26/01/2022 07:00 AM

Two NSW State Emergency Service (NSW SES) volunteers have been awarded an Emergency Services Medal (ESM) in the Australia Day Honours list.

Receiving the prestigious award were:

  • Local Commander for Richmond Valley Cluster, Chief Inspector, Sonya Marks
  • City of Newcastle Deputy Unit Commander, Wayne Rizzi

Both Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience, Stephanie Cooke, and NSW SES Commissioner, Carlene York, congratulated the recipients of the ESM.  

“To be recognised on the national stage is an incredible honour,” Ms Cooke said.

“As a volunteer myself, I know that members of NSW SES don’t do what they do for reward or recognition, but because they are passionate about serving the community.

“This prestigious award is a fantastic way to recognise the professionalism and selflessness of our emergency services personnel in helping keep communities safe,” she said.

Commissioner York said for these two volunteers to receive the award is a testament to their outstanding contributions to NSW SES and their communities.

“Both of them are incredibly deserving,” Commissioner York said.

“From helping attend life-critical incidences, supporting communities through severe storms and floods, to being positive role models to other volunteers – they truly embody our service’s mission of saving lives and protecting communities.

“I would like to extend my congratulations to everyone recognised in the Australia Day Honours List today,” she said.

Congratulations also to our Northern Beaches Local Commander Wayne Lyne and Warringah-Pittwater member Juliet Smith, both of Forestville, who were awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for their service to the community through emergency response.

Local Commander for Richmond Valley Cluster, Chief Inspector Sonya Marks.

Mrs Sonya Maree Marks

Sonya Marks has been a volunteer in the emergency services and management sector since 1997 and joined NSW SES in 2018. In June 2020, Mrs Marks was appointed to Chief Inspector, Local Commander for the Richmond Valley Cluster.

Mrs Marks has worked tirelessly for the Units in her Cluster and stepped up when the Wilson River Cluster Local Commander retired. She is one of the main trainers across the Northern Rivers, and she prepares and delivers training to other volunteers and responds to requests for assistance from the community.

Mrs Marks assisted New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) during the 2019-2020 bushfires by door knocking within communities and delivering food and supplies to RFS crews. RFS specifically requested Mrs Marks fill the role of Communications Operator due to her extensive experience with bushfire emergencies and radio communications.

In August 2019, she demonstrated distinguished service when she drove through Kyogle and came upon a car accident. A member of the community was involved in the accident after suffering a medical episode. Mrs Marks noticed that the man was receiving CPR near the scene of the accident and that white smoke was billowing from the vehicle's bonnet. She stopped to assist with the CPR and continued to do so even after the vehicle burst into flames, helping to save their life.

New South Wales Police Force nominated Mrs Marks for a Bravery Award for her actions that day. Mrs Marks has demonstrated her ability to be a positive role model within NSW SES and inspiring many female volunteers.

Her dedication, passion, and commitment to helping the community is exemplary and unquestionable and she has been going above and beyond for over 20 years.

Mrs Marks is an inspirational leader who has genuine care and concern for the Units and volunteers she leads, spending significant time providing them with training, support, and encouragement.

City of Newcastle Deputy Unit Commander Wayne Rizzi.

Mr Wayne Gregory Rizzi

Wayne Rizzi has been a member of the City of Newcastle Unit for over 23 years and is presently the Deputy Unit Commander. He has previously held leadership positions, including Deputy Rescue Officer and Team Leader.

Mr Rizzi is qualified in all areas of operations. He oversees and has input into the majority of training within the unit and also shares his experience and oversight with other units.

Mr Rizzi has attended many major emergencies, including the 2007 'Pasha Bulker' storm, where he took a leading role in assisting the community during the response and recovery phases. Then during the April 2015 Newcastle superstorm, he managed more than 1100 Requests for Assistance while the unit was active for over two weeks.

Mr Rizzi consistently makes himself available for out of area opportunities to assist the wider New South Wales community. In 2020, he attended 237 requests for assistance, totalling 296 operational hours, in addition to an estimated 192 hours spent at weekly training nights. He coordinates activities, training sessions, weekend courses and community engagement events for the Unit. He shares his extensive experience with volunteers, both formally as a trainer and informally on training nights.

Mr Rizzi has mentored many new volunteers within the City of Newcastle Unit and other units, taking the time to teach and give volunteers the responsibility to learn and continuously improve and follow up on challenging jobs.

Mr Rizzi's level of dedication is unquestionable. His commitment to the NSW SES is tireless, and selfless and he commands great respect from all members of the service.

Enquiries: NSW SES Media 1800 067 234 or email media@ses.nsw.gov.au

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