New VICSES facility opens at Wangaratta

New VICSES facility opens at Wangaratta

26/11/2021, 1:53 PM

Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) is proud to announce the opening of a new facility in Wangaratta, the first of several new units to come online as part of a $125m investment into facilities infrastructure for the state’s emergency services volunteers, made by the State Government.

Completed in December 2020, and opened today by Minister for Emergency Services Jaclyn Symes MP, the delivery of the new unit is a significant milestone for local volunteers. This facility ensures that VICSES volunteers can continue to provide their vital service to the community as the control agency for storm, flood, tsunami, earthquake and landslide events, as well as supporting other agencies.

The decision to rebuild VICSES Wangaratta Unit on a new site was announced by the Premier in April 2017 and was delivered by the Emergency Services Infrastructure Authority (ESIA), with the idea of creating a new and expanded precinct; accommodating multi-agency operations, and acting as a Divisional Control Point during large-scale operations.

The unit is built on land provided by Rural City of Wangaratta Council, and is the first to be delivered under the government’s High Priority Infrastructure Program, with several new builds in the pipeline to improve VICSES facilities across the state.

As part of an emergency response precinct, the new unit facility is located alongside Wangaratta Country Fire Authority (CFA), Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) and Victoria Police.

With four motor bays, Unit Controller’s Office, communications room, training room, turnout area and well-being space, the future-proofed facility reflects new ways of working in the emergency management sector, with a focus on collaboration.

The opening of a new unit, the first since South Barwon in 2014, is a happy occasion for Wangaratta and an important strategic resource for the state, as VICSES experiences its busiest ever Winter/Spring period.

Having modern, fit-for-purpose facilities is essential for our volunteers as they respond to requests for assistance (RFAs) from the community. With 26 active volunteers responding to 148 RFAs in the last financial year, they also led the response to major flooding in the North East Region in previous years. For new and potential VICSES volunteers, this facility will be a more visible and welcoming space to start their volunteering journey at VICSES, as the unit seeks to recruit and retain new members.

Beginning as the St John’s Ambulance Rescue Squad in 1968, VICSES Wangaratta has a proud history. Renamed the North Eastern Civic Defence Unit, their important work continued when the Victoria State Emergency Service was created in 1975.

Perhaps the biggest event to confront the unit was in October 1993, when a major flood deluged the area. Further flooding in September 2010 saw VICSES Wangaratta Unit open twenty-four hours a day for a week, hosting 140 emergency service workers from multiple agencies. During this event, VICSES Wangaratta volunteers contributed 1,800 hours of labour.

Between training and operations, VICSES Wangaratta volunteers complete an average of 180 volunteer hours of service to the community each week.

Alongside the Minister, attending at the opening today were Dr Helen Hines MP, Federal Member for Indi; Tim McCurdy MP, Member for Ovens Valley; Cr Dean Rees, Mayor, Rural City of Wangaratta; Brendan McGrath, CEO Rural City of Wangaratta; Stephen Griffin, VICSES Chief Executive Officer; Tim Wiebusch, Chief Officer Operations VICSES; Neil Payn, Acting Assistant Chief Officer, VICSES; representatives from ESIA and the Community Safety Building Authority (CSBA), and members from our partner agencies Victoria Police; Ambulance Victoria; Country Fire Authority; Fire Rescue Victoria and Forest Fire Management Victoria.

For the Victorian Government Media Release, "New Headquarters Delivered For Wangaratta SES", click here.

Quotes attributable VICSES Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Griffin:

“The new fit-for-purpose facility will reflect VICSES' commitment and dedication to the local community and support the retention and recruitment of new volunteers.”

“This is the first new VICSES unit in more than a decade and we are so pleased with the facilities available to our volunteers, to enable them to serve their communities better.”

Quotes attributable to VICSES Wangaratta Volunteer Fran Whitehead:

“We are all very proud of our new building and thank our State Government. Rural City Council, Ken Clarke, former mayor and all who were involved.”

“I have been a member of the unit since August 1983, starting as a volunteer working in the local headquarters, supporting our volunteers in the field and have been acting controller, deputy controller, and administration officer. I have been the finance officer since the 1990s.”

“If you are interested in becoming a volunteer please come to see us; as well as helping the community you will be involved with a great group of people.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for Emergency Services Jaclyn Symes:

“The VICSES Wangaratta volunteers selflessly contribute their time and effort to help keep the local community safe. It’s critical they have fit-for-purpose facilities and the resources they need to continue their important work now and into the future.”

“The Victorian Government is supporting our hardworking volunteers as they help us during our times of need.”

“Volunteers give up their own time to serve the local community, so they deserve contemporary facilities and equipment to do their jobs safely and effectively.”