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FEATURE ARTICLE: Fun Event Brings Emergency Services Together in Far Eastern Victoria

Community spirit was abundant at the inaugural Cann to Coota Emergency Services Cup, held on Sunday 16th October in Mallacoota and hosted by Reclink Australia.

Emergency services personnel and volunteers donned their uniforms for a day of fun challenges that were designed to showcase skills from each agency, with teams representing CFA, SES, Parks and Fisheries, Coast Guard, Ambulance Victoria and Surf Life Saving.

Lively spectators, including a drumming cheer squad, enjoyed watching the six teams battle it out for the Cup through a series of entertaining tasks, which included a line-search, a first aid scenario, a rescue tube relay race, flora and fauna identification, trivia and knot tying.

The Mallacoota Coast Guard won the inaugural trophy, with the origami boat challenge enabling them to pip the SES at the post to win the glory.

Reclink Sport & Recreation Operations Manager Victoria, NSW, QLD and ACT – Jason Carter – says the event not only celebrated emergency services personnel but also focused on community participation, inclusion and connection.

“Reclink has been supporting the far east Gippsland community’s bushfire recovery journey over the last 22 months and we are committed to ensuring that through our local staff, we can continue to promote social connection and inclusion to encourage better mental health and wellbeing outcomes in remote communities.”

SES volunteer Jenny Lloyd joined the local Mallacoota unit during the bushfires, and she says the day was a wonderful way to celebrate all the volunteers in the Mallacoota to Cann Valley region.

“Usually when emergency services get together it’s either for training or an emergency, so we all enjoyed getting together for some light-hearted fun, alongside all the other volunteers who make our communities special,” she said.

The Black Summer Bushfires, COVID-19 and other events over the past three years highlighted the significance of and reliance on emergency services.

Reclink East Gippsland sports coordinator Cassandra McNamara was thrilled with community members who came out to show their support for our community heroes.

“It was such an honour to see everyone mingling, laughing, and celebrating the emergency services and our communities,” Ms McNamara said.

“Our local emergency service personnel devote countless hours serving our communities; this event was an opportunity to bring the community together to personally thank, acknowledge and celebrate them. We are also grateful to Cann River for travelling and contributing to the event.”

Participants enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other emergency service agencies and volunteers in the area.

“Having an opportunity to meet new and old faces in the emergency service agencies builds on emergency management knowledge and networks, and doing it in a relaxing fun day makes for an enjoyable event,” a participant said.

Eileen Buckland, who has been volunteering for 44 years with the SES in Mallacoota, presented the winning trophy to the Coast Guard.

“It was a great day, and all the teams were so friendly in the competition,” she said.

The event provided space for services to display specialised equipment for community engagement and increase membership opportunities.  

Community members were invited by the Royal Flying Doctors Service to write letters of support to emergency services personnel and describe what they loved about the Mallacoota and Cann Valley districts on paper leaves, which were placed on a gratitude tree.

The Mallacoota Strum Club provided some old favourite tunes, while Mark Grunden led the atmospheric drumming beats.

Mike Amos ensured the event was broadcast live on local radio 3MGB – Wilderness Radio Mallacoota & Genoa.

The games were opened by Martin and Mariska, who have fundraised tirelessly for the community and have donated over $500,000 to emergency services in the past nine years.

Organisers also appreciated the efforts of many volunteers - Dan Marsden assisted with the line marking for the games arena, Don Ashby assisted with event management, and Nyssa Gyorgy and Meg Allen were on hand to assist with the event. Lynne Harwood acknowledged Country at the start of the Cup. Mick B kept the crowd entertained on the mic.

Children were kept entertained with a host of activities including spike ball, kite-making and face painting.

Organisations who set up information stalls at the event included East Gippsland Shire Council, SES Mallacoota, CFA Cann River + Mallacoota, Coast Guard, Parks Victoria/Fisheries, Ambulance Mallacoota + Cann River, Surf Life Saving Mallacoota, Gippsland Community Legal Service, Red Cross, and Royal Flying Doctors Service.

Funding for this event was provided by Emergency Management Victoria to CFA and VIC SES, to support volunteers and their families with mental health and recovery from the Black Summer fires in Eastern Victoria in 2019 and 2020. Reclink also acknowledges funding support from the Victorian Government, Australian Government, East Gippsland Shire Council, 54 reasons, and Windermere.

Article: Callista Cooper.

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