When Henk Van Den Ende joined the State Emergency Service in 1976, members spent almost as much time raising money to fund fuel and equipment as they did helping out in emergencies.
The Moreton Bay Region SES local controller retired after a decade in the role last week and said he was heartened by the changes he’s seen in more than 40 years of service.
‘Now we’re more supported by government and council and there are more opportunities for volunteers,” Mr Van Den Ende said.
“We have closer links with other services through QFES (Queensland Fire and Emergency Services) and the hard work of our volunteers is recognised.”
Most gratifying for Mr Van Den Ende has been the opportunity to work alongside the dedicated members of the award-winning Moreton Bay Region SES to oversee its growth.
“Seeing the Moreton Bay unit grow from where it was to where it is now – it’s very highly regarded and that’s due to the work of all our volunteers.”
“I’m happy stepping down knowing the Moreton Bay SES is in a very good place.”
As Moreton Bay’s SES controller Mr Van Den Ende steered the region through dozens of disasters, helped repair hundreds of homes, facilitated thousands of volunteers, and helped people right across South East Queensland.
Mayor Peter Flannery described Mr Van Ende as a modern-day superhero, providing locals with assistance in some of the darkest and most dangerous moments in their lives.
“Henk has answered the distress calls of every flood, storm, drought, search and disaster that’s hit our region in the past decade,” Mayor Flannery said.
“There’s no way we can properly thank or ever repay a man of that calibre for his unwavering service.
“Henk’s service and commitment to our region is so extraordinary that it won’t even end with his retirement - he’s agreed to continue volunteering for the SES and provide mentorship to the next generation of SES officers.
Mr Van Den Ende said he was passionate about mentoring and training and was looking forward to continuing to volunteer when disaster strikes.
“I won’t be climbing on roofs, but I can be out there chopping down a tree,” he said.
“I also just love educating and helping others, sharing skills and knowledge, and acknowledging the volunteers that do a hell of a lot more than what’s expected of them.”