Our volunteer heroes keeping the community from going under Come hell and high water
There’s no natural disaster our Australian colleagues will not brave to protect their local communities, as they have repeatedly proven in recent years.
In March 2022, the Clarence Valley in New South Wales (NSW) – still reeling from the 2020 bushfire crisis – experienced the worst flooding in generations. Thousands of acres disappeared underwater. Many people from the Serco-operated Clarence Correctional Centre (CLA) were affected, as well as the wider community.
Serco colleagues from the local community – volunteers for the State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service (RFS) – provided invaluable support to flood victims, bolstering widespread rescue and recovery efforts.
Joe Lee grew up in the area and works as a Trade Instructor at CLA. With experience of dangerous waters from his naval career, as soon as he realised the extent of the emergency, he jumped in his boat to go to the rescue of friends and family.
“We’re no strangers to flooding,” says Joe, “but this came on fast. Places went under that never have before.”
For four days straight, Joe travelled the area, delivering essentials and helping people move their possessions out of the water. The RFS then called on him to support with clearing mud and debris for another eight days. “It was a crazy couple of weeks,” says Joe, who shared his home with a displaced colleague.
“People came in from miles away to lend a hand. Serco was amazing: donating essentials, offering accommodation to those with nowhere to go, and giving us volunteers the freedom to take action. My manager said, ‘Just go do what you need to do; come back when you can,’ and my colleagues stepped up to cover for me – everybody played a part.”
Thank you to all our colleagues who selflessly gave up their time and skills to keep our community safe and strong and bring relief to those in need.
Adriana Mugica is a Deputy General Manager at CLA and has been with the NSW RFS since 2014, receiving a Commissioners Unit Citation for Service and the National Emergency Medal for her efforts in the bushfire crisis.
Adriana migrated to Australia in 1974, when her family left Uruguay seeking a new and better life. She has served in the Australian Defence Force as well as the justice system and as an emergency service volunteer.
“Through my work and volunteering I’m able to give back to this wonderful place I now call home,” Adriana explains. “It’s in my blood.”
Adriana was stranded in Sydney when the floods struck but the CLA management team arranged the transport she needed to get home. “They’re very good to us and so supportive of what we do. Serco has such a strong local connection – there was never any question about putting the community first.”
For Adriana, the impact on local lives was hard to bear: “They were broken, scared and upset – especially the elderly. Some lost everything. We all worked really hard to help them, and I gave out a lot of hugs.”
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