By Luke Voogt
Wendy and Ian Rabone have spent five of 41 years of marriage donning orange overalls for Bellarine SES, after their Ocean Grove sea change.
“It’s our 41st wedding anniversary today,” Wendy told the Independent on Tuesday.
“When we came down here in 2014 we wanted to get involved in community.
“We didn’t know anyone so we thought it would be a good way to meet like-minded people. We’ve found that most of the people have joined for the same reason.”
Both grew up Hamilton and holidayed in Ocean Grove as kids.
After moving to and from Melbourne during their careers, they came down to the coast for retirement.
“We’d had enough of the city,” Ian said.
“It had become even more of a rat race than it had before.”
The couple, now grandparents and both 63-years-old, volunteer in their local unit.
“We’ve got the time and we’re fit and healthy,” Ian said.
The couple often go to callouts together, putting their different skills to use.
“It’s good being able to come back from a job and talk things through,” Wendy said.
“We had our own business for many years so we worked together and it’s no issue.”
“That’s because I’m so easy to get on with,” Ian added, laughing.
Ian specialises in road crash rescue, chainsaw and working at heights, while Wendy is the unit’s duty officer once a week and runs fundraising collections.
As well as giving back to their community, they take on an interesting variety of calls for help in the SES, according to Wendy.
“I think that’s the best part, you don’t have to do the same job over and over,” she said.
But with COVID-19 restrictions, SES members have adapted the way they approach training and callouts, using conference calls and other online learning tools.
Members are also taking turns in having an SES vehicle at their homes, so they can attend callouts immediately before deciding if they need extra support.
“That way we can decide how many people we need so we only engage the right amount of people to do a job,” Ian said.
“We’re trying to expose people less to jobs. There’s also a lot more sanitisation with everything that goes on.”
But SES members are continuing to “work in the background” and fundraise for their organisation, Ian explained.
“You wouldn’t know at 2am I got up to go to a roof job recently,” he said.
“People probably don’t realise 20 or so of us were doing a dozen jobs [during recent storms].”
As part of National Volunteer Week, the SES is encouraging Victorians to don orange next Wednesday to thank volunteers.
Victorian SES volunteers responded to almost 35,000 requests for assistance during 2019/20.
To get involved in Wear Orange Wednesday visit www.ses.vic.gov.au.