a person in a uniform

Volunteer of the Year (Council News Article May 2024)

a person in a uniform

Michael Prior has been a volunteer for the Victorian State Emergency Service (SES) for more than 18 years and currently serves as the Unit Controller for the SES Greater Dandenong. Earlier this year he was recognised as Volunteer of the Year at the 2024 Greater Dandenong Australia Day Awards.

On top of his full-time job as an urban planner, Michael volunteers approximately 1000 hours per year to help those in need during an emergency.  

Originally enticed by his desire to learn how to use a chainsaw and drive a boat, Michael’s commitment to helping others is what has inspired him to continue volunteering for close to two decades. 

“This is such a rewarding role. Many people say they feel isolated in their community. At SES you will make at least 50 new friends and learn skills that you didn’t think you could do. It feels amazing when you use your skills to help others,” Michael said. 

Michael attended the 2019-20 Victorian bushfire response, helping the community at Cann River, East Gippsland during and after the fire. Along with his crew members, he was awarded the National Emergency Medal for his service. 

In February 2024, SES Greater Dandenong received more than 400 requests for assistance when destructive winds brought down trees on roads and buildings. “For more than three days our crews used chainsaws to clear the roads and fix broken tiles and roof damage.” 

Michael is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion and is paving the way for more accessible volunteering opportunities. 

“Volunteer emergency services are for everyone. I encourage women and people of every faith and cultural group to join Greater Dandenong SES. Our members speak over 30 languages and we’re aiming for 50!” 

Michael is currently working towards his vision for future growth of the service and is campaigning for a building to co-locate SES and CFA services in Keysborough.

Like all volunteers, Michael is not driven by public recognition – but by his desire to give back to people in times of need. 

“There are many people that do so much for the community in Greater Dandenong. I’m thrilled and honoured to be recognised for my small contribution.”