FOR more than half a century, Tallangatta’s arm of the State Emergency Service has been assisting people in times of crisis.
Now, they are the ones in need of help, being reduced to working out of a caravan and tin shed at the back of their deteriorating building.
The Towong Council-owned building is in such disrepair, with a leaking roof and termite-infested floorboards, it has been ruled unsafe.
So the 31 volunteers are making use of what they’ve got: a storage shed, a caravan they’ve turned into a communications room, a Portaloo, and nothing more than a lock and chain on the fence for security.
Since heavy downpours in recent months, the state of the building has become worse.
A few weeks ago, Tallangatta SES member for 22 years Elsie Hamlin walked into the communication office to find the telephone floating in a pool of water.
She believes it was water-swollen wood that caused a 15-kilogram door to fall onto a woman three weeks ago.
The only damage was a hole in the wall, but Mrs Hamlin said it was a reflection of the safety of the building.
She said Tallangatta SES had been battling for seven years to get money to fix the roof.
She said seven years ago they received a quote of $700 but because of leaks, the cost was now over $26,000.
She said it was upsetting after so many years of service that her “SES family” was not being helped by the council.
“You feel let down, perhaps betrayed,” Mrs Hamlin said.
Deputy controller Jean Blackwell said volunteers who put their lives at risk should not have to work out of such conditions.
“We’re absolutely disgusted,” she said.
“We feel we deserve to be helped, and nobody is helping us.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to keep our membership base if we keep working out of the caravan.”
Spokesman for member for Benambra Bill Tilley said Mr Tilley had a meeting with the SES about the building, and had been speaking to Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan.
The spokesman said Mr Tilley would keep trying to do what he could but the issue is one for Towong Council.
Mrs Hamlin said the SES understood the council had little money, but she was concerned the short-term solution of the caravan would become long term.