Kilmore SES members, from left, Scott Calderwood, Simon Halman, unit controller John Koutras, Cheryl Abela and Kyle Cullis.

By Colin MacGillivray

Kilmore’s State Emergency Service, SES, unit will watch the outcome of this weekend’s state election with interest after separate funding pledges from the Liberal-Nationals Coalition and Labor in recent weeks.

The Coalition promised $1.4 million to improve the unit’s outdated and dilapidated headquarters, while Labor pledged $6 million – which would allow for a full rebuild at the site.

While unit controller John Koutras was pleased both parties had recognised the need for investment at the facility, he admitted he was dreaming of the possibilities $6 million could bring.

“We need to be able to plan for the next 30-plus years, so it’s great that both the Liberal-Nationals and the Labor Party have committed money to rebuild the unit,” he said.

“We’re super excited to hear that the Labor government has committed $6 million, which will get us a state-of-the-art facility that will allow us to grow to keep up with community needs.”

With an explosion in membership at the unit – which has grown from 12 members to 44 in little more than two years – Mr Koutras said he no longer had space to train his volunteers.

He said female-friendly changerooms, more accessible toilets and improved vehicle access were necessities.

“What we have in Kilmore is basically a collection of old sheds that have been built one next to the other, and we’ve outgrown them,” he said.

“We’ve got a very small training and meeting room upstairs, and it just doesn’t suit our purposes. I can’t get the number of members we have now all in there at once for training, so I need facilities on ground for us to continue to grow and train the members the way they should be.

“Basically, we need facilities that are worthy of 2022, not 1982.”

Member for Northern Victoria and Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes said she was pleased to make the $6 million commitment after working closely with the unit.

“The hardworking SES members in Kilmore keep our community safe and a re-elected Andrews Labor government will make sure they have the facilities and equipment they need to keep protecting our community in storms and natural disasters,” she said.

Labor candidate for Euroa Angela Tough said recent flooding across the region made the need for a well-resourced SES clear.

“Jaclyn is a Broadford local and I know staff in her office were calling the SES during the floods [last month], so there was a lot of pleasure in being able to secure that funding,” she said.

“John is a passionate leader and he’s done some great adjustments and adaptations to make the most of the space they’ve got there, but it wasn’t fit for purpose.

“This $6 million will upgrade the whole site, which will be fantastic for them. They’ll be able to keep all their trucks there, they’ll be able to make sandbags there, they’ll be able to have a female change area, a proper meeting space and lot of other stuff.”

Ms Tough praised Mr Koutras and the Kilmore SES unit leadership for their advocacy to secure the funding.

“Candidates who are on the ground for a couple of months don’t do all the work on something like this. I could swan in and pretend I was the one who has done all the work, but it’s just not true,” she said.

“It’s people like John who have a plan in their head for five or 10 years, gather their team and have great advocacy, work with their department and work with a local member to make it a priority.

“When the government is dealing out the money, they ask ‘who is going to get this done and who do we trust to do a good job?’ Kilmore SES is right there at the top of the list because they’ve done such great advocacy.”