Gerry Greenwood has lived in Werribee since 1971. Along with his late wife, Betty, he was a founding member of the Werribee SES Unit (now known as the Wyndham SES Unit). He is a member of Wyndham council’s Community Resilience Working Group and served on the Weerama Festival committee for 26 years. He chats with Alesha Capone.
How did the SES get started in Werribee?
The Vic State Emergency Service was only seven years old when the Werribee SES started in 1982. After the Second World War and the Cold War, councils were encouraged to raise a civil defence unit in each municipality. In 1974, Hal Waters was appointed controller of the Werribee civil defence. He operated with no funding, no equipment, except for a black filing cabinet and a 6×4 trailer. In 1975, the Civil Defence Organisation changed its name to the State Emergency Service.
How did you become involved with the SES?
In 1980, Hal Waters resigned, so the late John Nicol – the then-shire engineer – was appointed controller of the Werribee SES. I was approached and asked if I would like to take over the role of deputy controller. I was a senior engineering officer with the Werribee council at that time. After a severe gas leak at a petro-chemical works, just across the border at Kororoit Creek Road, we reported to council that we should get an SES unit up and running ASAP. Council were agreeable to this, so I put an ad in the local paper – the Banner – saying that a public meeting would be held at the civic centre on the 27 May, 1982, to form a Vic State Emergency Service Werribee Unit.
What roles have you held in the SES?
I was a controller from 1982 to 1992 – nearly 10 years. It was terrific. Now I’m a trainer.
What are some of the most memorable events you attended with the SES?
We were at the Ash Wednesday fires for about a week and the 1983 floods at Werribee. That was pretty devastating. That was the worst one in living memory – 78,000 megalitres of water a day came rushing down the river into Werribee. One house had to be demolished, it was that badly damaged.
You’ve also been selected to carry the Queen’s Baton when the Commonwealth Games come to Australia next month.
Yes, my daughter nominated me, which was terrific. I was pretty humbled actually – I wasn’t expecting to be chosen. It will be held on the 13th of February in Werribee, starting from number 2 Synnot Street and finishing at number 2 Watton Street. For whoever wants to see me, it’s at 9.57am. Actually – people have got to get there 15 minutes earlier, just in case it’s earlier.