State Emergency Services across Australia are being recognised for their dedicated service on Wear Orange Wednesday (WOW Day), 19 May, and Aussies are asked to wear orange to show support for their local SES volunteers.
At the NSW SES Queanbeyan Unit, Zakia Patel can do it all – no matter the language or the task.
The 33-year-old became a NSW SES volunteer when she was a 21-year-old university student.
Moving quickly through the ranks, she moved into the position of Unit Commander for the Queanbeyan Unit, which she has now been in for two years.
Not long after taking the reins, the bushfires hit. Stepping up, Zakia led her team as they supported RFS to protect local communities.
As if her love for community was not already enough, she also took on role of Chief Executive of the Queanbeyan Multilingual Centre.
Zakia said a highlight during her time with NSW SES so far was when she travelled to Queensland to support the response to Cyclone Yasi.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” she said.
“I’d only been with the service for two years and it was an unbelievable and humbling experience.
“It made me feel fulfilled that I was doing something really important. We met the most amazing community members – so strong and resilient.”
She was the only member from her unit in the taskforce and ended up making lifelong friends.
With a passion for helping out during disasters, Zakia decided to study an Advanced Diploma in Public Safety (Emergency Management) and has high hopes for completing it soon.
Cobargo bushfire survivor prepared for any disaster
Living in Cobargo during the 2019-20 bushfires, SES volunteers Marty Wraight sadly lost nearly everything.
Friends, his house, possessions and even horses – the bushfires certainly took its toll on the 53-year-old.
Despite this, Marty persevered and put the needs of others first, by helping run the Bermagui Evacuation Centre with other volunteers and emergency services.
“We evacuated over 6,000 people in three days, with no communications outside the town, no electricity, sewerage or running water,” Marty said.
“I bonded with many people and have remained firm friends with them.
“After the fires were out, I was supported by my NSW SES family and many in the local community.”
When asked what drew him to the service, Marty said it was an event some 15 years ago that still lives with him today.
“There was a girl that went missing five doors down from my house in Penrith,” he said.
Without the skills to help find her, he felt useless and decided he would “never be a helpless bystander again”.
Impressed by the SES volunteers’ professionalism, and after a move to the South Coast, Marty joined the Bermagui Unit.
In joining the SES, Marty grew passionate about other areas of the service, such as mapping and planning.
But it is a relatively unknown combat responsibility that piqued his interest the most – planning, preparing and responding to tsunamis.
For more information about Wear Orange Wednesday or about NSW SES, visit ses.nsw.gov.au