There's a role in NSW SES for everyone

10/12/2018 10:46 AM

Monday, 3rd December was International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD), when we recognised the wonderful contribution people with disability make to our community. We here at the New South Wales State Emergency Service (NSW SES) celebrated those volunteers who have disability that strive to serve their community in times of need.

IDPwD celebrates the diversity and ability of people with disability, promoting positive perceptions and building inclusive workplaces, schools, homes, and communities. It is also about providing a platform for people with disability to have a voice and celebrate their achievements. ​Our members have amazing stories and contribute their skills and experiences to improve what we do, create greater connections with communities and keep people safe.

Meet Haley Martin, a volunteer member of the NSW SES Wyong Unit who is deaf. Haley brings a wealth of experience to the team with her skills in community liaison. Haley is also a Deaf Liaison Officer at the Deaf Society of NSW which makes Haley a perfect fit for NSW SES as she helps to provide storm and flood awareness information to members of the deaf community. NSW SES Wyong Unit Controller, Matt Le Clercq has worked closely with Haley and encourages her to participate in all SES activities. Matt and Haley took the time to talk about their experiences and share some advice about working with people with different abilities.


Haley Martin, NSW SES Wyong Unit Volunteer

Haley, why did you want to join the NSW SES?

I became a Deaf Liaison Officer at the Deaf Society of NSW. However I was hungry for more information, to gain a better knowledge of flood and storm awareness, what NSW SES volunteers do, and how I could help to pass this information onto the deaf community. With over 300 people that are deaf and hard of hearing living on the Central Coast, I am passionate about providing information to others where they do not have the ability to rely on radio messaging, or newsletters where english isn’t their first language.

What was the biggest challenge when you joined?

Communication with others was the biggest challenge initially. As a deaf person it took a while to build on communication with other volunteers in the Unit. However, everybody was lovely and willing to help me with my training. They even knew how to meet my needs, as I rely on visual aids to understand certain processes, so they ‘showed’ me instead and let me feel, to help explain things to me.

What skills and knowledge do you bring to the SES?

I bring along my willingness to help others. There is nothing wrong with me physically, so I can still undertake the same jobs that other volunteers do. I can use mime and gesture to communicate with others. The only things that make me different is my ear, I can’t hear as I am profound deaf, so my eyes are my ears (see not hear). In terms of knowledge, I am employed as a support worker, teaching auslan. I also have a daughter who is 9 years old.

What would be one tip you would tell people who are working with Deaf or Hard of Hearing?

Do not be afraid! Try to build on one thing at a time. Once you get to know the Unit volunteers, you will be amazed how similar we all are as people. I always come to SES smiling, feeling happy and willing to learn. Even other volunteers from my Unit were interested to learn about the Auslan interpreters and how they support me. The volunteers have been able to ask the interpreters to assist with showing them different signs so they can communicate better and get to know me which was nice.


Matt Le Clercq, NSW SES Wyong Unit Controller

How does the Unit support Haley?

Haley provides an Auslan interpreter for Unit activities, which I believe comes from her National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Haley relies on the interpreter to hear any information; however, she is just as capable as any other member. Our trainers make adjustments for all Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Unit members, working closely with Haley using lots of hands-on experiences.

How did you identify what Haley could contribute to the SES?

We asked Haley. Haley identified that she has a passion to help the deaf and hard of hearing community members of the Central Coast. All our members are encouraged to participate in all activities.

What are some of the advantages of having Haley in your Unit?

Haley is an enthusiastic member and willing to use her skills to support all members of her community. In particular ensuring that members of the deaf community are not forgotten or neglected and have access to our support. This weekend she is out with our Unit members at the local RFS Headquarters for a Bush Fire awareness course. Skills she learns on these courses certainly help our community, as she will be an asset should our community be affected by floods, storms or bush fires.

What would be the main consideration having a member with disabilities in your Unit?

Haley is just another member of the Wyong team. We have made simple adjustments with our communication skills which actually benefits all members. We are always mindful of our members' safety. We work hard to ensure that Haley understands all safety issues, and so are particular in checking that messages are not purely delivered verbally. Having messages delivered by other modes certainly helps all members.


If you would like to more information about how to work with the deaf and hearing impaired community, please contact Mim Gardiner on 0437 467 874.

Photo Haley Martin

NSW SES volunteer Haley Martin

AUSLAN interpreter

Volunteer communicating in AUSLAN

Learn more about flexible volunteering with NSW SES

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