Katherine woman Kathy Skuse has received a national award recognising 15 years of volunteer work with Emergency Services. She has worked on many high profile disasters including the search for Malaysian Airlines MH370 and the Queensland floods in 2009.
“Being first on the scene in emergency situations can be dangerous. But it’s in these times communities look to Emergency Services for help and support,” Kathy said.
“The thing I like most about volunteering is the comradery and the amazing people you meet. When we go out into a crisis, Emergency Services can be the first contact with the public.
“You’re seeing people in highly stressful situations and they’re just getting on with it.”
In 2009, Kathy’s local SES Team responded to the flood disaster in Emerald, Central Queensland. When they arrived, Emerald town was flooded and the river was raging.
“The resilience of the local townsfolk was amazing,” Kathy said.
“We received news that an elderly woman urgently needed medical supplies, but the only way to reach her was through a flooded river crossing. We had no aircraft and our only boat was assigned elsewhere.
“We carefully negotiated the crossing covered with over 1 metre of water. It was a very tricky operation but we made it through and delivered the aid. I’ll never forget that.”
Kathy also joined the search for Malaysian Airlines MH370 in April 2014.
“I was called up to help with the MH370 search as a certified Air Observer. The role involved being in an aircraft to search a tasked area with specific protocols,” Kathy said.
“We knew the whole world was watching. We executed the search, but it was unsuccessful and we didn’t find anything. I’ve been keeping up with the case ever since.”
Kathy’s no stranger to challenging conditions and her skills as an emergency services volunteer often come in handy in her day job. She’s part of the Katherine Remote Servicing Team for the Department of Human Services in the Northern Territory. She travels around the region ensuring people in remote areas can access government support.
“I think a number of skills I’ve developed through volunteering help with my job. This year I completed a 2 day SES 4WD course, which was great fun but it also comes in handy when we’re visiting remote areas,” Kathy said.
“I have Advanced First Aid training and I’ve also had the opportunity to develop good leadership skills over my last 15 years of volunteering,”
For Kathy, putting her hand up to help is not just about what she is able to give, but what she has learned from her years of volunteering.
“I joined Emergency Services as a volunteer in 1998 to give back to the community. I have been fortunate to have good mentors and leaders, and a workplace that supports me to do this,” Kathy said.
“I plan to continue volunteering and helping people in their time of need for as long as I’m able to.”