NSW State Emergency Service (NSW SES) volunteers from Forster to Nambucca were awarded for their ongoing service to the community over the weekend.

Forty-nine recipients, with more than a thousand years of combined service, received awards at ceremonies in Taree, Kew and Gladstone, recognising their commitment to their communities over many decades.

NSW SES Deputy Commissioner Damien Johnston, who presented the awards at each ceremony, said the recipients represent the very best of the NSW SES.

“This weekend we recognised volunteers who served with distinction for decade after decade. Their extraordinary commitment embodies the highest values of the NSW State Emergency Service,” Deputy Commissioner Johnston said.

“Over the course of two days I was honoured to meet these members and hear stories about their time with the NSW SES. Volunteers are the fabric of our organisation and we truly appreciate the time they sacrifice to serve their community.”

In Taree on Saturday 10 February, Graeme and Wendy Ruff from the NSW SES Wingham Unit were awarded the 45-year Long Service Award.

Graeme joined the NSW SES in 1977. There, he met his wife future wife Wendy, a fellow SES volunteer, and the two were married in 1980.

Their son Matthew is also an SES volunteer at the Wingham Unit, and received his 20-year Long Service Award at the same award ceremony.

Gary Greene, also from the Wingham Unit, has seen a lot in his 40 years of service, including the 2018 Bobin flood rescue of a 67-year-old woman and her 87-year-old mother.

Gary Greene received his 40-year Long Service Award on Saturday.

A total of 19 NSW SES volunteers received awards at the Taree ceremony.

In Kew, 16 recipients were presented with 21 awards.

Among them was Garry Whitaker from the NSW SES Camden Haven Unit, who received his 50-year service award. Garry Whitaker deployed to Canada last year, to fight the worst fires in that nation’s history.

Mr Whitaker, who joined the SES in 1972, responded to the Newcastle earthquake in 1989, the Cowan rail accident in 1990, and also responded to the 2015 east coast low.

In Gladstone on Sunday, 14 recipients were presented with 9 awards.

Among them were several senior members who responded to the Kempsey bus crash in 1989.

The crash killed 35 people and injured 41 on the Pacific Highway near Kempsey. It remains the worst road crash in Australian history.

Donny Moy, who received his 40-year Long Service Award, was a rescue operator deeply involved in the rescue that day.

Barry Heien, Greg Gill and Ray Walkden were also there that day, serving their community.

More than thirty years later, they all still serve the NSW State Emergency Service.

“Our award recipients have given their lives to serve their communities, year in, year out. This weekend, we commend them for their service,” Deputy Commissioner Johnston said.

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