Nichole Richardson of Parkes said it’s the community that keeps her going in her role as NSW State Emergency Service (SES) Lachlan Region Controller.
And it’s passion and dedication like this, as well as exemplary service, that has landed her name in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, receiving an Emergency Services Medal (ESM).
“It’s very humbling,” Nichole said.
“On the Monday (June 12) I had that many phone calls, the Commissioner called me, Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant called me and I received a letter from the Premier.
“It was very surreal.”
Nichole is a third generation SES volunteer and joined the SES Botany Unit in November 1988.
“My mother and grandmother were SES volunteers, which is a little unusual for that length of time,” she said.
“My mother is still a volunteer, and a lot of my family are still involved, my sister is a volunteer and so is her husband.”
She transferred to the Waverley-Woollahra Unit in 1994 where she served in a number of roles including Local Controller, until her appointment as the SES LachIan Deputy Region Controller in July 2007.
The new role brought her to Parkes – almost 10 years to the month – on what Nichole described as a very cold morning.
“I came to this region to learn more about floods, I have a lot of storm experience,” she said.
Nichole was praised for her exemplary service as Deputy Region Controller for Lachlan between July 2007 and early 2015, when she was appointed Region Controller.
The now 45-year-old looks after six local government areas – Parkes, Forbes, Cowra, Weddin, Lachlan Shire and Bland Shire – that contain 11 volunteer units and 150 volunteers.
Nichole has been involved in the response of some major natural disasters over the last 29 years, including the 1997 Thredbo Landslide, the 1999 Sydney hail storm and the 2012 and 2016 Forbes floods.
Her incident management skills were highlighted in last year’s major flood event, which impacted the majority of the river systems in Western NSW.
During this period there were significant storm and rain events throughout NSW, resulting in most rivers, creeks, dams and lakes across the Lachlan Region being filled to capacity.
With the water catchments at capacity, a further series of significant rainfall events from June to the end of September meant the Lachlan Region was impacted by major flooding.
Nichole demonstrated exemplary service in leading the response to the flooding.
Her capacity to work collaboratively with both local and state government officials, community leaders, and volunteers were key in the successful response to the event.
“It was the largest flood event for the region since the 90s,” Nichole said.
“It was complex, it was long but there was incredible community spirit.
“We also had the challenge of the bi-election and local government elections, but we had a lot of support from the community.”
Nichole said this event and the 1999 hail storm have been among her biggest challenges in her career.
In 1999 Nichole led her Waverley-Woollahra Unit with distinction, providing invaluable support to the community in her own local government area, as well as lending support to surrounding communities.
As the then Local Controller she managed the coordination of the many hundreds of SES volunteers, and she worked with other agencies and local government bodies to effectively ensure the needs of the Waverley-Woollahra community were met.
Among her highlights was the SES’s involvement in the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, where she was involved in the Olympic Volunteer in Policing Program with the SES Command Team.
The SES worked with police, helping them with security, crowd management and road events.
“That was an incredible experience,” she said.
“You have incredible opportunities [with the SES], both as a volunteer and staff.
“I get a significant amount of experience I wouldn’t have received elsewhere.
“You get out of it what you give...the sense of community is the driver of what you do, it keeps you going.
“And we have amazing volunteers we get to work with.
“It’s different everyday, [I enjoy] the unknown and the people that you meet.”
Nichole will travel to Government House in Sydney in September to accept her medal.
Nichole lives in Parkes with her husband Darren and six-year-old son Alexander.