Jenny Phillips is a SES Volunteer.
Jenny Phillips is a SES Volunteer. Blainey Woodham

Girl power helps the Tweed prepare for floods

WHEN Murwillumbah's Jenny Phillips puts on her State Emergency Services uniform she feels much more than a sense of satisfaction.

"I feel very proud," the dedicated volunteer said.

"When I put on my uniform I really love it.

"Just having the power to put on that uniform makes me feel powerful."

Although you may not have heard of Ms Phillips, she was one of many dedicated volunteers who helped save and clean-up Murwillumbah and surrounding affected areas, after the devastating floods earlier this year.

She recalls being ready for the storms and floods that would eventually rip through Murwillumbah blowing down ancient trees and damaging houses.

"We knew, we knew that the water was coming up," she said.

"There's a lot more that goes on prior to a flood warning... there's a lot of work and precautionary measures in place."

Ms Phillips said on those busy nights, no-one really got a call to come in, the volunteers were all just there, ready to go.

Jenny Phillips is a SES Volunteer.
Jenny Phillips is a SES Volunteer. Blainey Woodham

"The floods, yeah, they were pretty horrifying," she said.

"I was mostly on Tomewin Hill trying to keep that open.

"It was pretty wild, the trees were down everywhere.

"It was so dark and I just kept hearing the trees hit the ground.

"You don't see it falling."

It was the middle of the night when Ms Phillips and the team she's part of began clearing the debris.

"We looked out for one another," she said.

"The team-building exercises we've done comes in handy, that's for sure.

"There are a lot of volunteers out there and in a crisis like that a lot of volunteers come out of the woodwork."

The mother-of-three described the scene as a sea of orange helping to clear the way.

"They come from everywhere," she said.

That night she did a 24-hour shift.

It was during the middle of the night, they had nothing but the clothes on their back. The poor people, the kids were so scared and cold.

She went back to the office, had a two hour nap, and got back out there for another long shift.

"You just gotta do it," she said.

"You've got a choice but I want to be out there with the team and helping people."

Throughout the floods our volunteers did extraordinary things, one of Ms Phillips' most prominent memories was helping a family from out of town get to safety.

The family abandoned their car to see if the road was clear but the water rose too quickly and they were unable to get back to their vehicle.

"There were three adults and three children," she said.

"It was during the middle of the night, they had nothing but the clothes on their back.

"The poor people, the kids were so scared and cold."

Ms Phillips said a passerby called in a report of the stranded family, and the SES did not have enough blankets to keep everyone warm.

"We took the shirts off our own back," Ms Phillips said.

She was assigned to look after one of the stranded children who she comforted the entire way to the depot.

"It's a really selfish feeling I get when I help someone," she said.

"It makes me feel so wonderful to help someone and I feel really empowered.

"I just like to help the average Joe."

Another memory that she will never forget is clearing an unrecognisable driveway to let an ambulance through to assist a woman who had gone in to labour.

The paramedics arrived a bit late and the baby had already made its way into the world. As an SES volunteer she's been on many jobs, which also included working with the women and men in blue.

"Working with the police is on a different level of seriousness," Ms Phillips said.

"The jobs I've done with them I've really enjoyed because it made me feel like I was part of something bigger.

"It was so interesting and different."

Despite her sense of adventure Ms Phillips, although on call 24 hours a day, still finds time to look after her five grandchildren, volunteer in a palliative care home and protest against CSG.

She said CSG was one of her biggest causes at the moment.

"I only protest because I want clean water, for me that's what it's all about," she said.

"I enjoy helping people and being involved in the community.

"It makes me feel like more of a person."



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