat Mulcahy said it was important for the school to support Dee's work, to help the wider community around the area. The values of the school align with VICSES, and what Dee brings into the school with her experience is respected by her peers. 

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Rebecca Siddall - Heywood Unit

Bec has received significant support through a screen this year, with her family based in the UK.

The Heywood unit volunteer has thanked her fiancé Cameron, a CFA volunteer, for being incredibly understanding of her work with VICSES, and family for planting the seed of 'giving back' many years ago. 

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Zachary West, Deputy Controller, VICSES Tallangatta Unit and Peter Ryder, Rapid Hydraulics, Wodonga

When the pager goes off for Zachary, the Deputy Controller of the Tallangatta Unit, he knows he will be supported to respond by his workplace - Rapid Hydraulics in Wodonga.  Managing Director, Peter Ryder has employed an extra staff member that is able to cover for Zach when he is on leave and when he is called out.

When asked what Zach brings into the workplace from his VICSES training, Peter said "Zach brings great organizing skills to the team; he is great at multitasking and organizing his immediate team members. Plus his first aid skills are great to have around. Zach is obviously a very valuable SES member and his contribution to the community should be highly regarded. Whilst it can be inconvenient at times for our business we are happy to support such a vital service to the community."

Zach's confidence in being able to respond because of the support of his employer makes it easier to help the community. Zach says, "At work, I have several colleagues able to continue on with my tasks and my Manager Peter never "bats an eyelid' when the pager goes off and I rush past his office door!" 

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John Reed - Bendoc Unit

Bendoc unit controller John Reed has witnessed first-hand how strong family ties can save an entire town.

He has praised his wife, and fellow townspeople and their children, for all doing their part to prevent any major damage or loss of property during the 2019/2020 bushfire season.

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Sara Matthews - Gippsland

Self-confessed 'Gippy Girl' Sara Matthews was on the ground in Cann River during the 2019-2020 bushfire season.

When communication lines were down she lost touch with her young son, who had been evacuated, and her father who stayed to defend his property. She says reuniting with them was something she is incredible grateful for as she loves them dearly, and they happily support her while she volunteering with VICSES.

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Bernie Thatcher, Unit Controller, VICSES Brimbank Unit and Tim Blunt, Principal at Sunshine College 

Bernie's work with the Brimbank Unit is wholeheartedly supported by her employers at Sunshine College in Melbourne's West. 

When asked what it means to have a VICSES member in the team at the school, Sunshine College Principal Tim Blunt said that “Two of the school's values are wellbeing and relationships, which aligns with VICSES; VICSES obviously has a high priority on looking after the wellbeing of the community,  so we are in sync with that, and no organisation can flourish without building strong relationships within the organisation and with those in the community. Community growth and wellbeing are so very important to both organisations. Teamwork is always critical to a well-run organisation, and staff at Sunshine College always step up and help when required. Supporting Bernie supports the community”.

Bernie says, "Volunteering for the VICSES is a huge commitment, and to make it work a volunteer needs to make sure there is balance. With work and SES, I have a lot of support from my Business Manager Jade and Principal Tim (both pictured above), however, if tasks can be completed by others during my work hours I leave it to them. As I work in finance and HR at a school, on pay calc days I switch off from SES as priority is to ensure staff and creditors get paid.  There is always a way around it during huge storm events and this is due to the support and flexibility from my colleagues".

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Ross Evans - Gisborne Unit

Ross is a dedicated family man with a wife and two kids. It's been a very busy one in 2020, including several bushfire deployments in Victoria's east.

Ross credits his Dad for sparking his interest in emergency services, and his wife for keeping him grounded and encouraging balance.

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Ahmad Alhamid - VICSES Emerald Unit volunteer

VICSES Emerald Unit volunteer Ahmad Alhamid migrated from Syria to Australia with his family, and has been a VICSES volunteer for about three years. Family is a number one priority for Ahmad, and when the pager rings to be called out to an incident they are always by his side to offer their support. 

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Gary Doorbar (ESM), Unit Controller, VICSES Whittlesea Unit and Naomi Thornhill, Team Leader at Hume City Council

Gary Doorbar, recent recipient of the Emergency Services Medal has played an integral role as a VICSES volunteer, including his recent deployments supporting Ambulance Victoria, where employer Hume City Council provided Gary with two-weeks paid leave to undertake training for the role.

“Hume City Council supports any employees that are involved in an emergency service organisation. Employees can access emergency service leave, which is paid leave that is separate from regular annual leave. Gary is very accomplished and dedicated in his role with VICSES, and as his Team Leader I was really keen to support any extension of that,” said Gary’s Team Leader at Hume City Council, Naomi Thornhill.

“Gary already has great communications skills with our elderly and disability service clients, but this training will provide next-level skills for difficult situations and challenging conversations within his current role. He is an asset to the team, and I am really happy to support him. We are very proud of you, Gary.”

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‘Broady’s Best’ – Shane Taylor, Broadmeadows Unit

Shane is one of the most dedicated volunteers in the state, having attended multiple bushfire deployments during 2020, in addition to assisting in the search for Will Callaghan and helping out in the Campbellfield factory fire.

The Broadmeadows unit volunteer has extended his thanks to his children Kyle and Jessica, his late father and elderly mother for being such an incredible support network alongside his fellow volunteers, and the 'Orange Knights' motorcycle club, of which he is secretary.

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Emily Pullen - Hepburn Shire Unit

Highly respected Hepburn Shire deputy controller Emily Pullen has had a long and tough year, diagnosed with both a neurological and auto-immune disorder in the middle of a pandemic – and forced to pause her hands-on volunteering while she receives further treatment.

Emily has taken the opportunity to thank her dedicated wife Katie and fellow unit members as part of the ‘Your Family, Our Family’ campaign, which highlights the sacrifices of VICSES member’s loved ones.