A volunteer with the ACT State Emergency Service, Michael Hayes has cleaned up after floods in Brisbane, Queanbeyan and Goulburn and has assisted with evacuations in Maitland, but it’s helping his own community in its time of need that gives him the biggest thrill.
Hayes is one of six recipients of the 2020 ACT Community Protection Medal, one of the highest honours for emergency services personnel.
Part of what is affectionately known as the ‘orange family’ of the SES, Michael was digging in during last summer’s bushfires and storms, and will soon be digging out gutters for veterans around Canberra before the next storm season hits.
Michael completed his induction course in October 2003 and was honoured for sustained and distinguished service to the ACT community through the ACT State Emergency Service and for his continued leadership and support of his fellow volunteers as a unit leader and mentor.
“The sense of pride you get when helping out the community in their time of need, the people you meet, the things you see and the life experiences you gain and can apply to other parts of your life is really rewarding,” Michael says.
“I love being able to share experiences with like-minded people and pass on my knowledge and experience to the new members as they come up through the ranks.
“There are always lots of friendly faces and cakes and coffee, but the appreciation we receive is what makes it worth doing.”
While being calm in a crisis comes naturally, Michael said receiving the Community Protection Medal came as a big shock.
“It wasn’t something I was expecting to receive and once it sunk in I felt really proud to be chosen out of all the wonderful people that make up the SES in the ACT. It was a very humbling moment,” he said.
The socially distanced presentation also saw a number of commendation awards presented to individuals from right across Canberra’s emergency services community after what was a very demanding bushfire and storm season.
Established in 2002, the awards formally recognise the people who have gone above and beyond in their chosen fields while acknowledging their distinguished dedication, either as volunteers or full-time members of their service.
ACT Policing’s Inspector Sue Smith also received the Community Protection Medal.
“This award recognises her outstanding service supporting vulnerable people and communities in the ACT, and the kindness, care and generosity that she has shown to countless Canberrans throughout her 30-year career,” an ACT Policing spokesperson said.
Other recipients of the ACT Community Protection Medal include:
- John Berry (ACT Ambulance Service) for outstanding service in supporting the safety of the ACT community and his emergency services colleagues through leadership in the development and implementation of an improved model of medical support to ACT bushfire strike teams during the 2019-20 bushfire season.
- Pat Jones (ACT Fire and Rescue) for outstanding service to the ACT community throughout his career with ACT Fire & Rescue and for his leadership in planning and multi-jurisdictional urban interface operations in support of the effort to combat the major bushfires in and around the ACT in 2019-20.
- Simon Butt (ACT Rural Fire Service) for sustained, distinguished and outstanding service to the ACT community as a volunteer and career firefighter and for his leadership as an advocate of firefighter welfare, education and peer development.
- Kaylee Rutland (ESA Enabling Services) for her outstanding commitment to ensuring the ACT community remain informed and safe, through the development and implementation of inclusive emergency public information and communication strategies.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman congratulated the award recipients and thanked them for their service to the Canberra community.
“The awards recipients have gone above and beyond in their chosen fields and Canberra is lucky to have people of this calibre making a difference in our community,” Minister Gentleman said.
“I thank the recipients, along with all of our first responders and supporting services, for their dedication to the community and their major contribution towards making the ACT a safe place to live.”