This week in My Extraordinary Life we talk with Graeme Warren, an SES volunteer who helped people in the terrible Queensland floods after Cyclone Marcia earlier this year. He says at nearly 71, it can be heartbreaking at times – but he wouldn’t be anywhere else when there’s a crisis.
While most people took shelter in their homes during the heavy rain that pounded the Sunshine Coast following Cyclone Marcia, Graeme was hard at work helping people get out of their homes and assisting the local State Emergency Service (SES) with more than 1,000 calls for help.
“We were helping people get off their properties. People didn’t think it was going to get as deep as it did. We were up at 5.30am lugging hundreds of 20 kilo sandbags around for four days straight. We had to sandbag a lot of shops and low-lying houses,” Graeme says.
“I’m nearly 71 and so at the end of a day like that, you’re pretty tired and soaked to the skin, but you sign up to do it and you’ll do it under any conditions.”
Glad to be able to help
Graeme joined the Maroochydore SES about two years ago, flying through his training and exams with ease: “I was looking for some volunteer work and my friend, Don Patterson, encouraged me. It can be heartbreaking at times but I’m glad to be able to help.”
“We work with the community so much – you get a big sense of satisfaction and there’s always people walking up to you and saying ‘You’re doing a great job.'”
As well as assisting in emergencies, Graeme works with the SES to carry out land searches for missing persons and a lot of traffic control at community events, such as ANZAC Day and Australia Day.
“I’ve been retired for 15 years and the first five were great because my wife, Marie, and I bought a caravan and a four wheel drive and we travelled around Australia, catching up with friends and relatives.
Time for some volunteer work
“But after that, we moved into Twin Waters at Maroochydore and I started to look for some volunteer work,” he adds.
Graeme was born in Lidcombe, Sydney, and lived in the Blue Mountains before he moved to Queensland with his parents and family in 1953. He says: “I’ve been a Queenslander ever since – even though my wife and daughter, Melita, don’t accept that, as they are native Queenslanders. But I do barrack for the Maroons,” he laughs.
When he was younger, Graeme completed a degree in Building Construction at the Queensland University of Technology. He worked in Brisbane initially and then went out on his own, running his own construction company. “Marie worked as the office manager and we ran that for many years. I’ve had enough of a seven-day week from those days,” he adds.
Graeme enjoys his work with the SES and encourages anyone else to go and talk with their local SES if they want to join the ranks.
In Maroochydore, the SES meets every Tuesday night for training and they are always looking for new volunteers and donations. To find out more, phone 5479 5700.
In recognition of Graeme’s and Don’s work with the SES, Living Choice recently donated $1,000 to the Maroochydore SES, to be used for purchasing handling equipment.