"My way of getting involved": rural unit leader swaps Sydney for Birchip

"My way of getting involved": rural unit leader swaps Sydney for Birchip

09/03/2023, 10:30 AM

VICSES Woomelang Unit Controller Lisa Emblem with her sister, VICSES Birchip Unit Officer Lauren Emblem

Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) Woomelang Unit Controller, Lisa Emblem, has been in the job for nearly a year.

“I was an SES volunteer for five years at Birchip,” says Lisa, “and it has been challenging to take on the two roles,” she admits. “But I have a lot of support from the Birchip Controller who is my mum, Darlene.”

The whole Emblem family moved to Birchip from Sydney in 2017, all joining the local SES unit. “I had no prior experience with SES,” says Lisa, “but we didn’t know anyone when we moved here in November 2017 and the SES was our way of getting involved and giving back to the community.”

When the family first joined, there were very few members at the VICSES Birchip Unit. “We were very outgoing,” Lisa laughed. “We have strong female leadership at the unit, and our male colleagues are very supportive of that.

“Once mum became Controller, I started doing a lot of the administration,” says Lisa. “At VICSES Birchip Unit, that meant processing new member applications, updating operational requests, assisting with grant applications, and helping members with the training requirements.”

Lisa’s experiences at the unit, and the extra skills she learned, meant she had a chance to apply for the role of Unit Controller at nearby VICSES Woomelang Unit, when it was first advertised.

“I’ve taken that inclusive culture with me, to reach out to a wide range of people in the community. “There are no boys’ jobs or girls’ job at the SES,” says Lisa, “if you have access to the knowledge and skills you can do anything you want to do.”

As VICSES volunteers perform a more diverse set of roles, the local unit needs a more diverse range of people. “Our volunteers are drawn from the community, so they should reflect the community we serve,” says Lisa.

“The approach I have taken is that if you’re not comfortable doing something, you don’t have to,” she says. “We have members who don’t want to attend a road crash rescue, for example, but they still want to help.”

“There are a lot of supporting tasks around managing a rescue event, like controlling traffic, or getting on the tools,” says Lisa. “When we first arrive at a job we do a “tool dump” where we set out what we need, and start up the generator that powers the hydraulics."

“Dividing the work this way means that, even if you find road crash confronting, you can still make a contribution.”

“My hope is to recruit more members to the unit who might not have ever thought they could be an emergency responder,” says Lisa.

VICSES Woomelang Unit responds to an average of 28 requests for assistance every year, and is currently recruiting new members.

If you would like to learn more about joining Lisa and becoming a VICSES volunteer, visit: ses.vic.gov.au/join-us.

To read other volunteer profiles for International Women's Day, click here.