Anthorr Nomchong’s orange State Emergency Service uniform, with its distinctive orange pants and jacket with reflective strips, will be the first SES uniform added to the collection at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.
Mr Nomchong volunteered during the 2019-20 bushfire season at the Glen Innes Fire Control Centre, the Lake George Fire Control Centre at Queanbeyan and the Monaro Fire Control Centre at Cooma.
A resident of Queanbeyan and an NSW SES volunteer for more than 12 years, Mr Nomchong wore the uniform during his 50 days on the frontline over Black Summer as part of the SES’s critical logistical and communications support of the NSW Rural Fire Service’s efforts to fight the fires.
He says it is a privilege to donate his uniform to the National Museum, which unveiled it as part of its new website Momentous, an online project that invites Australians to share their stories and experiences of the bushfires and the pandemic, to create an online record of these significant moments in history.
“Being a NSW SES volunteer means helping people during the worst times of their lives and the bushfires of last summer definitely reflected that. This is a moment in time which needs to be recorded in Australian history,” said Mr Nomchong.
“I’m a proud Australian and protecting the community is part of my ancestry. On one side of my family was a marine from the First Fleet and on the other a Chinese merchant from the goldfields around Braidwood. I have had relatives that fought in both world wars and I like to think that in the finest traditions of the ANZACs, as a NSW SES volunteer, I’ve been there for my mates in their time of need.
“As well as assisting the NSW RFS during the terrible fire season, the state of NSW has also experienced flooding and severe storms this year where I responded to the last three east coast lows and provided support for the recent hail storms in Queensland,” said Mr Nomchong.
During last season’s bushfires, the NSW SES provided more than 93,800 volunteer hours, which included clearing burnt trees for evacuations routes and logistical support.
NSW SES Commissioner Carlene York expressed the importance of the uniform being acquired by the National Museum of Australia.
“This is an exciting day for the NSW SES as Anthorr’s contribution is the first item to be acquired by the National Museum of Australia from any SES from across the country,” said Commissioner York.
The 2019-20 bushfire season was the longest and most intense experienced in Australia’s history. Before the fire season ended, the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Australia, on 25 January 2020. National Museum curator Craig Middleton said both events will be reflected in the new Momentous online project.
“Last summer’s bushfires have forever changed the way we think of the land in which we live and we are so grateful for the role our NSW SES volunteers played and continue to play, in supporting all Australians in times of crisis.
“We are so pleased to take the NSW SES uniform into the collection as a way of honouring the volunteers who gave so generously last summer and who will continue to be there for us in times of need in the future,” said Mr Middleton.
He said Mr Nomchong’s uniform will feature alongside contributions from writer and broadcaster Benjamin Law, artist Peter Drew, radio and TV personality Dan Bourchier and health and science journalist Tegan Taylor.
“Momentous is about collecting and sharing human experiences of these recent events that have profoundly impacted our lives,” said Mr Middleton.
“We invite everyone to log-in to Momentous and share their experiences of the 2019/2020 bushfire season and the global pandemic, with stories of fear, worry, adaptation, hope and kindness, and everything in between,” he said.