FOSTER North beef farmer and agricultural contractor Bernie Cashin has been appointed as the new unit controller at the Foster State Emergency Service (SES).
Bernie has taken over from Foster’s former unit controller Rachael Nicolson who recently accepted a full-time position with the SES as a volunteer support officer.
Bernie has been a volunteer member of the Foster SES for nearly three years after deciding that the type of services the SES offers the community, such as search and rescue, and dealing with storm and flood damage, suited his own particular skill set the best.
“I run my own grazing property and I also work as an outside contractor on other farms, including building fences, doing engineering-type jobs, making hay and silage and spreading fertiliser,” he said.
“I’ve also had a lot of experience in off-road driving around this area and up in the mountains and know the lay of the land and the local and regional roads quite well.
“Some of the people I work for are members of the Fish Creek and District Country Fire Authority (CFA) Fire and Rescue who tell me about some of the call-outs and situations their brigade attends,” Bernie said.
“A relative is a member of the Leongatha SES and it was the stories I’d heard from him about what an SES unit does prompted me to ask myself why wouldn’t I get involved with my local community in this kind of way?
“Fires and car crashes aren’t really my thing but helping to look for someone lost in the bush or clearing fallen trees from roads is, so I chose to join the Foster SES,” he said.
“The idea had been bouncing around in the back of my head for quite some time but my final decision to actually sign up was probably influenced by my neighbour, Rachael; yes, the very same one, the Foster SES unit controller I’ve just replaced!”
Bernie said when Rachael told the Foster SES members that she had been offered a place on the SES’s staff, he thought he would “put my hand up for the unit controller’s job.”
Rachael has already proudly presented the epaulettes that mark an SES unit controller to Bernie, though the dress uniform shirt they are traditionally worn with is yet to arrive from the SES headquarters in Melbourne.
“I know the Foster SES unit is in safe hands with Bernie, and his appointment as controller has got the whole unit’s backing,” she said.
“We certainly all agree he’s pretty good with a chainsaw!”
When asked to describe his leadership style Bernie laughed and said that “even though I’m the face of the Foster SES, I’m also a member of a close-knit team rather than the boss.
“We all work together as a team and we all discuss what we need to do and make decisions as a team,” he said.
“If anything, I’m fairly laid-back but with a strong focus on safety, not only for the unit’s members but also for the broader community.
“The Foster SES unit naturally runs like that and we all take a collaborative approach,” Bernie said.
“The SES has clear procedures on all of the services we provide and every member is encouraged to add to their skills and knowledge base for the benefit of their community.”
Nowadays Rachael is based at Moe and backs up SES units throughout the western half of Gippsland, from Phillip Island to Rosedale, as their volunteer support officer.
“I work with SES units in the municipalities of South Gippsland, Bass Coast, Baw Baw, Latrobe and Wellington, and help them with managing and maintaining assets, and processing equipment requests,” she said.
“I started my SES career as a volunteer member with the Sale unit about five years ago, and when I moved to the Corner Inlet district I transferred to the Foster unit.
“I served as the Foster unit controller for four years, and I’m very happy that Bernie first of all agreed to become a member and now has gone on to become the controller,” Rachael said.
“The Foster SES unit will always have a big place in my heart and I’m glad it’s still part of my watch! and I will still volunteer with the unit”.
The Foster SES unit is currently recruiting new members and initial training courses are running throughout August.
The unit meets every Tuesday evening at the Foster SES building in Pioneer Street, Foster.
For more information about joining the Foster SES Unit and to register an interest visit www.ses.vic.
gov.au/volunteer or look for Foster SES Unit on Facebook or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
For emergency assistance contact the State Emergency Service on 132 500.