Wedderburn rescue of man and dog from floodwaters highlights regional Victorian towns that lack SES units

The rescue of a man and his dog from floodwaters in Victoria has highlighted the shortage of State Emergency Service volunteers in regional and rural areas.

Three towns are without an SES unit as the organisation struggles with a 300-person shortfall on its yearly recruitment target.

Wedderburn’s unit was suspended late last year and the rescue of the man and his dog on January 8 was carried out by SES personnel from Marong, about 60 kilometres away.

Former Wedderburn SES deputy controller Reg Holt said the pair could have been brought to safety more swiftly if local resources had been available.

“An active SES unit in Wedderburn would have been able to rescue that man within 10 minutes of him becoming trapped in floodwaters,” Mr Holt said.

“It took nearly an hour for the man to be rescued.”

Reg Holt says the flood rescue of a man and his dog shows Wedderburn desperately needs an SES unit.(ABC Central Victoria: Emma D’Agostino)

The Wedderburn unit is one of three across the state that are inactive.

The other two are at Dunolly and Dunmunkle, which is based in Rupanyup, 288km north of Melbourne.

The SES maintains the rescue of the man and dog was done safely and both were retrieved.

After a public meeting in the town last Monday, 12 expressions of interest from potential new members were received by the SES.

Solutions found in community ties

While numbers are low in some areas, one north-west Victorian community’s effort to keep its unit open after facing closure is serving as a lesson to others.

Jamie Macri is the volunteer recruitment advisor for the western region and a former unit controller at Kerang, north of Wedderburn.

He was behind the push to establish the Robinvale SES unit last year after it became inactive due to a drop-off in volunteers.

The Robinvale SES unit trains its new members after a successful recruitment drive.(Supplied: VICSES)

It has since gone from six members to 20 and all have been retained all since June last year.

“It was just a real challenge when I started my role as a community resilience coordinator in the Mallee,” Mr Macri said.

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