Victoria State Emergency Service

civil defence logoThe origins of Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) can be traced back to 1950 when it was the Victoria Civil Defence Organisation made up of volunteers that could be activated in the event of war.

During the 1960s a need was identified to manage peacetime disasters and the organisation's focus transitioned to what it is today. In 1975 the Victoria Civil Defence Organisation was renamed to Victoria State Emergency Service.

On 1 November 2005, VICSES was re-established as an independent Statutory Authority, which means it is governed by a Board and is accountable to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services.

VICSES Bellarine Unit

1977 The first meeting of VICSES Bellarine Unit was held on 24 May 1977 at the Clifton Springs Community Centre. In its first year the unit had 21 registered members and used the Ocean Grove Sewerage Authority house for the storage of its equipment.

OG Site

1978 The Shire of Bellarine (now the City Of Greater Geelong) provided the use of a converted house at the corner of Grubb Road and Shell Road in Ocean Grove for the use of its local headquarters.

1980 The Unit received its first vehicle – a Holden panel van with rescue trailer funded jointly by the council and local community groups. The vehicle remained a part of the shire’s fleet but was based at the unit’s local headquarters.

1981 The region was hit by two electrical storm cells in January with Leopold the worst effected location on the peninsula on both occasions. Rooves were blown off buildings at Leopold Primary School and Leopold Football and Cricket Club, and eight sheds from a poultry farm in Moolap were flattened resulting in the escape of 5000 chickens.

1983 11983 VICSES Bellarine Unit played an active role during the Ash Wednesday bushfires, where 13 members worked late into the night assisting in the evacuations of residents of Jan Juc. In the aftermath of the fires the unit was allocated the task of doing a survey and check of damaged houses in Fairhaven and Moggs Creek, as well as setting up a relief centre in Airey's Inlet.

1985 The 'Jaws of Life' were acquired after a donation from the Geelong Rotary Club.

1986 In one of the more unusual call outs, VICSES Bellarine Unit supplied and filled 120 sandbags to blanket a bomb found at the Queenscliff historic railway yard. The bomb was safely detonated by the army.

1988 The Unit assisted with the recovery of a pilot from a light aircraft that crashed on take-off at the North Connewarre airfield.

1989Q 11989 A Christmas day wind storm hits the Geelong region with Clifton Springs one of the worst affected areas. 40 VICSES volunteers from seven units, including Bellarine, worked through the night to tarp damaged rooves and to clean up the damage.

1993 The Unit assisted with the covering of a roof at Alcoa in Point Henry. 650 square metres were covered using 33 members from three units.

1994 11994 The combined VICSES LHQ & Ambulance Victoria facility was built on Grubb Road in Drysdale and was opened on 4 November by the Honourable Marie Tehan, Minister for Health.

1995 On 7 November the Barwon River reached a peak in its third-worst flood in recorded history. VICSES Bellarine Unit stayed operational for over a week as members and civilians battled to secure the levee bank at Barwon Heads.

1998 Unit members used a harness and rope system to rescue an elderly woman in St Leonards who had slipped 5m down a cliff after she had lost her balance trying to retrieve pamphlets that had blown away from her letterbox.

2001 The Bellarine peninsula was saturated with over 150mm of rain over three days in April resulting in the Unit attending to 65 jobs, the vast majority for flooding or water encroaching on houses.

2005 A slow moving low pressure system in early February created a record breaking cold snap with heavy winds and widespread rainfall totals of around 140mm. 84 jobs were attended to over two days for fallen trees and damaged rooves, and one person was rescued when their car was swept sideways in flood waters on Portarlington-Queenscliff Road.

Shed 20072007 In November a new shed for vehicles and the storage of equipment was officially opened by the Member for Bellarine, Lisa Neville.

2010 The Unit received the new state of the art Hino truck as its new primary response vehicle.

2011 On 26 November a low pressure system centred over Corio Bay dumped 100mm of rain over parts of the peninsula. The unit received 38 requests for assistance mostly for flash flooding.

2012 In July a search was conducted over five days for a diver reported missing off the coast of Point Lonsdale. 20 members of VICSES Bellarine Unit were assisted by members from seven other units.

2014 Members were kept on their toes in Sepetmber responding to five road rescue incidents in under a week.

2016 The Unit's facilities were upgraded again, this time adding a new training room and shed with four vehicle bays, storage areas, and workshop.

2017 The peninsula was struck by three flash flooding events within five weeks resulting in a total of 309 requests for assistance. A storm cell struck Drysdale & Clifton Springs on 21st March, a slow moving cold front hit Ocean Grove on 9th April, and Ocean Grove bore the brunt of thunderstorms on 24th April. CFA crews and ten other VICSES units assisted over the three events.

2021 Very strong south-westerly winds hit on the morning of 29th of October with many trees uprooted and buildings damaged.  It was the biggest single event for the Unit with 240 jobs being recorded, with Point Lonsdale being the most effected town.  Geelong and Torquay Units assisted in the days that followed to work through the outstanding jobs.

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