Double Life – Green Thumb Versus Rescuer

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Welcome to our new segment called DOUBLE LIFE. Each month we will introduce a business owner who does something very special outside of work. We start with Gordon Youman, green thumb versus rescuer.

When and why did you start with the SES??

It was 25 years ago. I was also with the Rural Fire Service, and I joined to help people I guess.

What business do you own?

We own and operate the Black Mountain Nursery at Black Mountain, with a property that runs sheep, cattle and also crop. The nursery started in 1985 and ran under a MDK system in the beginning (that’s Mum, Dad and the Kids) and it grew after that into other enterprises.

These included manufacture of tree planting equipment, fertilizer applicators, mounders, seeders and rippers. Later we went onto pig traps, 1080 dog and fox bait applicators and electronic monitoring equipment. These items won national awards and were exported. A farm tree planting service evolved and consulting business, seed collecting and species surveys. The nursery grew to wholesale and retail, along with propagation operations. Landscaping was added to the operations to keep planting crews going.

Some of these enterprises grew and were sold off. The whole business allowed us all to see anything was achievable. The whole family formed the foundations to make it successful. Pam and I have both worked as trainers and assessors for over ten years, meeting and passing information on.

A highlight of the nursery: we supplied all the plants to the Superman movie II. We have planted about a million trees as far as Victoria.

What personal gains do you receive from being with the SES?

I get great satisfaction in helping people, in emergencies, talking and understanding their situations. I also love the dynamics of a team and leadership; it’s not easy at times to keep on top of it all. It’s all volunteers who are involved, so your leadership has to be different. The administration now is the downside.

Most memorable rescue?

A vertical cliff rescue we carried out on the Queensland border is the one I remember the most, with 450 m of rope out, taking all night to complete in the winter. There are others not so good, but the word “thanks” from people is the best reward of all.

What’s your role with the helicopter?

The SES started an Aviation Team off to carry out flood reconnaissance work, mapping, medical lifts, resupply, evacuations, search, stock monitoring and property about three years back.

We also trained in winching. It’s an Air Observer and Mission Leader role when you’re in an aircraft; the pilot is still in charge of the aircraft, though. You need to know your aircraft and most important, to liaise and be part of a team in the air.

The HUET training was a highlight for me, which entails real underwater escape from an aircraft upside down under the water, with doors still closed. I love the atmosphere you work in with pilots and crews, and I love the world from the air. There’s only a few in the country areas who do this work, and I’d like this to be expanded.

How important is teamwork in the SES ?

The team work is so important in all operations and training – particularly the crew resource management with aircraft. It’s awesome, and I feel it should be taught outside in other fields like young driver training – particularly situation awareness; we probably all should do this course.

There are so many hazards in our environment when we are called out; the ability of members to look out for each other is terrific. I love to see team activities used for training too.

How do you manage to juggle work with rescue?

It is hard to fit SES work in, but I’m lucky my wife backs me up looking after the property and the nursery. Pam manages and runs the nursery, which is a big commitment – mainly because plants need to be watered constantly and maintained. The administration side now is a huge component too, along with organising staff. It’s so different today to run an enterprise, and with pressures we sometimes don’t work on our businesses enough, but rather work in them.

Some members cannot give as much time as I do with family and jobs. The SES takes well over a day a week, excluding training and operations.

What else do you enjoy doing?

For spare time, I dig Nodding Thistle out, and I go sailing and I like to travel with Pam to see our kids. I love the sailing, using the wind and to fly a hull is great to experience; I really recommend it. The Club guys are great too. We used to work 24/7 for a long time; and that’s not good for you.

We must take a closer look at life to have quality time for family and ourselves. Always try to find something different; it may not work out, but it’s worth trying, and be aware of change. And I do volunteer work too.

Thank you Gordon.

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