High-school students from the South Coast descended on Narooma last week for a leadership/careers day with local emergency services.
Students from Batemans Bay High School, Eden Marine High School, Moruya High School, Narooma High School, St. Peter’s Anglican College, Lumen Christi Catholic College, Bega High School, and Sapphire Coast Anglican College attended the event at the Narooma Golf Club.
Representatives from Fire and Rescue, Rural Fire Service, State Emergency Service, Volunteer Rescue Association, NSW Ambulance, NSW Marine Rescue, NSW Police, and National Parks and Wildlife Service talked to the students about how their organisation helped in the local community.
Kevin McNeil, detective chief inspector for the South Coast Police District, said the day was about building relationships with the teenagers.
“We’re showing the kids that these organisations work together to protect the community along the South Coast,” he said. “It's not just about the police or the ambulance or fire brigade, but every organisation that deals with emergency services on the South Coast.
“The relationships are built between the organisations and the youth, and the idea is for these relationships to be strong ones.
“It also shows the kids if you volunteer for some of these organisations, you can obtain things such as a driver's license, a boat-license, or heavy equipment skills that may help you in employment whatever you decide to do.”
Chief inspector McNeil said recent events on the South Coast helped boost interest in the event, including the devastating Tathra bushfires in March.
“We’ve got the local council here today,” he said. “The amount of work the Bega Valley Shire Council did during the bushfires to coordinate the resources, that’s what a lot of people don’t see.
“The different roles people play, whether it be evacuation or education, we all come and work together, and today is an example of that.”
The quality and diversity of the guest speakers broke up the day perfectly for the students. One of the main attractions for the students was former NRL player Rod Silva, who now works as a sergeant for the police force.
“We had one of the first female ambulance officers who helped develop a program to teach kids the dangers surrounding getting your license,” Chief Inspector McNeil said.
“We also had an assistant commissioner of the fire brigade who was orphaned when he was a young bloke, and he was a big part of Australia’s response during the Japanese tsunami.
“These leaders are resilient, they work hard, and they’re passionate about their jobs.”
Although the day was a success, Chief Inspector McNeil admitted the challenges of getting youths seriously interested in emergency work in the modern age. However, the emergency services have plans in place to try and get them involved.
“I know kids these days are going to do different things and travel a lot more nowadays,” he said. “But they can still volunteer for any organisation that takes volunteers, and they’ll be taught the skills required to do the work, and that could help in the future.
“You can look around this room and see there are kids from all walks of life who are engaging with us. I've been to many engagements along the South Coast where the kids are engaging on a daily basis.
“We run other community programs that keep kids engaged with cops, and if these kids have been involved with anything negative we can try and divert them away from that.
“We believe we perform very well with the youth, especially in this community.”
And although the day was designed for the students, Chief Inspector McNeil said the emergency services got just as much of a kick out of it.
“You look at all these people, they just want to tell them what they do,” he said. “They're proud of what they do, and the kids want to hear it. They’re attentive, they're quiet, they're listening to what the people have to say, and they want to know more about it.
“If we get kids thinking about their careers, whether it be the police or anywhere else, we want to say to them, you may be on the Far South Coast, but just have a think about this, you could volunteer with someone, learn some stuff, and that may help form your future.”