State emergency service volunteers will soon have a public voice.
In a Tasmanian-first, emergency workers have joined forces to create an advisory body, which will be dedicated to the SES and its more than 500 volunteers.
Following a meeting between representatives from across the state on Sunday, an interim committee was selected and a Tasmanian SES volunteer association is expected to be formed by July this year.
Interim president Chris Draffin said a local committee had been a long time coming and would provide more support to volunteers right across the state.
“There’s a need for a volunteer body to liaise with a range of decision makers in not just this organisation, but the government as a whole to put forward ideas and raise potential issues and views of the volunteers,” he said.
Until now, Tasmania had been the only state in Australia without an SES volunteer association.
“The national association has been very keen to fill the one missing link, which is Tasmania.”
Mr Draffin said the committee would look to other emergency organisations, which already have dedicated associations, including Tasmania Fire Service, Ambulance Tasmania and Tasmania Police.
“When you look at the fire service for example, they have their volunteers represented, but they also have the retained firefighters association and then they have the firefighters union,” he said.
“It’s really just about supporting volunteers and getting their ideas into the system.”
Having volunteered for more than 25 years, Mr Draffin said a representative body would also provide mental support for frontline volunteers who may be exposed to traumatic incidents.
While the association is still in its early stages, Mr Draffin detailed some items that could end up on the committee’s future agenda.
Those included the potential for volunteers to receive scholarships and further their studies, access to interstate conferences and providing personal and career development opportunities to staff.
SES Tasmania was established in 1976 and has grown to a team of 23 permanent staff and 550 volunteers across three regions – the North, North-West and South.
Its volunteers responded to more than 758 storm and flood events in the 2014-15 financial year.