Resilience and Recognition: Shepparton Search & Rescue Squad's Recent Years (2020-2023)

The early 2020s brought unparalleled challenges and achievements for the Shepparton Search & Rescue Squad (SSRS), marking periods of both severe crises and significant milestones.

2020: A Year of Adversity and Heroism

The year began with the catastrophic "Black Summer" bushfires that devastated many areas of Australia. SSRS members were on the front lines, working alongside the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and other emergency services to combat the blazes and assist affected communities. Their bravery and tireless work during this disaster highlighted their crucial role in national emergency response efforts.

As the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, SSRS adapted its operations to ensure the safety of both its members and the community. This adaptation included the use of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and modifications to reduce face-to-face contact among members.

In December 2020, SSRS demonstrated its essential role in local community safety when members rescued a mother of five, Crystal Rexter, from potential drowning at Greens Lake near Corop. After a harrowing three-hour search, her recovery alive and well was a profound relief and a testament to the squad's perseverance and skill.

2021: Celebrations and Historic Leadership Change

The year 2021 was marked by personal achievements and organizational milestones within SSRS. Gary Lovell was honored with a 40-year service award, celebrating four decades of dedication to the squad.

A historic change in leadership occurred when Nacole Standfield was elected as the first female president of SSRS, symbolizing progress and diversity within the organization's ranks.

2022: Commemorations and Continued Service

SSRS mourned the loss of Edward Jezewski, a foundation and life member, whose contributions had shaped the squad profoundly over the years.

The 50th Anniversary dinner of SSRS in 2022 was a significant event, celebrating half a century of service. The occasion was marked by the recognition of Carl Zabilowicz with the Jezewski Family Member of the Year award and Jason Kittlety’s celebration of 10 years of service.

Later in the year, the October floods saw the Goulburn River peaking at 12.05m on October 18. Once again, SSRS members played a critical role, leading the response efforts and demonstrating their indispensable role in managing natural disasters.

2023: National Recognition and Awards

The year 2023 began with accolades for SSRS members at the Australia Day Celebrations. Michael D'Eila not only marked 20 years of service but also received both Shepparton and Greater Shepparton's Citizen of the Year awards.

Further national recognition came when Michael D'Elia, Damien Lea, and Carl Zabilowicz were awarded National Emergency Medals for their service during the 2019-2020 bushfires, honoring their outstanding contributions during one of Australia’s most challenging natural disaster periods.

Through trials and triumphs, the recent years have tested and proven the resilience, capability, and vital community role of the Shepparton Search & Rescue Squad, preparing them for the future while honoring their storied past.