February flood hero awarded young volunteer of the year

29/05/2020 02:43 PM

A young volunteer who helped save lives during the floods in February 2020 has been named the NSW State Emergency Servcie (SES) Young Volunteer of the Year. This award is given to a 16-25 year old member who has demonstrated the highest commitment to learning and activities in the past 12 months.

Tanju Olcer, who went from new starter to flood rescue technician in three years, has strong memories of his dad putting on his St Johns uniform to go out and help others.

“He’s been doing it for a long time now, about 20 years. As I got older, I came to understand why he did it” said Tanju.

“From an early age I had been exposed to small glimpses of what it might look like to be a part of something bigger than yourself.”

Tanju’s dad never pushed him to join St Johns. Instead, he suggested the NSW SES.

“My dad noticed that the NSW SES was better suited to me, so he recommended that I join. I signed up after I turned 18.”

Tanju is a Level 3 Flood Rescue Operator. In the NSW SES, these people are the best of the best. They are the volunteers who are trained to dive into dangerous flood water to rescue you if you get stuck or need help.

“I saw a poster for flood rescue operators on my induction day and thought, ‘that’s what I want to do.’ I was immediately hooked.”

Tanju put his hard-won skills to good use in February 2020 when Sydney and most of the East Coast was flooded.

“The recent floods will stay in my memory because of the severity and the scale. I had the opportunity to work with the great people in my unit and other surrounding units, all while helping the community where we could”.

Along with the recent floods, Tanju said that his most memorable moment was getting his storm qualification just after signing up with the NSW SES.

“It formed the basic building block for everything else that came afterwards. I also enjoyed doing the Metro Rescue Competition and State Disaster Rescue Competition last year.”

Tanju helps to guide and mentor new members of the Auburn Unit in their first six months with the service as part of the Auburn New Member Support Team.

“This program gives newer members clarity during those first six months. It also gives the unit an opportunity to pass on knowledge and experience that has been developed over many years. It’s an enjoyable initiative as it promotes the sharing of ideas and creates openness within the unit.”

The newly minted NSW SES Young Volunteer of the Year doesn’t hesitate to recommend volunteering to those who are considering signing up.

“I have never looked back since signing up. Joining my local SES unit has given me the opportunity to work with an amazing group of likeminded people, give back to the community and develop skills that I previously would have never thought I could.”


NSW SES volunteers come from all walks of life, bringing with them many different skills, interests and backgrounds. They are united by the purpose of supporting their communities in times of need.

There are four ways to volunteer with NSW SES, learn more Volunteering


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