By leave: I keep my hair orange for Wear Orange Wednesday, or WOW Day—although I normally do not refer to my hair as being orange. I commend the member for Upper Hunter for bringing forward this matter of public importance. Maitland is the home of the State Emergency Service [SES]. In 1955, following widespread storms and flooding across New South Wales— including the dreadful floods in Maitland—the SES was born. We now have 40,000 SES volunteers across Australia, with 9,000 in New South Wales. In my electorate of Maitland those people provide a contemporary service.

In April 2015, a few days after my election to this place, the Hunter region experienced an east coast low, which left a path of devastation that affected many people. Many people were left homeless and up to 2,000 were stranded at Gillieston Heights for about eight days. Throughout that time the SES provided assistance to everyone by ensuring they were fed, and received medical care and all the other services required. Unfortunately, Maitland has suffered a few such events recently, although perhaps not as severe as those storms. In November there were hailstorms and on 6 January 2016 some Camden Heights residents were isolated. I pay special tribute to Ian Robinson and his crew, who helped about 20 people who had been cut off to get out for supplies.

SES services are not confined to helping during times of floods and storms but extend to assisting in clearing up after road accidents, vertical rescues, and bush search and rescue. Most importantly, volunteers are on call 24/7, 365 days a year. It is important to recognise the value of their contribution to our community. As shadow Minister for Small Business, I also pay tribute to those businesses that grant leave to employees who are SES volunteers, even though this is sometimes difficult to arrange. I would like to give the Maitland SES open day this Saturday a little plug. The open day will show the community all the things people can do as volunteers— not just brave acts such as scaling cliffs and climbing onto roofs, but things like making sandwiches, staffing barbecues and helping with administrative work. There are many opportunities for these fantastic volunteers to make a difference. The open day will be a great opportunity to celebrate the volunteers and to consider how individuals can contribute to this great cause.

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