SES a family tradition for Albany volunteer
Volunteering comes naturally to Albany’s Josh Gardner, who has followed in his stepfather’s footsteps with the State Emergency Service.
“I was raised in that environment — it was a no-brainer,” he said.
“My stepfather has been an SES volunteer for 45 years and when I was growing up I spent a lot of time with his SES crew.
“I just remember following him and these people in orange.”
Being an SES volunteer is a “passion” for Mr Gardner, but it is also a role which has proved to be tough and toilsome over the past 12 years.
“The last six months have been particularly challenging for us,” he said.
“Not just from a physical perspective — because obviously you’re climbing steep, rough terrain and steps — but it has also been particularly mentally challenging.
“Especially because there had been some less than amazing and very tragic outcomes recently.”
Last month, young Northam couple Geoffrey Bignell, 20, and Victoria McCloy, 22, went missing during a rock fishing trip near Bald Head. Their disappearance followed the deaths of Mandurah mother Lorjie Bautista and Fremantle father Matthew Dwyer at Bluff Knoll.
All three incidents involved gruelling searches through tough terrain with tragic ends. Mr Gardener said despite the taxing nature of his role, it seemed worth every minute when he reached someone in trouble.
“We’ve done a fair few successful medical retrievals with St John recently in Porongurups, Bald Head and Bornholm Beach,” he said.
“The other day we got a letter from a man we rescued from Bornholm Beach — he had a cardiac event. You get this — not so much instant gratification — but I guess a sort of sense of completion.”
The 37-year-old said one of the biggest highlights of his time at the SES was meeting his partner Tash Nelson, who has been a volunteer for eight years.
The pair now have an 18-month-old son and take turns looking after him when on rescue missions.
The couple said they would love to see their son follow in the family’s footsteps.
“I’d really like to instil the importance of volunteering in him,” he said.
“Particularly because it’ll get harder to get people to volunteer.
“It’s already quite difficult, but I think by the time he grows up it’ll be even more challenging.”
According to Mr Gardner, most volunteer organisations are struggling to recruit and retain volunteers.
“The problem is we don’t have many members that have the physical ability to regularly go out and climb Bluff Knoll, and those who do usually work during the week,” he said.
“This makes it extremely challenging when we have mid-week jobs or emergencies.
“It makes it hard to get big numbers that are needed to be able to respond to these bigger jobs in a timely manner.
“We really need more of those fitter, younger people that are able to be deployed into those environments.”
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