Floods, car crashes and even rescuing cats stuck in trees – Hamilton’s Peter Tew has seen it all in the 45 years he has spent with the State Emergency Service.
On Sunday, he was one of more than a dozen SES personnel who received medals or certificates for their service to the organisation.
Mr Tew became a member of the Civil Defence Rescue Squad in the late 1960s before the SES was formed in the mid-1970s.
“It’s been an interesting experience over that time. I wouldn’t change it,” he said. “You name it I’ve done the whole lot. Floods, cats stuck up trees, get the possum out of there.”
Mr Tew said there were a number of incidents that have stuck in his mind. “The ones that affect you the most are the ones that involve children. They’re the hardest ones,” he said.
Mr Tew said that in the early days he would be called to many fatal car crashes – too many to count. “I stopped counting at 50,” he said. “One of the spin-offs from that is you start suffering post traumatic stress, and that’s when I backed off and said I’ve been doing this for too long.
“Cars now days are expendable. In the old days, they were indestructible and that’s why you had death rates then which were a thousand-odd per year. Now we’re down to 200 or so.”
Mr Tew recalled being called to three car accidents in one day – two of them fatalities. He said another time he attended a crash where five people were killed, but in those days the accidents didn’t even make the newspapers. “Publicity has changed. Cars have changed,” he said.
Mr Tew was in his late 20s when he joined Hamilton’s rescue service, which started as an auxiliary to the ambulance service. “I don’t know how many trips I drove ambulances for, but in those days you had one ambulance and one person with four patients.”
Camperdown’s Garry Brian and Portland’s Richard Warriner received National Medals for at least 15 years of service to the SES. For every 10 years of service after that, a clasp is added to the medal. Camperdown’s Philip Robertson and Andrew Riordon, and Cobden’s Graham Ralph were awarded clasps for at least 35 years of service.