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Friday, April 23, 2021

SES stalwart wins Volunteer of the Year

While the rain continued across the Hunter last week, Lake Macquarie SES volunteers, under the command of Christine Speer, worked day and night answering calls for assistance.

The team of 70 attended 600 jobs in seven days.

And, they believe that feat was only achievable thanks to competent leadership.

Speaking in the aftermath of what the Bureau Of Meteorology called a “volatile weather pattern”, SES Lake Macquarie volunteer John Thirkell said Mrs Speer’s actions during emergency situations deserve the recent accolade she received.

On 13 March, she was awarded the Lake Mac Volunteer of the Year award for her unwavering commitment to her community.

Having dedicated almost four decades to the local community through her SES service, she has worked her way up through the ranks to Unit Commander.

“She is a leader in every sense of the word,” Mr Thirkell told the Newcastle Weekly.

“She makes sure all of her team members are trained up, fully resourced and happy.

“She prioritises job satisfaction and she leads by example.

“She is an amazing woman.”

Mr Thirkell says despite not wanting to draw attention to herself, Mrs Speer deserved special recognition.

“Especially after what she’s been through this past week,” he said.

“She’s barely had time to sleep. 

“She’d work a full day, take the phone home with her and take calls 24-7 and still show up the next day with a smile on her face, ready to guide the team.”

Mrs Speer faced her own personal challenges too, losing husband Ken, whom she’d joined the SES with, and raising a family, all while being on-call during emergency situations.

After she joined the NSW State Emergency Service in 1981 she worked within the catering and radio operations team.

She went on to assist with the major bushfires that hit the Lake Macquarie area in 1994, and again in 2002, earning a LMCC award for her efforts.

In 2006 Mrs Speer took on the role of operations officer, honing her skills during the 2007 East Coast Low storm event the following year.

In 2013 she was promoted to deputy unit commander of Lake Macquarie City.

She received a unit citation from the NSW SES for her efforts in recovery following the April 2015 storm event.

By 2016 she was promoted to Unit Commander of Lake Macquarie City.

And, her achievements continued to accumulate.

She battled through fires, floods, storms, rescues and ex-tropical cyclones.

When COVID-19 threatened volunteer numbers Mrs Speer focused her attention on recruitment and retention, resulting in the unit being able to reach its largest numbers ever recorded.

She has been active in the promotion of community awareness of storm and flooding, and excelled in her efforts in recruitment, training and ongoing support of her team and her community.

“She is an amazing woman and we’re very lucky to have her,” Mr Thirkell said.

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