HomeArticlesLifestyleGold Coast volunteers head south of the border for disaster relief
Conducting evacuation in Ulmarra Region, NSW

(photo credit: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services)

Gold Coast volunteers head south of the border for disaster relief

Natalie O’Driscoll | April 2021

Gold Coast SES volunteers were given the chance to be neighbourly during the recent flooding events, working tirelessly to help out all over regional New South Wales.

There’s nothing like a crisis to bring people together. The recent flooding across Queensland and New South Wales brought out the best in some of Gold Coast’s citizens, with ten of Queensland SES volunteers from the Gold Coast heading south to supplement the New South Wales SES teams in their rescue and recovery efforts.

Oscar Rodas, a volunteer with the Carrara SES unit, was one of many Gold Coasters who found himself based in the command centre at Coffs Harbour, where his team was sent throughout the region to help wherever the need was the greatest.

“My team was working on heights, and anything with regard to storm damage, winds, and trees falling down,” Oscar explains.

“My other mates were on the boat, and we kept hearing these stories of them jumping into the water to rescue animals.”

Of course it wasn’t just animals in need of rescue, with people all over the state in need of evacuation to temporary shelters. Oscar recalls there being an understandably high level of anxiety among residents and evacuees, although he said the community spirit really came to the fore.

“The people really appreciated someone taking the time to go over and provide assistance on any level,” he remembers.

“The whole experience, to us, was very rewarding in itself. We were there to provide the community with comfort, safety, and assistance, and you could really feel the air of appreciation around you.

“Everywhere you were, people were saying ‘would you like a coffee’ or something simple just to say thank you, so you feel pretty honoured, especially when you think about what they’ve been through. I was so grateful we were able to help.”

After a long career in hotel management took him all over the world, Ecuador-born Oscar settled in the Gold Coast decades ago, making a forever home for himself in Mermaid Waters. Upon retirement, he became consumed with the idea of giving back to the community.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” he states. “I’ve always felt like I’ve been gifted with good health and I wanted to be able to utilise my time in a positive and productive way and do something for people in need. This country has been good to me and I wanted to do something in return. It was always in the back of my mind.”

Oscar knew he had found his people when he visited the SES unit at Carrara.

“We are very happy, committed, passionate team,” he says.

“We’re from all walks of life, but we’re all equal. If there’s a job to be done, we just get on and do it.”

Even if that means border-hopping.

“You’ve got to be prepared to sleep in a bed or on the floor, whatever is there, or drive long distances at short notice,” explains Oscar.

“But we were all able to communicate with no doubt and no hesitation with the teams down there. Having one common purpose, the same training and being members of the same organisation made that a lot easier.

“I’m very proud that Queensland went down to help New South Wales, and I know the team feels the same way. If anything, it’s made us even more committed to persevering with our work.”

Quickfacts

  • Ten Queensland SES volunteers from the Gold Coast travelled to NSW during the March flooding
  • The team was made up of eight men and two women ranging in age from their twenties to their seventies
  • Most of the team spent five days in the region, from 21 to 25 March.
  • The taskforce was deployed to Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey and Nambucca Heads.

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