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State Emergency Service (SES): Volunteer views on expectations, experiences, and motivations

By Hawa Muhammad Farid

In 2018, researchers from Curtin University and the University of Western Australia (UWA) collaborated with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) to investigate ways of improving retention rates of their emergency services volunteers.

The State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers are a vital community within Western Australia and are highly regarded for their profound contribution towards the safety of the community in times of natural disaster and other emergencies. To obtain information on the volunteering experience of SES volunteers, a Cultural Assessment Tool (CAT) was developed in the form of a survey. This survey was then administered across both metropolitan and regional Western Australia to obtain the volunteers' perspectives on how to improve volunteer recruitment, retention, wellbeing, and diversity within the SES volunteering journey overall.

Volunteers were asked to share their experiences on seven key topics:

  • What their expectations were when they first joined and whether or not they were met.

  • Their reasons to join and stay within the SES.

  • Whether or not their volunteering needs (i.e., autonomy, competence, and relatedness) were satisfied.

  • Whether or not they identified with their role.

  • How satisfied they were with their role overall.

  • What their SES unit environment is like (e.g., leadership behaviours, culture of inclusivity, team support).

  • Whether or not they intend to remain with their unit and with the SES long-term.

Based on the data analysis, the key strengths and key areas of improvement were identified and discussed in detail in a written report. The key implications of this survey will help to inform future improvements and interventions that will benefit not only the volunteers themselves, but also the community through the improvement of the quality of the support and help that these volunteers provide to society overall.

"The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has already used the initial findings from the Bushfire Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre research to help us build resources and campaigns to support recruitment and retention efforts for the WA Volunteer Emergency Services. In particular, research has guided development of the soon to be released “Get Behind the Front Line” recruitment campaign and its associated collateral. It has also formed the basis for the design of the Volunteer Recruitment Roadmap and its associated resources. Volunteers and staff have been both positive and enthusiastic about these resources which have provided a new sense of direction for building volunteer sustainability in WA."

- Jennifer Pidgeon

Manager, Strategic Volunteer and Youths Program

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services

The 1-page infographic below summarises the key findings and implications. Full report can be found here.


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