More than 100 Western Australian businesses have been recognised in the 2018 Volunteer Employer Recognition Awards (VERA), honouring the steadfast support they provide to their employees who volunteer their time in the emergency services.
More than 27,000 emergency services volunteers support communities across the State and many juggle their volunteering commitments with their employment.
The VERA program continues to grow as more volunteers seek recognition for their employers who support them in providing valuable emergency services for the people of WA.
For the first time, two ceremonies were held to recognise recipients with the first taking place in Perth on Friday 2 November and the second held in Busselton on Friday 9 November.
Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm AFSM attended both ceremonies and applauded the businesses for their commitment to their staff and ultimately the community.
“WA businesses that employ volunteers provide opportunities for them to undertake training, promote community preparedness and attend emergencies,” Commissioner Klemm said.
“We’re very fortunate to have - and be able to acknowledge - a record 76 employers and 26 self-employed volunteers from across WA, whose efforts go ‘above and beyond’ expectations in this regard.”
Landscaper Andrew Alston owns the Jardinier Garden Centre in Carnarvon and has been a volunteer with the Carnarvon and Bridgetown Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services (VFRS) for over a decade.
Andrew is one of 26 self-employed volunteers honoured this year and said he was humbled by the recognition in the highest category.
“To be recognised in the gold category was not expected and I feel proud that my contribution has also been recognised outside the communities that I have assisted,” Andrew said.
This year there was an increase in the number of self-employed volunteers awarded for their commitment to their duties, which often impacts their businesses with protracted incidents requiring them to shut down.
Andrew’s commitment has required him to take many hours away from his business over the years for training and to attend incidents including large scale bushfires in the Gascoyne region, Harvey and Yarloop and Yalbalgo, multiple road crash rescues, structure fires and the response to Tropical Cyclone Olwyn.
“The recovery effort for Cyclone Olwyn ran for a week which meant I had to close the business for that entire time,” he said.
“For smaller jobs the impact isn’t as significant and the clients are sympathetic but for longer jobs the impact is far greater as I have to work weekends to catch up which means more time away from my family.”
The full list of VERA recipients can be found on the Awards page on the DFES website.