SES Volunteer's Association of Western Australia Incorporated

One Association - Many Values

18/03/2024 – My SES Unit Cockburn SES

After two unsuccessful attempts to form a Unit, The City of Cockburn Voluntary State Emergency Service was officially commenced in December 1981 with 6 members growing to 23 in February 1982 with Oleg Milosaljevic as Unit Manager appointed by the City of Cockburn. Council provided a house in Spearwood as a base and equipment was supplied by WASES, although Cockburn Cement donated the funds to purchase a secondhand Landrover 4wd Station Wagon.

By June 1983 a new home was found in the form of the old Council Parks & Garden Depot in Kent Street, Spearwood. Funds provided for modifications to the building were insufficient so members used their trades and skills to do the work themselves. The building and fit-out was always a work in progress for as long as it was occupied. It wasn’t until February 1988 that the Kent Street building was officially opened by the then Mayor of Cockburn, Mr. Don Miguel. Membership by then had grown to 40.

The Unit stayed in these very ad hoc premises until the Cockburn Emergency Services building in Buckley Street, Cockburn was completed in September 2012 where we are currently housed in co-location with the South Coogee Bushfire Brigade.

Fundraising was a very important part of the function of the Unit as well as being operational in the early years to meet the shortfall in funding for equipment required.

Members assisted the Police with the running of the Blue Light Discos, marshalling the Fremantle Festival Parade and Blessing of the Fleet in Fremantle as well as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade along with many other events and PR duties.

The implementation of the Emergency Services Levy took the pressure off members to fundraise for much-needed equipment not provided by WASES & FESA and allowed them to concentrate on training and operational duties.

Cockburn SES has managed to maintain quite a large long-term core of members who over the years have risen through the ranks of training and management to meet the ongoing needs of the Unit. Many members have become Trainer Assessors in a variety of skills to continually meet the training needs of this Unit and assist others across the State.

Members have travelled interstate and intrastate for cyclone disaster relief, and our Trainer Assessors have been as far south as Ravensthorpe, to Kununurra in the north and even as far afield as Christmas Island to deliver courses when called upon.

The Unit has continued to rise to meet the challenges of changing times and technologies and has a vibrant leadership team initiating new ideas and training methods which is a testament to the number of volunteers in the
Unit and the longevity of many of the members.

Finally, we are proud that four of our members have been nominated over the years for the Peter Keillor Award for Excellence – Ruth Odgers, May Bowser, Sean McLaughlin and Keith Drayton with Keith being the 2012 rerecipient, and the 2021 SES Youth Award Winner Alex Corinaldesi. Alex also won the 2014 Cadet of the Year and in 2015 won the Under 25’s Active Citizenship Award from the City of Cockburn.


It wasn’t until late 1988 that the Unit could afford the purchase and operational expense of an initial 7 pagers which were circulated on a weekly basis to Rescue Team members to activate them in call-out situations. It sped up the old process of having to ring individual members on their landlines – no mobile phones then!

Oleg Milosaljevic remained Unit Manager until the end of 1992 when he and his wife, Nellie, left the Unit. Since then the Managers have been – Robert Hopkins, Robert Odgers, Brendan Bradley, Keith Drayton, Enrico di Russo, Keith Drayton (2nd term), Michael Mullins, Drew Devereux, Steve Wells, Drew Devereux (acting), Ian Dury and 2020 to date Allison Lamb who is supported by the Deputy Manager, Kevin Fraser.

It took a number of years to formulate a Constitution and this was finally achieved in December 1994 with the Unit becoming an incorporated body. Twenty years later in March 2014, the Constitution was brought into line with modern legal requirements and the name of the Unit changed to Cockburn State Emergency Service (Inc.).

During the past 42 years of operation, there have been many Unit activations – some almost overwhelming by their magnitude such as the May 1994 storms where this Unit alone received over 300 calls for assistance. Others had a profound impact – notably the searches for both James Godden and Gerard Ross in 1997 where sadly these young boys had met with foul play. We have even been the victim of our own emergency when in March 2010
the Unit Base took a direct hit from lightning, damaging our radio communications and other equipment.