RECENT natural disasters both at home and elsewhere have highlighted the hard work and commitment of the Illawarra's Emergency Service workers and volunteers.
These dedicated individuals will be recognised as part of the Pride of the Illawarra Awards.
During this bushfire season, a number of staff and volunteers from the Rural Fire Service's Illawarra zone - among them zone Superintendent Richard Cotterill - have done tours of duty outside the region, including Dunalley and Coonabarabran.
They have also helped in recovery efforts after the mini-tornado which struck Kiama last month.
Mr Cotterill, who is based at the Illawarra Regional Airport, specialises in air operations and managing fire-fighting aircraft.
He visited bushfire-stricken Narrabri and Coonabarabran and spent 11 days in south-eastern Tasmania.
Mr Cotterill was pleased that Illawarra representatives continued a tradition of being on the front line to help those in need in other areas.
"It's the same every year - we go where we're needed," he said.
"Especially with our volunteer services, they travel quite a bit in support of each other.
"All the emergency services contribute to those events, in addition to our day-to-day duties in the Illawarra.
"It is a good feeling to go away and assist people in their time of need.
"We received great support from the communities down there - they couldn't do enough for us. In Coonabarabran, they opened up the town hall and, 24/7, residents came down to cook food for the emergency services people.
"It's also a great experience to work with the other organisations interstate, as we all learn a lot from one another," he said.
Mr Cotterill added the service had spent several days helping the State Emergency Service in Kiama after the mini-tornado.
The combined Rotary Clubs of the Illawarra are hosting the Pride of the Illawarra Awards.
The awards, now in their third year and endorsed by all seven NSW emergency-services organisations, acknowledge the region's emergency personnel, both the paid and volunteers.
"The sense of community in the Illawarra is outstanding," Mr Cotterill said.
"I've been to a lot of areas and haven't seen many with the same level of support."
Nominations close on March 31 and winners will be announced on August 9.
For more information, visit the prideoftheillawarra.com.au website.