20/06/2024 03:43 PM

Two NSW State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers from the Illawarra have been awarded courage awards for flood rescues and fire evacuations, and a further eight have earnt National Emergency Medals.

Sixteen members have collected 21 awards between them for their dedicated service to saving lives and creating safer communities.

Shellharbour City Unit Commander and flood rescue operator, Inspector Ray Merz was awarded a Commissioner's Commendation of Courage, for his actions during rescues at the Eugowra flood event on 14 November 2022.

Inspector Merz said when he arrived in Orange on deployment to the flood, all roads into Eugowra were two metres underwater.

“I jumped in a helicopter with all the other flood rescue and in-water operators, and as soon as we hit the ground in Eugowra, we pulled on our wetsuits,” he said.

“We drove the high clearance rescue vehicle along a country road, leading a convoy of other emergency service vehicles and people through the water, and they all followed.

“The journey that should normally take 30 minutes took three hours, and as soon as we got into the town, we started pulling people out of houses and working with people that were in the water.”

Meanwhile, John McCloghry, also from the Shellharbour City Unit, earnt a Commissioner’s Commendation of Courage for his actions in evacuating bushfire effected residents at Fishermans Paradise on New Year’s Eve in 2019.

Mr McCloghry described the day he evacuated 80 people as wall of fire and smoke engulfed the south coast town.

“People were scared and wanting to know where to go for safety. But nowhere was safe. We needed to do something, otherwise we were all going to burn to death,” he said.

“We can’t go north, we can’t go south, we can’t go east. The highways are closed – there's nowhere to go – we were trapped.”

The hours that followed will be remembered by residents and holidaymakers forever as a race against the clock to escape the raging fires.

“We got on the radio, and said, ‘we are going to run the gauntlet, we are going to head south, through the fire and try and make it to Milton,” Mr McCloghry said.

“We rounded everyone up, and we briefed them and said, ‘we are going to drive through the fire, do not stop for anything or for any reason. If a car goes off the road or loses control – go around it, just whatever you do – do not stop’.

“So, we put the highway patrol car at the front, and we put the 80 vehicles behind. We drove, at speed, through the fire grounds and through an active fire. You couldn’t see past your bonnet, and it was raining embers.”

Miraculously – under the direction of Mr McCloghry and other personnel – everyone made the 23 km journey through thick flames and smoke to Milton safely.
Other awards presented at the ceremony included; National Emergency Medal, National Medal, NSW SES Commissioner’s Certificate of Appreciation, NSW SES Commissioner’s Unit Citation and NSW SES Long Service Awards.

Acting Commissioner Debbie Platz APM celebrated the achievements of the Illawarra volunteers’ and thanked them for their more than 200 years of combined service with the SES.

“Tonight, we shine a light on the volunteers’ efforts, the impact they have on their own communities, and communities they’ve deployed to during disasters, and the difference they’ve made,” Acting Commissioner Platz said.

“On behalf of our organisation, I thank all of recipients for their service and congratulate them on their recognition.

“These awards not only recognise the volunteers’, but also pay tribute to their loved ones who have supported their service to the NSW SES.”

Shellharbour City Unit Volunteer, Richard Hart, was acknowledged for 40 years of long service for the NSW SES and said volunteering had kept him going.

“Thirty-six years ago, I saw a cover of an SES magazine that was recognising someone for 15 years of service with a national service medal. I’d been in the organisation for four years and I turned and said to my friend ‘we won’t even make it to seven years!’,” Mr Hart said.

“Forty years later and I’m still here. The members themselves are my superheroes and the people that I look up to and are very proud of.”

With a lengthy history in volunteering with the NSW SES, Richard is determined to pass his knowledge down to the next generation.

“Newer people and younger people are coming through, and I see my role as a mentor trying to pass off some of the information, lessons and skills I’ve learnt onto them with my experience in incident management,” he said.

“There's room for everybody in SES. If you are thinking about joining, come along and meet some people. You are going to meet some people that you would never normally associate with or know, but they all come together in different situation to help their community.”

Award Recipients:

Kiama Unit Award Recipients

National Emergency Medal & Clasp
Alexander Bussing-Todd

National Medal
Garry Cass

NSW SES Commissioner’s Certificate of Appreciation
Chris Warren ESM

NSW SES Commissioner’s Unit Citation
John Wall

NSW SES Long Service Awards
(medals, clasps and/or certificates)

25 years – Louise Ashton
20 years – Johannes Ludick
10 years – Aaron McGifford






Shellharbour City Unit Award Recipients

National Emergency Medal & Clasp
Brett Blackler
Nikita Hurt
Ngaire McCarthy
John McCloghry
Anne-Louise Merz

NSW SES Commissioner’s Commendation of Courage
John McCloghry
Ray Merz

NSW SES Commissioner’s Certificate of Appreciation
Ray Merz

NSW SES Commissioner’s Unit Citation
Brett Blackner
John McCloghry
Ray Merz

NSW SES Long Service Awards
(medals, clasps and/or certificates)

40 years – Richard Hart
25 years – Therese McQuade, Elaine Parsons
20 years – Terrie-Ann Hurt
10 years – Beverley Wade

Tweed Coast Unit - 6 Centennial Drive Pottsville NSW
EPiC - Women's Workshop - Emergency Preparedness in Community
EPiC - Women's Workshop - Emergency Preparedness in Community Saturday 27/07/2024 09:30 AM to 27/07/2024 04:00 PM
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