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  • Renee Cluff

    Email Renee Cluff

    Prestigious awards for team involved in Toyah Cordingley search

    12 months ago, Bill Sterling was leading the SES team searching for clues in the murder of Cairns woman Toyah Cordingley at Wangetti Beach.

    The Buchan Point local controller has told Tropic Now it was a difficult task on many fronts.

    He believes it’s why he and his team have been awarded two prestigious SES awards, including his individual recognition as Queensland SES Member of the Year.

    “We also took out the Far North Regional Operational Response of the Year for Buchan Point for our contribution to the Toyah Cordingley search,” he said.

    “We had quite a number of people from our unit involved in that, providing flood boat operations, drone operators, logistics, four wheel drives.

    “We were searching for eight days.

    “I think my nomination was tied into that.”

    At the time, his team was also recognised by Toyah Cordingley’s family, who gave $1,000 in community donations to the group to show their gratitude for their countless hours of searching.

    The 27 year-old volunteer is proud of his community service , but even more proud of his crew.

    “I’ve got a very good team,” he said.

    “They’re very committed and highly skilled.”

    Mr Sterling joined the Buchan Point SES at the tender age of 19, after moving to the region from the Sunshine Coast to study law.

    He was a Deputy Group Leader by the age of 22.

    “I was just looking for somewhere to learn new skills, meet people and get life experience,” said.

    “There’s also a lot of nationally accredited training.

    “It’s not just retirees filling sandbags.”

    Under Mr Sterling’s leadership over the past 18 months, the Buchan Point unit has increased in membership by more than 60%.

    “When I took the reins we had about 30 people and we’ve cracked 50 now,” he said.

    “We do a fair bit of community engagement stuff and that helps.

    “People are also becoming more aware of what the SES does.”

    Joining the SES has also led to love for the young leader.

    It’s where he met his fiancé Larissa and the couple is planning to be married in April.