Meet the emergency volunteer helping to keep Canberra safe

Jamie Johnston at ESA headquarters. Jamie Johnston is an SES Volunteer helping to keep the Canberra community safe.

Meet Jamie Johnston, she's an ACT State Emergency Service (SES) volunteer.

Jamie has been volunteering for more than 6 months and believes it is a big part of building a community. She says that it doesn't matter what your interests are or what skills you may posses because there are various volunteer positions available that offer something for everyone. All you have to do is take the first step.

In the interview below, Jamie shares her inspiration for volunteering, what her role entails, and advice for those thinking about volunteering this year.

Why did you decide to volunteer?

I come from a family of volunteers and people who are very community focused so it is something that I always wanted to do when I moved to Canberra (from Sydney). It’s a great way to demonstrate community service to my kids.

What are some of the roles you undertake in your volunteer position?

Mostly going out in the trucks with the teams and doing things like helping to clear trees, getting up on roofs and doing roof repairs and ground repairs. It really changes every time you go out. The weather can do all sorts of weird and wonderful things so you're always surprised as to what you'll do every time you turn up (for a job).

What would you say are some of the challenges you have faced?

You have to draw on a lot of skills and really trust things that you’ve learnt in your normal everyday life to help you on any job. It’s really unpredictable what you might show up to so you have to work as a team to make sure you get everything done.

What are some of the best or most rewarding things about volunteering?

Seeing something that made a really big impact on a family and being able to lessen that impact so that people can continue with their life. It’s also nice to interact with the community, to have a chat and hear where people come from. My most memorable experience was when I was in a truck going out onto a job and the whole crew was having a chat and there was people from all walks of life in the truck. 

Why do you think people should volunteer?

When you live in a community (like Canberra) it’s good to contribute to it because that’s the only way you can really sustain and build that community. If you are in a position where you can help out in some way then do it.  

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?

Just take that first step and ask questions about how you can be involved. Initially there is a bit of an assumption that it has to be physical. But the best thing about volunteering with any of the services is that there really is a place for everybody and every skill type. If you go in with that approach knowing that whatever your interests or skills or capabilities are, there is training available. Everybody has the opportunity to contribute somehow or in some way. 

Volunteering in 2019

Anyone interested in volunteering can find out more on the ESA website. Each emergency service has a different recruitment process. Those interested are urged to contact the service where they want to volunteer and enquire directly.