Emergency Cadets need a rescue

Emergency Services Cadet co-ordinator Susan Below is devastated by news of funding cuts.
Emergency Services Cadet co-ordinator Susan Below is devastated by news of funding cuts. Geoff Potter

COOROORA'S award-winning Emergency Cadets who were prepared for just about anything have been wiped out in the State Government's budget cuts.

The group of about 20 youngsters has been told to hand in their uniforms and disband.

"We were sent notification last week - I believe it coincided with the (rural) firies getting their cuts," Susan Below, the Cooroora group founder and school teacher said.

"We were told to cease immediately.

"The kids - they're devastated in a word. Angry is the other word."

Gone is crucial funding to cover such things as liability insurance, the cost of uniforms and equipment.

Although Ms Below estimates the annual state financial support for her group was modest at "a couple of thousand dollars", it paid off for the locals and the kids themselves in so many ways.

"I have been a teacher for 33 years and never in that time have I been involved in such a worthwhile program, where I can truly connect with young people and their families as well as the community," she said.

"We have 20 (active members) at the moment, but we've had 30 in the past. I've let the parents know, but I'm going to get them in to talk to them about it."

Ms Below said the cadets did everything that the SES did, except for anything that had too high a risk.

"They do first aid, navigation, communications, team work, casualty handling - all that sort of thing," she said.

"That was one of the core reasons the cadets was invented as a feeder for the SES, but we've found it has had spin-offs to other emergency services too.

"Like kids wanting to be paramedics or firies, but it's so much more than that. It's really training up a whole community to help themselves."

She said her Pomona-based group had been twice awarded best in state and had become well known for the excellent work it did with disadvantaged and at-risk youth.

"I really don't think they (the State Government bean counters) appreciate what we see about how good it is and what the kids go through and how good it is for them," Ms Below said.

"Surely the value of a community that can look after itself better and have greater resilience is beyond monetary value?"

Ms Below said she started the group through a Youth Action Program Grant from the Federal Government and hoped a local outcry may reverse the funding decision.

"I appeal to the community to do everything in their power to assist us to repeal this abolition and reinstate the Emergency Cadet Program for the good of our future generations."

Topics:  cadets emergency

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