The NSW SES Volunteers Assocation runs a number of different, often seasonal, programs to support members.
Drought Support Program
This initiative was developed in 2017/18 in response to the severe drought conditions experienced across NSW. The Assocaition sourced and delivered animal feed and fodder, and was supported by Royal Canin with the provision of working dog food to SES Volunteers in drought-affected areas.
Volunteering, particulalry in regional and remote NSW provides the local community with essential first responder support in road crash rescue, vertical rescue, community first response (pre-ambulance care) as well as large animal and flood rescue capabilities- on top of flood and storm response.
Reducing the burden of feeding animals, allowed volunteers to continue their connectedness with their local communities and fellow volunteers, and maintained an ability for the community to have an online rescue service.
The Drought Support Program also provided volunteers with 'care packs' of essential household pantry and cupboard items and all were delivered to homesteads or the local unit for distribution- providing volunteers the opportunity to talk with others, and an ability to let them know what other services- not just within the Volunteers Association- were available.
Bushfire Support Program
Following the drought, the 2019/20 Bushfire Season hit and has been described as an unprecedented fire season- one we hope we will never experience again.
From fires that started in the north of the state, right through to the Victorian border in the south, volunteers of the NSW SES were assisting the RFS with logstical support. As the north coast was devestated, we rolled out our Bushfire Support Program, providing affected volunteers and units with bigger 'care packs' that included basic household items also in response to property, stock and infrastructure losses across our membership.
The Bushfire Support Program also saw the rollout of Mental Health Training. Different course options were piloted and volunteer's feedback was a preference for Mental Health First Aid training. Initially this was delivered to areas directly impacted by the bushfires, however due to the overwhelming success of the training, it has since become its own program.
Mental Health Support Program
While SES volunteers are and continue to be at the front line for natural disasters, pandemic response and rescue, the NSW SES Volunteers Association also recognises that mental ill-health is not just restricted to perceived traumatic events. There are the added complexities of personal, family and work life as well as, at times, the psychological repurcussions of management action.
Understanding the unique nature of first responder work and other mental ill-health ocncerns, the NSW SES Volunteers Association piloted a number of different courses- with volunteers feedback indicating the Mental Health First Aid course was their preferred option.
In ensuring equity and inclusion to mental health programs, the NSW SES Volunteers Association advertises this training to all NSW SES volunteers. Mental Health First Aid Australia encourages participation of all areas of the community in this course, and has recommended safety processes in place for participants that has been developed by clinicians, persons with lived experience, industry professionals and academics.
The Association has committed to creating an accessible mental health program for all members, including providing training to NSW SES Chaplains, critical incident team and options for key NSW SES staff.