When Canberrans were asked to sport orange for Wear Orange Wednesday (WOW) yesterday in recognition of the hard work of State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers, it was probably a big change from the head-to-toe black that heralds the arrival of Canberra’s colder seasons.
But for SES volunteers, orange is always at the ready. It’s pretty much standard attire when they’re called out to any emergency, whether that’s helping in storms and floods, getting up on roofs to tarp damage or helping ACT Policing with various search and rescue efforts.
However, it’s fair to say the orange mohawks, onesies, leggings and wigs, as well as the full-dress suit that was out in force on a particularly grey day at Lake Burley Griffin, were not SES issue.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman said the day was a fantastic recognition of the SES and the hard work they put in to keep Canberrans safe during an extraordinary year.
“We have had some incredibly difficult times over the last couple of years, and our SES have been able to help out Canberrans during the La Niña events and the storm season, the bushfires and during COVID,” he said.
He reminded Canberrans to thank SES volunteers if they spot them on the streets.
ACT SES Chief Officer Anthony Draheim said Wear Orange Wednesday was particularly significant as last year’s event was unable to occur due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We didn’t get an opportunity to thank our volunteers and those around the country last year.
“Over the last eighteen months, our team has put in some significant work, especially with the worst hail storm in which we did over 2500 callouts.
“Most of the time, volunteers are usually wet, tired or on somebody’s roof,” he said.
While the SES does their best to keep them supplied with the best gear and equipment possible, volunteers do find themselves in cold, wet and risky situations, Mr Draheim explained.
He also acknowledged the support the SES volunteers give to the ACT Emergency Services, such as Fire Rescue and Police.
“This is a national SES thank you day across the country and it is for the volunteers,” he added.
There are currently 390 SES volunteers in the ACT, and some of these have given almost 50 years’ service.
Mr Draheim said since COVID-19, they’ve actually seen more people offering to volunteer with the SES. This year, they have already had over 200 applications, but only 40 were accepted.
“We ask these people to reapply next year,” he said.
Volunteers undergo a 12-week training program, with 20 days of commitment to become a qualified SES volunteer. Hours volunteered each week vary given the needs of the community.
They are expected to continue building on and improving their skills throughout their service.
Wear Orange Wednesday falls in the middle of National Volunteer Week, which is a broader push to recognise everyone in the community who gives their time and effort without expecting anything back in return.
Telstra Tower and the light rail were among the Canberra landmarks saying thanks by turning orange. Did you see any orange landmarks last night? Share your best pictures on our facebook page.