Secret report: Volunteers shun SES as branches shut down

 

 

THE State Emergency Service is on its knees with senior volunteers turning their backs on the organisation, stations closing, and concerns about the SES's ability to respond to disasters this summer.

The Courier-Mail can reveal Queensland's 45-year-old SES is haemorrhaging members in the lead up to disaster season, after 20 branches closed and 15 per cent of volunteers left in the last five years.

Senior figures in the organisation say they need 7500 volunteers in the next two years - a 50 per cent increase - with the SES no longer able to respond to major storms in rural parts of the state, due to dwindling numbers.

Eight branches have closed in Mackay alone - a region frequently affected by catastrophic storms, cyclones and bushfires.

 

20 SES branches have closed in the last five years. Picture: Nigel Hallett
20 SES branches have closed in the last five years. Picture: Nigel Hallett

The Courier-Mail understands an operation group was also shut down at Redland City earlier this year.

Other branches have also been closed in Roma, Toowoomba, Longreach, Caloundra, Gympie and Cooktown, among others.

A secret report into the state of the SES in Queensland was finalised last month but is yet to be made public.

"A person who applies can't actually get training until they have a blue card and the delay in the blue card process is making applications take upward of six months," a senior SES source told The Courier-Mail.

"The fall in numbers then impacts on our ability to look after emergencies and operations."

It's understood some branches are taking up to 18 months to recruit new volunteers because of blue card and training course delays.

 

Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford says the SES has 5000 active volunteers. Picture: Kevin Farmer
Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford says the SES has 5000 active volunteers. Picture: Kevin Farmer

 

Senior volunteers are also becoming disillusioned because they feel they don't have the same support as other first responders.

Police, firefighters and paramedics have shield laws to protect from assaults, while SES officers do not.

SES officers using lights and sirens to attend an emergency also cannot travel faster than 40km/h.

"It's clear that the SES is in crisis and volunteers are choosing to walk in droves," LNP emergency services spokesman Lachlan Millar said.

"Most concerning is the locations of where these SES branches have closed.

"Eight of these branches have been in the Mackay region and the recent closure in the Redlands is alarming due to the large population base."

Minister for Fire and Emergency Services and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Craig Crawford said volunteers "move on due to a number of factors such as leave, transfer of membership and change of membership status".

"The SES currently has 5000 active volunteers as well as 1050 probationary and reserve volunteers," he said.

 

 

 

Originally published as Secret report: Volunteers shun SES as branches shut down


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